Speaker: Dr Nathaniel Mitchell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Languages and Cultures 

Dr Mitchell was awarded his PhD in 2016, and he's currently a PostDoctoral Researcher at UQ. Nathaniel's current project pools together works on argumentivity (both the creation of an ‘argument’ or position, and the sequential design of an argument) and applies this specifically to morality arguments (when one participant makes known their moral position about a topic, and uses that position to warrant a negative evaluation of another person’s behaviour). Dr Mitchell hopes to find a clear patterning in morality argumentivity which can be applied to the current suite of online and offline offences. He hopes to also apply  findings to the judiciary to inform any “hate speech” laws so that the jurisprudence needfully collect not only the “offended” party’s perception of the uttered speech, but the ongoing interactional co-construction of the meaning developed by participants (ratified local participants, and beyond).

Dr Mitchell's background comes from Linguistics, specifically Phonetics and Phonology, and Pragmatics more generally. He has taught into all areas of Linguistics and interactional communication.

Title: Analysing offence through interaction

Interactional linguistics is a field of linguistic research, particularly nestled in the co-constructionist ontology. Meaning is not just something the “speaker” does, nor is it something that the “hearer” receives. Rather, meaning is something that both participants do together. Investigating the meanings that participants create gives a different lens into linguistics and language patterns.

In this talk, Dr Mitchell will talk mainly about offence; that negative evaluation that we make when we perceive someone has done something inappropriate. He will point out that a “speaker”/”hearer” analysis of offence underrepresents what happens in real time. Dr Mitchell wants to suggest that a consideration of speaker/hearer is far too simplistic, and that a consideration of what Goffman called “footings” is more powerful (especially when it comes to offence and negative evaluations). He'll also introduce work that Michael Haugh has done on these “footings”, and suggest some additions of his own.

Dr Mitchell will discuss data that he collected from his PhD (and various side projects) and show how, in the moment, it’s probably better to consider that offence too is interactionally co-constructed.

The data he'll use comes from:

  • email data between friends,
  • a Facebook “faux-pology”,
  • my own personal field-notes (anthropological diary) and
  • a particular US court case, the Penelope Soto hearing.

About Linguistics Seminar Series

The Linguistics Seminars are an opportunity to hear from guest speakers, UQ staff and HDR students working in the field of Linguistics. If you are interested in presenting in our series, please contact Linguistics Discipline Coordinator Ilana Mushin

Seminars are generally held fortnightly during semester and are free to attend. UQ staff and students, staff and students from other universities, and members of the general public are welcome to attend. If you would like to be included on our mailing list, please contact the SLC Events team via email.


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