Segments in this Video

Language as Talk (05:34)


Modern linguists focus on minute details of sentences and phrases to use as linguistic probes. Humans are efficient at writing down what is said, but inefficient at writing down how it was said. Tone of voice is elusive in the written word, and actors must decide how to utter their lines.

J.L. Austin and Speech Acts (04:13)

Actors rehearsing a play use the power of intonation to change the impact the scripted words. In English, there are more than a thousand "speech acts”—using speech to express more than the sum of the words and grammar of speech.

Searle and Speech Acts (04:22)

Searle (UC Berkeley) argues that every human utterance is a speech act. This may explain why actors do not necessarily memorize lines before rehearsal because they need the rehearsal to invent their characters. How do humans know what intonation to give their words?

Intonation and Deaf Speakers (02:36)

Where does intonation happen in the case of the deaf? In a conversation in sign language between two deaf people, the “listener” focuses on the speaker's face rather than on her hands. How does the brain allocate grammar and vocabulary to the hands and intonation to the face?

Broca's Brain and Speech (05:09)

Broca’s research on the localization of speech led to entirely new research into the lateralization of brain function. Two men demonstrate the complete lack of intonation after suffering strokes, one on the left side, and the other on the right side of the brain.

Conversation: Contextual Meaning (07:13)

In conversation, the implication of what is said is often at odds with its literal meaning. In a rehearsal for "Long Day's Journey into Night," actors demonstrate that context often provides the real meaning of the words.

Conversation and Social Context (04:49)

Linguists acknowledge the extraordinary productivity of language—yet what calls this productivity into existence in the first place? Social context inaugurates the process of conversation, and Emmanuel Schegloff shares his theories of context.

Taking Turns in Conversation (06:03)

Managing turn taking in conversation is almost as important as identifying the appropriate tone of voice. Turn taking is "natural" to human interaction, but how is this "politeness" actually implemented in conversation?

Conversation: Primordial Site of Human Engagement (04:20)

A somewhat heated conversation between two people demonstrates the linguistic expression of the "inextinguishably moral part of human nature."

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In a Manner of Speaking: The Phenomenon of Conversation

Part of the Series : Born Talking: A Personal Inquiry into Language
DVD Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



Social context, intonation, and body language add a vital layer of meaning to the spoken or signed word—a layer that can manifest only in conversation. In this program, Dr. Jonathan Miller addresses the subject of group talk, offering his observations on topics including the concept of “speech acts” à la Austin, Wittgenstein, and Searle; the implicit mechanics of verbal give-and-take; and the belief that social context, far from being a mere adjunct to linguistic communication, is actually the root cause of it. The implications of the apparent connection between right hemisphere brain damage and an impaired sense of linguistic nuance are examined as well. (47 minutes)

Length: 48 minutes

Item#: BVL11357

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

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