Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-dnb4q Total loading time: 0.226 Render date: 2022-07-05T04:44:47.687Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Individual style in an American pubic opinion survey: Personal performance and the ideology of referentiality1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Barbara Johnstone
Affiliation:
Department of English, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4227

Abstract

The anonymous telephone public opinion survey is supposed to be invariant. Interviewers' individual linguistic styles are supposed to be suppressed. However, transcripts of interviews show that no two interviewers perform the task alike. Interviewers make changes in the scripted introduction and add unscripted answer-acknowledgments and commentary throughout the interviews, the effect of which is to point up their identities as individuals rather than merely fillers of the interviewer role. Much of the deviation can be explained by the heightened requirement for politeness in the “cold call,” for Americans one of the most egregious of interactional impositions. But no two interviewers fulfill this requirement in quite the same way. This may be because Americans value individuality in discourse, so that in order to be polite it is necessary to perform a differentiated, individual self. Such an understanding of personhood, and its linguistic ramifications, conflicts with the positivistic understanding of language on which survey research is based. In light of the amount of individual variation where one might not expect to find it, I suggest that linguists focus attention on the individual voice. (Individual variation, individual voice, interviewing, public opinion polls, survey research, politeness)

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Bailey, Guy, & Maynor, Natalie. (1989). The divergence controversy. American Speech 64:1239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Becker, A. L. (1981). On Emerson on language. In Tannen, Deborah (ed), Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics 1981. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 111.Google Scholar
Becker, A. L. (1984). The linguistics of particularity: Interpreting superordination in a Javanese text. In Brugman, Claudia & Macaulay, Monica (eds.), with Amy Dahlstrom, Michele Emanatian, Birch Moonwomon, & Catherine O'Connor, Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Tenth Annual Meeting. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society. 425436.Google Scholar
Becker, A. L. (1988). Language in particular: A lecture. In Tannen, Deborah (ed.), Linguistics in context: Connecting observation and understanding. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. 1735.Google Scholar
Brenner, Michael. (1981). Aspects of conversational structure in the research interview. In Werth, Paul (ed.), Conversation and discourse: Structure and interpretation. London: Croon Helm. 1940.Google Scholar
Briggs, Charles L. (1986). Learning how to ask: A sociolinguistic appraisal of the role of the interview in social science research. (Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language, 1.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brown, Penelope & Levinson, Stephen C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Michael, Carrithers, Collins, Steven, & Lukes, Steven. (eds.) (1985). The category of the person: Anthropology, philosophy, history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Cicourel, Aaron. (1964). Method and measurement in sociology. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
Dumont, Louis. (1970). Homo hierarchicus. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Friedrich, Paul, & Redfield, James. (1979). Speech as a personality symbol: The case of Achilles. In Friedrich, Paul, Language, context, and the imagination: Essays by Paul Friedrich. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 402–40.Google Scholar
Geertz, Clifford. (1984). “From the native's point of view”: On the nature of anthropological understanding. In Richard, A.Shweder, & LeVine, Robert A. (eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self, and emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 123–36.Google Scholar
Goffman, Erving. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
Gottlieb, Marvin. (1986). Interview. White Plains, NY: Longman.Google Scholar
Haley, Ken. (1990). Some complexities in speech identification. The SECOL Review 14:101–13.Google Scholar
Hallowell, A. I. (1955). The self and its behavioral environment. In Hallowell, A. I. (ed.), Culture and experience. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 75110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hoinville, Gerald, Jowell, Roger, et al. (1978). Survey research practice. London: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
Hopper, Paul. (1988). Emergent grammar and the a priori grammar postulate. In Deborah, Tannen (ed.), Linguistics in context: Connecting observation and understanding. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. 117–34.Google Scholar
Hyman, H., et al. (1954). Interviewing in social research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Hymes, Dell. (1979). Sapir, competence, voices. In Fillmore, Charles J., Kempler, Daniel, & Wang, William S.-Y. (eds.), Individual differences in language ability and language behavior. New York: Academic. 3345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnstone, Barbara. (1990). Stories, community, and place: Narratives from middle America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
Johnstone, Barbara, & Ferrara, Kathleen. (1991, 03). Gender and interactional control in a public-opinion survey. Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Meeting, New York.Google Scholar
Lakoff, Robin. (1973). The logic of politeness, or minding your p's and q's. In Corum, Claudia, Smith-Stark, T. Cedric, & Wiser, Ann, (eds.), Papers from the Ninth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. 292305.Google Scholar
Mandelbaum, David G. (ed.) (1949). Selected writings of Edward Sapir in language, culture, and personality. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Mauss, Marcel. ([1938] 1985). A category of the human mind: The notion of a person; the notion of self. [Une catégoric de l'esprit humain: La notion de personne, celle de “moi”] (H. D. Wells, trans.) In Carrithers, Collins, & Lukes (1985). 125.Google Scholar
Merritt, Marilyn. (1977). The playback: An instance of variation in discourse. In Ralph, W.Fasold, & Shuy, Roger W. (eds.), Studies in language variation: Semantics, syntax, phonology, pragmatics, social situations, ethnographic approaches. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 198208.Google Scholar
Nathan, Harriet. (1986). Critical choices in interviews: Conduct, use, and research role. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies.Google Scholar
Read, K. E. (1955). Morality and the concept of the person among the Gahuku-Gama. Oceania 25:233–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shweder, Richard A., & Bourne, Edmund J. (1984). Does the concept of the self vary crossculturally? In Shweder, Richard A. & LeVine, Robert A. (eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self, and emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 158–99.Google Scholar
Stano, Michael E., & ReinschN. L., Jr. N. L., Jr. (1982). Communication in interviews. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
Strauss, Anselm, & Schatzman, Leonard. (1955). Cross-class interviewing: An analysis of interaction and communicative styles. Human Organization 14(2)128–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tannen, Deborah. (1984). Conversational style: Analyzing talk among friends. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
Tannen, Deborah. (1989). Talking voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
11
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Individual style in an American pubic opinion survey: Personal performance and the ideology of referentiality1
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Individual style in an American pubic opinion survey: Personal performance and the ideology of referentiality1
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Individual style in an American pubic opinion survey: Personal performance and the ideology of referentiality1
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *