Laurie Jane Anderson, Letizia Cirillo

Membership Categorisation in Oral Academic Discourse: Strategies for Addressing International, Multidisciplinary Audiences in English as a Lingua Franca

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: academic presentations, ELF, disciplinary identities, membership categorisation, academic networking.

This contribution investigates how disciplinary identities are made relevant in research presentations addressed to a multidisciplinary audience using English as an academic lingua franca. The analysis is based on a corpus of 176 presentations given by international research fellows within an EU-funded programme for postdoctoral studies. It draws on Membership Categorisation Analysis (Sacks 1992) and on the notion of ‘altercasting’ (Weinstein and Deutschberger 1963) in order to identify the primary functions of explicit mention of self and of audience members in conjunction with academic categories. The analysis reveals that selfcategorisation using ‘I’ involves explicit membershipping along the vertical axis of generalisation/specification and horizontal axis of contrast/cocategorisation (Bilmes 2009). Altercasting of the audience using ‘we’ (to co-categorise the speaker with part or with all of the audience) or ‘you’ (to address the whole audience or a part thereof) serves two main goals: a signalling preceding or upcoming talk as addressed to a specific audience segment; b) establishing interdisciplinary ties/networks. Results indicate that membership categorisation devices contribute to recipient-designing talk for a multidisciplinary audience by invoking both disciplinary definitions and boundaries and locally relevant “relational pairsµ (Sacks 1972b). A systematic use of such devices co-implicates the audience’s perspectives in what is being said and done, thus conferring an interactive dimension on what may at first glance appear a relatively monologic genre.

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