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The linguistic construction of character relations in TV drama:
Doing friendship in Sex and the City














Dissertation
zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades eines
Doktors der Philosophie
der Philosophischen Fakultäten
der Universität des Saarlandes


vorgelegt von
Claudia Bubel

aus Ludwigshafen am Rhein




Saarbrücken, 2006






























Dekan: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Ohlig
Berichterstatter: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Neal R. Norrick, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Erich Steiner, Prof.
Dr. Janet Holmes (Wellington)
Tag der letzten Prüfungsleistung: 03.11.2005















To my father






















Friends are the family
we choose for ourselves.
(Edna Buchanan)





*CONTENTS

List of tables......................................................................................................... viii
List of figures ....................................................................................................... viii
Transcription conventions.................................................................................... viii
Acknowledgements.............................................................................................. xii
Abstract (English)................................................................................................. xiii
Abstract (German) ............................................................................................... xiv


1 GENERAL INTRODUCTION................................................................................. 1

2 FRIENDSHIP ....................................................................................................... 8
2.1 Introduction......................................................................................... 8
2.2 Friendship as process.......................................................................... 12
2.3 Friendship between women................................................................ 20
2.4 Conclusion............................................................................................ 31


3 ANALYSING SCRIPTED TALK FROM SEX AND THE CITY:
DATA AND METHODS ....................................................................................... 34
3.1 Introduction 34
3.2 Sex and the City.................................................................................... 35
3.3 Dialogue in Sex and the City: function and form.............................. 41
3.4 Screen-to-face discourse ..................................................................... 46
3.4.1 Models of mediated discourse ......................................................... 46
3.4.2 A cognitive model of screen-to-face discourse................................ 50
3.4.2.1 The spectator as overhearer ................................................... 51
3.4.2.2 Overhearer design.................................................................. 55
3.5 Scripted dialogue and relationship impression formation .............. 59
3.6 Analyses at the character level........................................................... 63
3.6.1 The corpus ....................................................................................... 63
3.6.2 Methods ........................................................................................... 65
3.6.2.1 The Sex and the City characters as community of practice ... 65
3.6.2.2 An inclusive approach to discourse analysis ......................... 69
3.6.2.2.1 Ethnomethodological conversation analysis.................. 71
3.6.2.2.2 Membership categorisation analysis.............................. 72
3.6.2.2.3 Interactional sociolinguistics ......................................... 74
3.6.2.2.4 Face and politeness theory............................................. 78
3.7 Conclusion........................................................................................... 83


* The notes can be found at the end of each chapter.

4 DOING FRIENDSHIP THROUGH TALK................................................................. 89
4.1 Introduction......................................................................................... 89
4.2 Alignment patterns ............................................................................. 91
4.2.1 Introduction...................................................................................... 91
4.2.2 Alignments in human interaction..................................................... 91
4.2.3 Research on alignments in talk-in-interaction ................................. 99
4.2.4 Alignment practices......................................................................... 102
4.2.5 Alignment in multi-party conversation............................................ 109
4.2.6 Alignment patterns in Sex and the City........................................... 111
4.2.6.1 Implicit alignments................................................................ 112
4.2.6.2 Explicit alignments 131
4.2.7 Summary.......................................................................................... 136
4.3 “Charlotte sweetie” –
Doing friendship with familiar terms of address ........................... 139
4.3.1 Introduction...................................................................................... 139
4.3.2 Semantic categorisation and rules of address.................................. 140
4.3.3 Functions of nominal direct address................................................ 142
4.3.4 Direct address in Sex and the City................................................... 149
4.3.4.1 Distribution of familiar terms of address............................... 149
4.3.4.2 Local contexts of direct address............................................ 152
4.3.5 Dual alignments............................................................................... 173
4.3.6 The multivalence of direct address.................................................. 174
4.3.7 Summary.......................................................................................... 179
4.4 “What’s wrong?” –
Doing friendship with questions (and responses) ............................ 182
4.4.1 Why questions? ............................................................................... 182
4.4.2 How to define and study questions? ............................................... 185
4.4.3 Who uses questions when and to what ends? ................................. 190
4.4.4 How is friendship done with questions in Sex and the City? ......... 195
4.4.5 Are questions always friendly? ....................................................... 231
4.4.6 Summary.......................................................................................... 240
4.5 Conclusion ........................................................................................... 243

5 GENERAL CONCLUSION AND OUTLOOK............................................................ 253

REFERENCES........................................................................................................ 266





List of tables

Table 1: Transcription conventions
Table 2: Users of terms of endearment
Table 3: Users of first name address
Table 4: Recipients of terms of endearment
Table 5: Recipients of first name address
Table 6: Users of familiar terms of address
Table 7: Recipients of familiar terms of address


List of figures

Figure 1: Cover of Time magazine, August 28, 2000
Figure 2: Layering in TV drama
Figure 3: The participation framework
Figure 4: A model of screen-to-face discourse
Figure 5: Alignments and social relationships
Figure 6: Question functions


Transcription conventions

My transcriptions follow the conventions established by Dressler and Kreuz (2000).
Their model system is based on a survey of various transcription conventions for
discourse analytical purposes.

she's out. Period shows falling tone in the preceding element
oh yeah? Question mark shows rising tone in the preceding element.
nine, ten. Comma indicates a level, continuing intonation.
DAMN Capitals show heavy stress or indicate that speech is louder than
surrounding discourse.
°dearest° Utterances spoken more softly than the surrounding discourse are framed
by degree signs.
viii
says "oh" Double quotes mark speech set off by a shift in the speaker's voice.
(2.0) Numbers in parentheses indicate timed pauses.
If the duration of the pauses is not crucial and not timed:
.. a truncated ellipsis is used to indicate pauses of one-half second or less.
... an ellipsis is used to indicate a pause of more than a half-second.
ha:rd The colon indicates the prolonging of the prior sound or syllable.
<no way> Angle brackets pointing outward denote words or phrases that are spoken
more slowly than the surrounding discourse.
>watch out< Angle brackets pointing inward indicate words or phrases spoken more
quickly than surrounding discourse.
bu- but A single dash indicates a cut-off with a glottal stop.
[and so-] Square brackets on successive lines mark beginning and end of
[why] her? overlapping talk.
and= Equals signs on successive lines show latching between turns.
=then
H Clearly audible breath sounds are indicated with a capital H.
.h Inhalations are denoted with a period, followed by a small h.
.hhhh Longer inhalations are depicted with multiple hs.
H Exhalations are denoted with a small h (without a preceding period).
hhh A longer exhalation is denoted by multiple hs.
.t Alveolar suction clicks are denoted with a period, followed by a small t.
( ) In the case that utterances cannot be transcribed with certainty empty
parentheses are employed.
(hard work) If there is a likely interpretation, the questionable words appear within the
parentheses.
((desperate Aspects of the utterance, such as whispers, coughing, and laughter, are
whisper)) indicated with double parentheses.
{camera focuses on Voiceovers and other relevant filmic aspects are indicated within braces.
Charlotte}

Table 1: Transcription conventions

Since Preston (1982, 1985) has shown that non-standard spelling gives readers a
negative impression of the speakers, I do not represent reduced forms such as “gonna”
for “going to”. These “allegro speech forms” traditionally attempt to mirror casual,
relaxed speech (Preston 1985). However, as Tannen (1989: 202) points out: “because
such reduced phonological realizations are standard in casual speech, representing them
by a non-standard spelling misrepresents them.” If these forms are not reduced and
therefore stressed in casual conversation, I use capital letters, e.g. “I’m GOING to DO
this”.
I number each turn consecutively, giving the initial of the speaker to indicate who
has the floor (C=Carrie; M=Miranda; S=Samantha; Ch=Charlotte). Within a turn, I
ix
present spoken language one intonation unit (prosodic phrase) at a time. These “poetic
lines” not only make the transcriptions easier to read, but also capture the natural
chunking of spoken language achieved through intonation, prosody, pausing, hesitation
markers and other particles (Tannen 1989: 202).
According to Chafe (1994) an intonation unit contains one new idea unit, typically a
subject and a predicate. Functionally, intonation units, therefore, typically identify some
referent given in the preceding discourse or the physical context of the utterance and
give some new information about it. However, I found that there are also shorter
intonation units containing a single word or phrase. These generally represent utterance
launchers, i.e. “expressions which have a special function of beginning a turn or an
utterance” and which provide the speaker with “a planning respite, during which the rest
of the utterance can be prepared for execution (Biber et al. 1999: 1073). The following
turn includes six intonation units which contain a new idea each and an initial intonation
unit which represents an utterance launcher, the discourse marker “okay”:

SC_10.1
19 C okay.
you're driving down the road,
you see a sign,
it says two-headed snake.
you pull over.
wild Laney is having a baby shower,
you pull Over.

From a prosodic point of view, intonation units begin with a brief pause and display a
coherent intonation containing one or more peaks and ending in a contour interpreted as
clause-final. In the case of prosodic parallelism, I transcribed words or phrases as a
single intonation unit as can be seen in the following example:

SC_12.3
3 M whatever.
Catholics,
Episcopalians,
Buddhists,
Shakers,
Quakers,
all the same,
all designed to fuck up our sex lives.

x

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