Scholarly article on topic 'Discourse Personality Types'

Discourse Personality Types Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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Abstract of research paper on Sociology, author of scientific article — Vladimir I. Karasik, David Gillespie

Abstract The article deals with various approaches to the description of personality types. I argue that a situational approach to discourse analysis as presented in psychological, sociological and culturological models of communication may be integrated within Anthropological Linguistics. Several aspects of discourse personality are analyzed including mental orientation, directivity, basic abilities, social status, institutional position, sociolect, axiological consequence, projective implementation.

Academic research paper on topic "Discourse Personality Types"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 154 (2014) 23 - 29


CULTURE, 20-22 October 2014

Discourse Personality Types

Vladimir I. Karasika*, David Gillespieb

aVolgograd State Socio-Pedagogical University, 27, Lenin Ave., 400131, Volgograd, Russia bUniversity of Bath, Claverton Down, BA2, 7AY, Bath, UK bNational Research Tomsk State University, 36, Lenin Ave., Tomsk, 643050, Russia


The article deals with various approaches to the description of personality types. I argue that a situational approach to discourse analysis as presented in psychological, sociological and culturological models of communication may be integrated within Anthropological Linguistics. Several aspects of discourse personality are analyzed including mental orientation, directivity, basic abilities, social status, institutional position, sociolect, axiological consequence, projective implementation.

© 2014 TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University.

Keywords: Anthropological Linguistics, personality; discourse; communication; communicative situation

1. Introduction

An aspiration to classify people has always been a key point in the Humanities. Linguistic Anthropology as the study of people focusing on the language they use is a very good way to achieve this aim. There exist various approaches to description and explanation of the types of people, and the starting point is the famous book by Theophrastus "Characters". The Greek scholar, a successor to Aristotle, gives a precise and succinct description of human characters using what we might call today case studies, e.g.:

The Garrulous Man

Garrulity is incessant heedless talk. Your garrulous man is one, for instance, who sits down beside a stranger, and after recounting the virtues of his wife tells the dream he had last night, and everything he ate for supper. Then,

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1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of National Research Tomsk State University. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.106

if his efforts seem to be met with favor, he goes on to declare that the present age is sadly degenerate, says wheat is selling at a very low price, that hosts of strangers are in town and that since the Dionysia the weather has been good again for shipping; and that if Zeus would only send more rain the crops would be much richer, and he's proposing to have a farm next year... (Theophrastus, 1902, p.46).

It is a vivid description of a person who can't stop talking and is prone to change topics in a chaotic way. Such people like to talk to strangers because their friends, if any, would not listen to them.

Situations of talking may be subdivided into two groups: those limited and unlimited by definite circumstances. This subdivision deals with types of discourse which are understood as texts merged into life (Arutyunova, 1998). From the sociological point of view we can distinguish person-oriented and status-oriented types of discourse (Karasik, 2004); the former applies to everyday speech at home and to fiction, and its main point consists in communicating with a well-known (or seemingly well-known) person, whereas the latter is used when people talking with each other take their partners as representatives of some group, and here various kinds of institutional talk (political, legal, religious, academic, advertising, etc. discourse) are relevant. Certainly, there are nuances to be taken into consideration, for instance, in academic discourse the distance between the participants is usually closer than in legal discourse, thus the borderline between person and status-oriented communication is to some extent diffused and may be represented as a scale with points on it. Another approach to discourse classes is pragmalinguistic in its nature, and its essence is in the tone of communication which may be serious or humorous, habitual or ritual, professional or popular, information- or fascination-bound, neutral or ideologically charged, etc. Different types of discourse are naturally switched within a time span, as people take various roles and behave according to culturally determined expectations. But reiteration of situations leads to certain style and genre stereotypes. Thus prosecutors turn out to be too suspicious, military officers are apt to commanding even at home, and teachers continue explaining things already clear to their friends or family members.

The purpose of this paper is to outline approaches to discourse studies based on the situational roles of persons participating in communication.

2. Several aspects of discourse personality

2.1 Methodology

Discourse studies comprise many directions of communication analysis. The main trends of them may be represented as structural, topical and situational.

Structurally discourse is a sequence of communicative moves which vary in monologue and dialogue, on the one hand, and in oral and written forms, on the other. Such discourse studies are widely spread and consist in the analysis of the texts taken as complex frameworks, and their emphasis lies in the description of the parts of the texts under study and the relations between these parts. The key points of a structural approach to discourse are categories of discourse as opposed to text. Here we find such notions as coherence and cohesion, descriptive and narrative modes of discourse development, explicit and implicit expression of facts and ideas.

Topical discourse is communication about something, and thus to study it from this point of view means to analyze the referential contents people talk about. In its practical implementation topical discourse analysis is aimed at the description of words and set expressions people use when talking and the concepts they apply to.

Situational discourse is a kind of activity where we underline not what is said but rather how it is said. A situational approach to discourse is a logical development of a paradigm change in Linguistics. Earlier the main scheme of language and speech analysis was framed as "syntax - semantics - pragmatics" and it matched the theory of structural Linguistics, but further on when a speaking person became the object of linguistic investigation the order of scheme components was reversed and pragmatics was taken as the basis of communication. Hence fringe Linguistics appeared including Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Pragmalingustics, Cultural Linguistics (in Russian it is named Linguoculturology), and Anthropological Linguistics. The borderlines between them are rather hazy, but the tendency is evident - it is the analysis of the parts of a famous acronym coined by Dell Hymes (1977): SPEAKING (situation, participants, ends, act sequence, keys, instrumentalities, norms, and genres). In various books the components of a communicative situation are specified under different labels.

A situational approach to discourse makes it possible to take a close look at persons engaged in communication. In this case a human being is regarded as a combination of different features - biological, social and spiritual. To be precise it is not a pyramid scheme, but rather a collection of various aspects of the same inseparable entity. These aspects are specially studied in different fields of knowledge - Psychology, Sociology, Culturology, and Linguistics. Each of these fields takes into account verbal and non-verbal behavior and thus is linguistically relevant.

2.2 Findings and analysis

Psychological classifications of people are very numerous and may be roughly subdivided as based on temperament (natural qualities), directivity (demands and ideals) and abilities (intellectual, volitional and emotional peculiarities) which correlate with biological, social and spiritual features of personality. Psychologically it is also important to differentiate the dynamic and static understanding of personality; the former means that a human being develops in this respect starting with self-identification and ending with the natural loss of self-control, whereas the latter takes a synchronic picture of a person with various above-mentioned qualities.

People's natural qualities determine their conscious and mostly subconscious trends of behavior in communication. In this respect the differentiation between extravert and introvert types of humans according to Carl Gustav Jung may be taken as the starting point of a psychological classification of discourse personalities. Extravert speakers are very good orators and thus they appear in different types of discourse which require public appearances. Politicians, teachers and actors exemplify this class. The speech of extraverts is often logical and usually ornamental: "Success is the only exit strategy I am prepared to consider" (Tony Blair). Extraverts know how to win over an audience and so they carefully avoid long sentences and sophisticated metaphors. They make the core of their speech circulate among their listeners and evidently enjoy it. If they trespass the limits of proper balance between their desire to speak and the readiness of their partners to listen to them, they are condemned as chatterboxes and pompous rhetoricians. Introverts prefer to remain in the shadow and they feel at ease when they are engaged in professions which do not consist of talking. Scientific research and creative fiction are very good ways for their communicative self-realization and written speech better suits their inner organization. Actually it is they who develop the language as a means of precise and detailed nomination of the world with its specification and fine distinctions. In science they tend to elaborate communication which compresses information in formulae. The inevitable demerit of their communication style is the possible loss of listeners or readers who are not up to the required comprehension level and hence introverts, especially radical ones, are labeled as nerds or haughty people. Sometimes radical introverts intentionally make their speech harder to understand: when the French philosopher Comte asked the famous German thinker Hegel to explain his philosophy in brief, in the popular idiom and in French, the latter replied that his doctrine can't be expressed in brief, in the popular idiom and in French. This anecdote illustrates the academic discourse traditions in France and Germany.

Another biological approach to discourse personality types deals with mental disorders. Strictly speaking, the absolute mental norm is an abstraction, and in a situation of stress everybody can lose control of their syntax and semantics, but it is the average expectancy that matters when we assume that our interlocutor is somewhat strange. According to psychiatric common knowledge certain kinds of pathology manifest themselves in certain discourse peculiarities. Thus, people with a hysterical predisposition demand the attention of the audience. A famous citation of Oscar Wilde explains this type of human: "There is only one thing in life which is worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about' (O. Wilde). In certain historical periods a whole nation may be intoxicated with the hysterical discourse style. V. Klemperer (1998) writes about the curse of the superlative which was a kind of emblem in the Nazi press when any event worth noticing was "welthistorisch". Maniacs may be identified by the constant topical circle they make speaking about the things they are afraid of or chasing after. People suffering from schizophrenia are characterized by a striking disregard for their listeners. Such patients never trouble themselves so as to be understood, their speech is absolutely illogical (there is an inner logic in it open only to them), their sentences lack linear structure and the meanings they attach to words are arbitrary. Paranoia may be linguistically fixed due to certain discrepancies between average and given communicative situations. In Russian, for instance, such people use a lot of diminutive suffixes trying to look and sound sweeter than they are.

Directivity in this context comprises a lot of features related to the orientations people have as foundation of their

attitudes and actions. The key notion here is motivation. Various classifications based on personal motivation have been discussed in Psychology. E. Berne (1988) describes constructive and destructive people on the one hand and people playing the roles of a Child, a Parent and an Adult, on the other. Each personality type has its own set of strategies and patterns of behavior, e.g. explaining actions, formulating requests and apologies, using or avoiding certain words and expressions. K. Horney (1993) specifies three types of personalities - those apt to compliance, to aggression and to detachment. Regrettably, they correspond to three groups of organisms which exist in any pack of rats: there are alpha-rats who dominate the pack, beta-rats who are ready to be dominated, and gamma-rats who try to be independent. Linguistically this theory may be interpreted in terms of politeness (though not only this). Thus, people with a dominant feature of wanting to be cared for prefer solidarity politeness, those who are very sensitive to their privacy usually choose negative politeness forms and people willing to control any situation they take part in do very well with no polite expressions at all. It is noteworthy that predominant British middle class behavior is in this respect characterized by detachment drives, whereas the lower classes usually display either compliance or the aggressive urge. Here the classification of personality types as proposed by K.F. Sedov (1999) is pertinent. The scholar distinguishes between courteous, invective and rational personalities. Courteous people do their best to avoid any possible conflict, invective persons always try to dominate and rationally predisposed partners of communication notably use their sense of humor to settle any situation (Sedov, 1999).

In this respect Psychology is closely connected with Ethics. In Russian we have different words for two kinds of action: "deistvie" and "postupok", which correspond to "action" and "deed" in English. The former may be interpreted as spontaneous ordinary actions we do in a casual way, and the latter as actions which play the role of touchstones in our fate when we have to make a choice that changes our lives. Consequently, it is possible to describe the genres of speech connected with actions of the first or second types. Etiquette rules deal with the first type of action and thus "etiquette personalities" may be described, whereas rituals always shift aside the ordinary state of things to mark something very important, and "ritual personalities" are those who emphasize any word they use with some reference to the foundations of the world.

Abilities taken as the grounds for classification of personalities underline the quantitative differences between people. They are inseparably connected with, and may be explained by, a personal biological entity viewed in three aspects: intellect, will and emotion, though some psychologists (Uznadze, 2001) consider this traditional triad to be wrong for a psychic activity description. It is important to say that in the language, i.e. in word meanings, the degrees of intellect, will power and feelings are very precisely expressed. Thus, from a linguistic point of view it is both possible and useful to describe the discourse of people with a high degree of intellect (to some extent such investigation has been repeatedly carried out when analyzing scientific or philosophical or any kind of creative discourse), and the same is plausible about the discourse of personalities who are marked by excessive will power or differ from the majority of population in their ability to feel subtle emotions. Any scale is interesting for analysis in its polar points, in our case these are excessive and insufficient degrees of abilities. The discourse of people who belong to the minus pole of the scale is also interesting for analysis because we may find here some explanation of trends for the development of mass culture.

Sociological classifications of people are also numerous and varied. They may be subdivided into the following groups: 1) social status discourse, 2) institutional communication, 3) sociolects circulation.

Social status as a category includes the ascribed and achieved features a person has. The former characterize their age, gender and ethnicity whereas the latter deal with educational, economic and various stratification levels people are marked with. All the features have a verbal and non-verbal manifestation. There are semiotically specialized words and expressions which have an emblematic value for every participant of a communicative situation, e.g. forms of address, the words that have a partial status meaning (for example, terminology used to show the educational level of speakers), and linguistic units which have no indication of social status in everyday speech but may acquire an occasional status implication (a distinct pronunciation in a casual talk which shows the class a person belongs to).

Proper (and improper) slang in a conversation is a typical example of someone's class identity. It is important to notice that zero usage of certain words or expressions is a marker of social status. It may be exemplified by the fact that the absence of vulgar words in modern Russian verbal close communication in male company is a signal that a person keeps his distance and shows to his interlocutors that he is either their superior or a stranger. Social status is

manifested by a wide variety of life style indices. As it was stated in a forgery detection guide, if a blackmailing anonymous letter is written with a lot of spelling mistakes meant to show that its author belongs to the poorly educated lower class, but it is split into paragraphs, this is a clear sign of its writer's college education.

The democratization of communication - one of the best advantages of life people enjoy now in Russia - has some inevitable seamy sides as well. Our university students often do not possess official formats of communication. For example, a graduate student after presentation of her diploma paper tries to express her gratitude to her mentor with a phrase "We would like to thank our research supervisor for the material assistance he has rendered" (in Russian it means that he helped her with money), and then having realized that something is wrong, she says: "Well, he helped me to analyze the material of my paper, the examples from the texts". The very expression "to render material assistance" is beyond her lexicon.

Institutional discourse is an effective instrument for organizing society according to the functions people fulfill as its members. In a social institution there exist two types of people - agents who embody the institution, and clients who address them. Agents are entitled to lead the discourse, give expert opinions and recommendations, express explicit evaluation, etc. Clients must follow the directions and obey the agents. A client has no right to assume the agent's functions in communication. For instance, special terminology usage is the territory of an agent in a medical discourse and when a patient uses it in an easy way doctors often feel uncomfortable. The same is true about a pupil who would ask the teacher what methodology was planned to be used at the lesson. There are special communicative emblems which define the members of an institution. The phrase "It's an order" in a military talk means that one should understand one's position and duties and never display disagreement whatever the order is. Non-verbal emblems also have a password value for the participants of an institutional discourse, e.g. low bows in certain countries or kissing one's hand.

There are different kinds of institutional discourse, some of them are very formal and strict (e.g. legal discourse), whereas others are open to various personal insertions (e.g. academic discourse). In reality any institutional discourse in its genre implementation admits inclusions of different types. A lawyer talking with his client may occasionally switch to advertising the medicine he uses. It is the aim of the discourse that matters and defines its essence.

A sociolect is a variant of verbal behavior belonging to a certain social group. It has recognizable distinctive features of vocabulary and sometimes of pronunciation. As any other linguistic category a sociolect has hazy borderlines. We can say that a sociolect appears when a certain social group is taken as a group, using their peculiar signs of belonging to a particular community. Thus, prison jargon is a sociolect. But having only a common topic and some specific words to be used is not sufficient to be a sociolect. We can't say, for instance, that there is a chess players' sociolect. It should be a life style that determines the community and opposes "us" and "them". Hippies used a system of recognizable indices including verbal signs to be taken as a community.

The classification of personalities within Linguistic Culturology is aimed at describing certain types of people who correspond to the relevant features of a definite culture. At least two approaches may be taken in this respect -starting with a certain feature which can be taken as a classification basis or describing a certain generalized human type whose behavior is recognizable and typical of that culture. The first approach - it may be defined as an axiological consequence - may be illustrated by a comparative description of Chinese and American cultures on the basis of relations in the family: hierarchical with the Chinese or principally equal with Americans (Hsu, 1969). Actually it is the identification of a line of priorities based on reason and consequence, for example, in a society where love for parents and children is more important than love for one's spouse the older members of the community enjoy respect, a boss can never be wrong and group identity is more valuable than personal freedom. In a society based on equality within a family we see the opposite orientations, and so one should remain young as long as possible, bosses are easily criticized and personal freedom is a key value. The second approach is the projective implementation of certain basic qualities people display. It consists of describing certain personality types who embody the basic values of their culture: an American cowboy, a German housewife, an English aristocrat, etc. The first approach is deductive, the second inductive.

A deductive culturological approach to discourse personality types may take text functions as the basis of classification. The earliest texts (repeated word by word from generation to generation) were devoted to basic myths, and there was a special person in any tribe who had the right to deal with such texts. He was a priest, and the main

function of such texts was to set up a system of values and codify norms of behavior. Such texts were considered sacred and any deviation from the initial variant in them was blasphemous. After book printing was invented a revolutionary change in the text function took place. The notion of the author appeared, and the content of such texts was not limited to basic things but comprised everything. The new person who had to deal with such texts was the artisan, and the texts mostly served the function of information. The situation changed drastically with the introduction of an electronic world web. Authorship dissolved, and the main function of such texts is now to entertain the public. Thus, a new personality came to the fore, and he may be called an illusionist. It is important to notice that the roles of priest, artisan and illusionist always existed, but a new type of a text culture determined the basic personality type in each epoch.

An inductive culturological approach to discourse personality types may be illustrated with the Russian "intelligent", a concept which has greatly influenced our culture and is often talked about in our country. He is a very educated intellectual with unshakable moral principles. This personality type is opposed to both the authorities and the less educated majority. His image is easily recognizable: he is usually in spectacles, he can talk for a long time, and in real life he is often helpless. He is always critical of authority - whatever it is, with an ironic smile. The authorities need him and at the same time feel that he is never 100% loyal to them, and thus they always try to intimidate him. Common people consider him an odd crank, he is never resolute, his knowledge seems useless in everyday life. His desire to serve the common people is often ridiculed by them. "Intelligents" are very strict with each other, and the worst thing for them is to fail to be a genuine "intelligent". A systematic description of situations characterizing the concept of "intelligent" in the notional, perceptive and evaluative aspects gives us a picture of this personality type. A collection of such types shows the key values and behavioral patterns of a certain culture.

2.3 Discussion

These outlined approaches are preliminary theoretical settings for an investigation of discourse personality types. The psychological reflection of such types is concentrated on the correlation between the psychophysical, dispositional and dimensional qualities of a person. The advantage of this approach is the concentration on the inner world of a person. But it is only a partial picture because the essence of a human being includes social characteristics. The sociological description of personality types deals with the qualities of a person determined by the requirements and conditions of the society he lives in. Here social status, institutional position and sociolect are relevant. The whole picture of a personality, however, includes not only the inner world and social environment of a person, but also the cultural matrix which determines behavioral patterns. This dimension differs from those named above and includes the axiological consequences of some basic relation (family, text, war, etc.) and the projective implementation of certain values in a concrete personality type. These approaches are linguistically relevant because they make it possible to work out the foundations of Anthropological Linguistics and to bring new light to a discussion of the interrelation between language and culture, language and society, and language and psychological activity.

3. Conclusion

The 3-dimensional scheme of a personality type proposed in this paper is intended to explain the heterogeneous attributes people are characterized with. Discourse is the immediate manifestation of the infinitely varied qualities of a person.

Modern Linguistics proves to be a patchwork of various theories unconnected with each other. The situation seems even worse if we take into account the integrative tendency in the Humanities. Anthropological Linguistics is interdisciplinary in its nature and must include ideas and facts discussed in neighboring fields of knowledge, mostly in Psychology, Sociology and Culturology. It's a challenge, isn't it?


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