A framework for analysing adolescent immigrant speech beyond the micro-vs.-macro dichotomy

Michalopoulou, Eleni

Lancaster University, United Kingdom


The controversy between micro- and macro-approaches to speech analysis has developed over the years into two separate and, most of the times, irreconcilable schools. Benwell and Stokoe (2006: 8-9) arrange a number of approaches moving gradually from those which rely on the text they analyse excluding context (e.g., Conversation Analysis) to those for which the analysis is not complete unless context is considered (e.g., Critical Discourse Analysis). But even within traditional CA, context proves to be a negotiable issue as long as it is made relevant in the conversation (Antaki and Widdicombe, 1998: 4), it is 'brought about' and not 'brought along' in interaction (Li Wei, 1998: 170), or it serves 'the contextualisation of the linguistic activity under investigation' (Lytra, 2003: 50).

In the present paper, I will discuss the efforts of Tiger and his sister (Hara) to communicate verbally their preferences to each other. The speakers are the children of an immigrant family and are bilingual in Albanian (minority language) and Greek (second language). In the extract, Tiger uses both codes while Hara sticks to Greek throughout. I suggest that it is not enough to draw on the turn-by-turn construction of meaning by the two interlocutors (micro-approach ushered by CA principles). If we did, we would say that Tiger is asking his sister to turn the TV off and she refuses every time. Code-alternation cannot be merely explained by saying that it foregrounds divergence (which reflects the siblings' disagreement) or Hara would always choose the language opposite to the one currently used by her brother. Equally, addressing ethnographic information (macro-analysis) is inadequate. Tiger is older and, therefore, a more experienced speaker but Hara gets her way in the end. In addition, their language choice is dictated by a sort of 'family policy' regarding the reinforcement of the acquisition of the second language to prepare Hara for school. But this is defied by Tiger as he oscillates between the two languages.

The analytic framework comprises the discourse identities of each participant in the interactional episode (Zimmerman, 1998), as well as the content and the means (i.e., the language(s)) by which this is communicated.


Antaki, C. and Widdicombe, S. (1998) 'Identity as an achievement and as a tool'. In Antaki, C. and Widdicombe, S. (eds) Identities in Talk. London: Sage. pp.1-14.

Benwell, B. and Stokoe, E. (2006) Discourse and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Li Wei (1998) 'The "why" and "how" questions in the analysis of conversational code-switching'. In Auer, P. (ed.) Code-switching in Conversation: Language, Interaction and Identity. London: Routledge. pp. 156-176.

Lytra, V. (2003) 'Nicknames and teasing: A study of a linguistically and culturally mixed peer-group'. In Androutsopoulos, J. K. and Georgakopouplou, A. (eds) Discourse Constructions of Youth Identities. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. pp. 47-73.

Zimmerman, D. H. (1998) 'Identity, context and interaction'. In Antaki, C. and Widdicombe, S. (eds) Identities in Talk. London: Sage. pp. 87-106.

Session: Paper session
Discourse 1 (Bi-/Multilingualism/ -modality)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 11