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Self-deprecations through assessments

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In her seminal paper on assessments, Pomerantz (1984) has pointed out that when someone does an initial assessment, s/he "formulates the assessment so as to accomplish an action or multiple actions, for example, praise, complain, compliment, insult, brag, self-deprecate" (Pomerantz 1984: 63). She thus points out, that several actions can be accomplished by means of assessments. The current paper will focus on one specific action involved in doing first assessments, namely self-deprecations.
Self-deprecations have been described as actions that involve a speaker's self-reference (Whitehead 2013) and that emphasize a specific characteristics of the speaker or of an activity, the speaker has been involved in, in a deprecating way. For an example of a self-deprecation, see the following excerpt:

Excerpt 1 (HCMette)
69 *M: =∙hh HRr så har jeg skrevet de:r, <bestille varer>,
70 HRr then have I written there order products
71 HRr then I have written there order products
73 (1.0)
75 *M: >↓billigst muligt har jeg bare skrevet for lige at have
76 cheapest possible have I simply written for just to have
77 as cheap as possible have I simply written in order simply to have
79 et eller andet↓.<
80 one or different
81 something

In this excerpt, which is part of a performance appraisal interview where the subordinate reports about her past performance, speaker M launches a self-deprecation. After having reported about the task itself in a neutral way "I have written there order products", she extends her turn after a 1 second long pause by adding onto the prior topic. Instead of emphasizing the relevance of her work, she self-deprecates her task by pointing out that she has written this simply to be able to fill in something in the interview guide at all.
As seen in the above excerpt, not all self-deprecations necessarily include assessments. Yet, a great number of self-deprecations are accomplished by means of assessments. This is the case in the following excerpt.

Excerpt 2
4 B: jeg har jo- je- jeg tror nok det=er et begreb jeg har opfundet;
I have PRT I I believe PRT this=is a term I have invented
I have PRT I actually believe this is a term I have invented myself

5 .hh <j[eg kalder det situationsbestemt præsentationsteknik.>
.hh I call it situation defined presentation technique.
I call it situation defined presentation technique.
6 E: [.hf::

7 (.)

8 E: aha [ha
9 B: [aha he he .h æ det er måske l[idt langt ikk?=
aha he he uh this is perhaps little long PRT
aha he he uh this is perhaps a little long isn’t it?
10 E: [æhjh

In this excerpt, speaker B initiates a topic by pointing out a term that he has invented himself "situation defined presentation technique". In response to a slightly delayed affiliating response by the co-present speaker E in line 8, B initiates a self-deprecating utterance, which points out that the term, which has been invented by the speaker himself, might be a little bit too long. He does so by using an assessment "a little long" which is self-referential, as it points back to the speaker as the inventor of the assessable, namely the term. The self-deprecation is accompanied by initial laughter and a tag in the end.
The number of CA-studies on self-deprecations is little, but the following aspects have been documented. Pomerantz (1984) has pointed out that "subsequent to a self-deprecation, the usual preference for agreement is nonoperative: An agreement with a prior self-deprecation is dispreferred" (64) (see also Goodwin & Heritage 1990: 296; Robinson & Bolden 2010: 523). This means that with a focus on what self-deprecations make sequentially relevant as a subsequent next action it has been noted that the normal preference for agreement is reversed, which puts some specific constraints on the next speaker. When focusing on the role of assessments for self-deprecating actions, it has also been pointed out that assessments can accomplish one specific action, but also multiple ones (Pomerantz, 1984: 63). Here, the close relationship between self-deprecations and complaints (Whitehead 2013) has been accounted for.
Research on self-deprecations centers thus around what is made sequentially relevant subsequent to self-deprecating utterances. More than focusing on the response to an initial self-deprecation, the main focus of the current study is to pursue, what proffers a self-deprecating utterance, how is the self-deprecating utterance sequentially structured and what is the role of assessments for accomplishing this action. The data for the study includes audio and video-taped interactions from both everyday and institutional settings.

Goodwin, C. & Heritage, J. (1990): Conversation Analysis. Annual Reviews on Anthropology, 19, 283-307.
Pomerantz, A. (1984): Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In: Atkinson, J.M. and Heritage, J. (eds.): Structures of social action. Studies in Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 57-101.
Robinson, J.D. & Bolden, G.D. (2010): Preference organization of sequence-initiating actions: The case of explicit account solicitations. Discourse Studies, 12: 501-533
Whitehead, K. A. (2013): Managing self/other relations in complaint sequences: The use of self-deprecating and affiliative racial categorizations. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 46:2, 186-203.
StatusUdgivet - 2014
BegivenhedInternational Conference on Conversation Analysis - University of California, LA, Los Angeles, USA
Varighed: 26 jun. 201429 jun. 2014


KonferenceInternational Conference on Conversation Analysis
LokationUniversity of California, LA
ByLos Angeles

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