Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Vol 5, No 3 (2009)

Legitimating Tenor Relationships: Affiliation and Alignment in Written Interaction

Alexanne Cecilie Don
Issued Date: 7 Feb 2012

Abstract


This paper discusses the way that verbal behaviour may be responded to in ways that serve to position interactants along a number of interpersonal dimensions. These dimensions are collectively referred to as Tenor by Systemic Functional Linguistics: Contact (affiliation), Status (reciprocity), and Axiology (alignment). Through publicly signalling dis/alignment, responses can also act to ratify or legitimate the verbal behaviour and hence contribute to the negotiation over time of group practices or 'norms', as well as individual 'identities' within the group. Several excerpts from an electronically-mediated written conversation are discussed using a set of Tenor dimensions which reference positions either 'latent' and/or 'emerging' in the discourse community. Interpersonal positioning effected in the texts may be thereby tracked as unfolding logogenetically within each text, and as developing normed behaviour phylogenetically within the discourse community in the study – as well as in other contexts of interaction. The interpersonal (tenor) dimensions referred to here are partially activated through the use of the resources of Appraisal - Attitude and their targets in particular - and therefore the discussion highlights several evaluative elements in the texts.

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DOI: 10.1558/lhs.v5i3.303

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