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The interactional structure of orality: From texts in oral societies to modern spoken discourses

Dr. Esther Pascual (Shanghai International Studies University)

Date and Time:

23 March 2023

17:00-18:00 (CET/UCT+1 Time Zone)

Location: hybrid event: in person at the Centre of Discourse Studies (Plaça del Bonsuccés, 7, entresuelo 6, 08001 Barcelona) AND online (Zoom)

Language: English

Registration form:

This is a free event, but registration is required.

Talk - Esther Pascual - Centre of Discourse Studies.png

Talk description:


Widespread writing seems to affect grammar and discourse in profound ways (e.g. Ong [1982] 2002). It is uncontroversial for instance that some grammatical structures, like direct speech, are more common in spoken than in written language (Tannen 1982; Blyth & Wang 1990; Mayes 1990) and also particularly frequent in colloquial speech of the youth (Blyth & Wang 1990; Streeck 2002) and modern public discourse (Fairclough 1994; Vis et al. 2012). In this talk I discuss different interactional structures commonly occurring in ancient written texts grounded in an oral tradition as well as in modern multimodal spoken discourses. Specifically, I will present four studies on imagined dialogues in: (i) an ancient Chinese philosophical text (Xiang 2016, Xiang & Pascual 2016, Xiang, Pascual  & Ma 2022); (ii) the Hebrew Bible (Sandler & Pascual 2019); (iii) a highly influential US satirical news television  show (Fonseca, Pascual, & Oakley 2020); and (iv) in modern printed advertisements, commercials and brands (Brandt & Pascual 2016). I hope to show that the mode in which discourse (mostly) occurs models its structure, so that an oral discourse culture leads to texts that are highly interactional at various levels (from the discourse content to information structure and the sentential and clausal levels). More generally, the intimate relation between language and interaction seems to be reflected in the structure of texts, and thus the field of discourse studies should fully integrate interaction into its analyses and theoretical discussion.

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