Ethnography of Communication
Somayyeh Pedram GS31063
Approaches to research on language and culture
from a sociocultural perspective
1. Ethnography of communication
2. Interactional sociolinguistics
3. Conversation analysis
4. Discourse analysis
5. Systemic functional linguistics
6. Critical discourse analysis
7. Linguistic ethnography
8. Microgenetic approach
• Shared features of all the eight approaches
1. All studies of language are also studies of culture
2. Social activities are the units of analysis ; from one-word to
larger cultural and historical activities
3. The data is generally qualitative, but in these approaches
usually mix methods are used for collecting and analyzing
• Ethnography of communication
(developed by Dell Hymes)
Objective: to describe the communicative habits
shared by members of a community. Its central unit
of analysis is the communicative event such as
ceremonies, mealtimes, social gatherings, birthday
The focus of ethnography of
• The starting point is the ethnographic analysis of the
communicative habits of a community in their
totality, determining what count as communicative
events, and as their components, and conceiving no
communicative behavior as independent of the set
framed by some setting or implicit question. The
communicative event is thus central.
Situation The physical and temporal setting and its cultural definition, e.g., The living room in
the grandparents' home might be a setting for a family story which may be told at a
reunion celebrating the grandparents' anniversary.
Participants Speaker and audience. At the family reunion, an aunt might tell a story to the young
female relatives, but males, although not addressed, might also hear the narrative.
Ends Purposes, goals, and outcomes. The aunt may tell a story about the grandmother to
entertain the audience, teach the young women, and honor the grandmother.
Acts Form, content and sequential arrangements. The aunt's story might begin as a
response to a toast to the grandmother. The story's plot and development would have
a sequence structured by the aunt. Finally, the group might applaud the tale and
move onto another subject or activity.
Keys The tone underlying the event, whether it is humorous, serious or playful. The aunt
might imitate the grandmother's voice and gestures in a playful way.
Instrumentalities Forms and styles of speech. The aunt might speak in a casual register with many
dialect features or might use a more formal register and careful grammatically
Norms Social rules governing the event and the participants' actions and reaction. In a playful
story by the aunt, the norms might allow many audience interruptions and
collaboration. A serious, formal story by the aunt might call for attention to her and
no interruptions as norms.
Genre The kind of speech act or event; gossiping, joking, interviewing. The aunt might tell a
character anecdote about the grandmother for entertainment, or an exemplum as
What should researchers do when studying ethnography of
1. Develop relationships of trust with group members: in order to
have an in-group member’s understanding of the communicative
event and its significance to the group.
1. Participant-observer: the researcher has social interaction with the
group members while maintaining a degree of marginality between
a strangeness and familiarity.
1. Gather multiple audio and video recordings of the event
1. Have notes of his experience of the event, his observations and the
interviews with the participants, documents and written records.
Analysis of communicative event
1. Regularly occurring features important for
accomplishment of the event should be noted.
2. Patterns are described
3. Conventional meanings of the patterns are
interpreted ; how they are used by the participants
4. The events are explained in light of the larger social,
historical and political contexts they help to create.
Micro-ethnographies:Offer a detailed analysis of only
one type of event or a single instance of an event
which might be contrasted with a second type of
event in another context.(Watson-Gegeo, 1997:138).
Case studies: Focus on behaviors or attributes of a
single event or case (Duff,2007b; Roberts,2006).
Critical ethnographies: They take an ideologically
sensitive orientation in their analysis
(Canagarajah,1993:605). They address how the
patterns and norms of an event accommodate to,
contest or transform larger social structures such as
power, social justice and discrimination.
Nexus analysis: is similar to critical ethnography in its ideology
orientation, but it differs from all ethnographic approaches in
that it takes social action rather than an event as its focal unit.
The aim is to understand a specific problem in the action so
that future actions can be shaped to effective positive change.
“Nexus analysis begins where racism is enacted in the
experience of real social actors. Then, after some detailed
analysis of these actions, the analysis probes outward into the
histories of actors, resources, scenes, or settings across time
and place-first into the past to see how the actions are
constituted and into the future to work toward shaping future
Scollon and scollon(2007:619)
In ethnography of communication approach, because
of the broad range, amount and type of data, it is
easy for researchers to “get lost” in their data.
It is very important for the researchers to make clear
how data were collected, including the specific
sources and the examples used in the research
report which reflect the entire corpus of data.