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  • Applying sociolinguistics: Domains and face-to-face interaction by Diana Boxer
  • Bingyun Li
Applying sociolinguistics: Domains and face-to-face interaction. By Diana Boxer. (Impact: Studies in language and society 15.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002. Pp. xii, 244. ISBN 1588111970. $90 (Hb).

Diana Boxer presents an excellent account of face-to-face interaction in various domains. Her book comprises eight chapters. In Ch. 1, an introduction, B addresses the confusion between applied linguistics and applied sociolinguistics and points out the book’s focus on microsociolinguistic phenomena. For B, both pragmatics and sociolinguistics are subfields of linguistics. This chapter is fascinating in that it presents an excellent overview of many widelyemployed methodologies of research in face-to-face interaction, such as discourse analysis, conversation analysis, ethnography of communication, interactional sociolinguistics, elicitation instruments, role plays, sociolinguistic interviews, radio and television talk, and laboratory data.

B invokes recorded spontaneous speech in naturally occurring settings in accounting for various phenomena in ordinary interactions. In Ch. 2, she examines the family domain, discussing family talk and couples talk, focusing on a face-threatening speech act of nagging which, according to B, contains a prior request, a reminder, an exclamation expressing irritation, and a scolding or a threat. Much of this chapter is devoted to analyzing nagging within the sociolinguistic variables of gender, power, social distance, and social status. Ch. 3 tackles ‘Face-to-face in the social domain’. This chapter first presents an exemplary ‘review of literature on conversational interaction in social life’ (47), surveying phatic communication (greetings, partings), speech acts and events (refusals, invitations and compliments, complaining, advice giving), interlocutor variables, and gender problems in social interaction. It then moves on to give an in-depth analysis of humor in social talk, discussing three humorous speech genres (teasing, joking about absent others, and self-denigrating humor) and arguing that identity display and relational identity display/development can be the most important functions of these types of verbal play. For B, social distance and gender are sociolinguistic factors having the strongest effect on teasing and joking.

In Ch. 4, ‘Face-to-face in the education domain’, B narrows the focus to higher education discourse, discussing sociolinguistic functions of sarcasm in classroom discourse and attempting to find out who uses sarcasm, how it is used, why it is used, what effect it brings about, and how recipients respond. This chapter identifies three uses of classroom sarcasm—positive, negative, and neutral. As for topics triggering sarcasm, B includes student participation, grades, and individual abilities; the research being discussed; the course itself; and the instructor’s teaching style or personality (117–18).

Ch. 5 deals with the religious domain. After presenting an overview of what has been researched in religious discourse, B presents an in-depth ethnographic analysis of language use of the ‘bar and bat mitzvah’, ‘a coming of age rite of passage ceremony in Judaism’ (126), trying to show ‘how the spiritual, intellectual, and social spheres interact’ (133). The workplace domain is the focus of Ch. 6, where B reviews talk in service encounters, institutional encounters, and workplace encounters and investigates male boasting behavior in a brokerage firm. Ch. 7 touches upon crosscultural interactions. After examining social life, educational life, and workplace life from a crosscultural perspective, B provides a detailed analysis of crosscultural interaction in university gatekeeping encounters. Finally, in Ch. 8, B reiterates the major viewpoints of previous chapters and concludes with a discussion of the goal of applying sociolinguistics.

As can be seen from the above introduction, this well-written and reader-friendly book shows the contributions sociolinguistics can make to better understanding between human beings. This book would be of value to anyone interested in the face-to-face interaction that is part of our life. [End Page 831]

Bingyun Li
Fujian Teachers University


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