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14 Watching the Detective Sherlock and Spoken Television Discourse Kay Richardson The successful TV drama series Sherlock (BBC 2011–present) is the latest in a long sequence of dramatizations of Conan Doyle’s short stories and novels, chronicling the adventures of the eponymous detective and his assistant, John Watson. This newest version is a British-made production, created by Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson. This chapter will show how spoken discourse helps in the creation and maintenance of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ as a plausible character in this specific textual context, and does so drawing on three main approaches to the analysis of spoken discourse:1 the ethnography of communication, in which I consider what kind of talk TV drama dialogue might be in relation to its context(s); Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical model of social interaction, in which I focus on impression management, stance, and identity/persona; and conversation analysis, focusing on turn-taking and turn-sequencing, including the communicative effects to be derived from different ways of orienting to principles of talk-construction. The ‘spoken discourse’ referred to in the title of the chapter is of interest not only to linguists and sociolinguists. Anthropologists, sociologists, 1. Despite its obvious relevance, I have left out the approach known as pragmatics, with Herbert Paul Grice’s (1975) theory of conversational implicature as a key reference, because chapter 5 of this volume is specifically concerned with the discussion of television dialogue from the perspective of linguistic pragmatics.   Watching the Detective | 15 philosophers, literary critics, and others have also contributed to this research field, and so this chapter is intentionally interdisciplinary. It helps to think of this topic as the study of talk—and to remember that there is more to talk than just its words. It is multimodal, because speakers use their faces and their bodies as well as their voices. Some ‘conversations ’, in real life or in drama, can take place without any words at all. When Sherlock and John are separately transported to Buckingham Palace by the British security services (“A Scandal in Belgravia”2 ), their first encounter in this new location involves nonverbal expressions from John that ask, ‘Why are we here?’ and responding expressions from Sherlock that answer, ‘No idea’. Despite the lack of words, it is hard to misunderstand the meaning of the interchange. Spoken discourse is a more theoretical expression for ‘talk’, and like all theoretical terms, there is an academic rationale for it. Because this is a linguistics book, I will explain the rationale in linguistic terms. The highlevel term ‘discourse’ is needed to cover all forms of extended linguistic expression, and to do so in a way that prioritizes the study of language use (see, for example, Johnstone 2008). But there are only a few generalizations that can be made about discourse at this overarching level. The really interesting studies of discourse find it essential to discriminate, and one important discrimination is between different modes of language use. Speech is a sound-based mode whereas writing is a sight-based mode. Spoken discourse can be monologic, like lectures and political speeches. Or it can be interactive, co-constructed by two or more people whose contributions are created in response to one another and to their communicative situation. Or it can be a mixture of both—a short address, followed by questions and answers, for example. In literate cultures like ours, a lot of monologic ‘talk’ is actually composed in advance, in writing. I want to start from the question of what kind of talk we can expect to find in TV drama. It should already be obvious from my account of spoken discourse in the preceding paragraph that TV drama talk complicates the simple picture in which it is the monologic talk, which is likely 2. Written by Steven Moffat. 16 | Kay Richardson to be pre-scripted, and the dialogic, interactive talk, which is composed in real time. TV drama dialogue is pre-scripted interactive talk. The first approach to spoken discourse I will discuss is the one known as the ethnography of communication or ethnography of speaking, because this is the approach best suited to the discussion of talk in context. Spoken Discourse in Context Although there is now an expanding literature on the language of drama (see references in this volume’s introductory chapter, and also Mandala 2007), many analysts do not provide any specific discussion of drama dialogue within...


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