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Speech Codes Theory
Gerry Philipsen
Tara Wilkinson-McClean. PhD Candidate
Media + Communications Lecturer
Key Terms
Speech Code: System of socially constructed
symbols and meanings, premises, and rules,
pertaining to communicati...
Research Method
TEAMSTERVILLE
3 years
Community in Chicago
kids on street corners, women on front porches, men in
bars, pe...
Core Values
TEAMSTERVILLE
Loyalty of neighbourhood culture - collectivistic
Male hierarchy
Code of honour

NACIREMA
Relati...
Goal of Research
Develop a general theory that would capture the
relationship between communication and culture.
Seeks to ...
Overview
There are situations where speech is necessary
and appropriate and situations where less
speech and more action a...
Proposition # 1:
Distinctiveness of Speech
Codes
Distinctiveness of Speech
Codes
Wherever there is a distinctive culture, ...
Proposition # 2:
Multiplicity of Speech Codes
Multiplicity of Speech Codes
In any given speech community, multiple speech ...
Proposition # 3:
Substance of Speech
Codes
Substance of Speech
Codes
A speech code involves a culturally distinct psycholo...
Substance of Speech
Codes
Substance of Speech
Codes
Psychology: Every speech code thematizes the

nature of individuals in...
Proposition # 4:
Interpretation of Speech Codes
Interpretation of Speech Codes
The significance of speaking depends on the...
Proposition # 5:
The Site of Speech Codes
The Site of Speech Codes
The terms, rules, and premises of a speech code are ine...
Proposition # 6:
The artful use of a shared speech code is a sufficient condition for predicting, explaining, and controll...
Performative Ethnography
Some researchers favor the concept of performing ethnography over
doing ethnography.
A.Performati...
Critique
A.
B.
C.
D.

Most interpretive scholars applaud Philipsen’s commitment to longterm participant observation.
Howev...
Places & Situations with
Speech Codes
Within cultures
Workplace
Social Groups
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Communication Theory (Speech Codes Theory)

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Communication Theory (Speech Codes Theory)

  1. 1. Speech Codes Theory Gerry Philipsen Tara Wilkinson-McClean. PhD Candidate Media + Communications Lecturer
  2. 2. Key Terms Speech Code: System of socially constructed symbols and meanings, premises, and rules, pertaining to communicative conduct. Ethnography: The work of a naturalist who watches, listens and records communicative conduct in its natural setting in order to understand a culture’s concept web of meaning.
  3. 3. Research Method TEAMSTERVILLE 3 years Community in Chicago kids on street corners, women on front porches, men in bars, people at settlement house where he worked NACIREMA America spelt backwards Santa Barbara, Seattle, mostly west cost of US
  4. 4. Core Values TEAMSTERVILLE Loyalty of neighbourhood culture - collectivistic Male hierarchy Code of honour NACIREMA Relationships to validate self esteem - individualistic
  5. 5. Goal of Research Develop a general theory that would capture the relationship between communication and culture. Seeks to answer Qs about: The existence of speech codes The way speech codes can be discovered The force speech codes have on people within a culture
  6. 6. Overview There are situations where speech is necessary and appropriate and situations where less speech and more action are appropriate To indicate that his theory has moved from description to explanation and prediction, he renames it: (ethnography of communication speech codes theory) Developed 6 general propositions.
  7. 7. Proposition # 1: Distinctiveness of Speech Codes Distinctiveness of Speech Codes Wherever there is a distinctive culture, there is to be found a distinctive speech code. For those within the culture, speech codes have a taken-for-granted quality.
  8. 8. Proposition # 2: Multiplicity of Speech Codes Multiplicity of Speech Codes In any given speech community, multiple speech codes are deployed. People may be affected by other codes or employ more than one code.
  9. 9. Proposition # 3: Substance of Speech Codes Substance of Speech Codes A speech code involves a culturally distinct psychology, sociology, and rhetoric. Whatever the culture, the speech code reveals structures of self, society, and strategic action.
  10. 10. Substance of Speech Codes Substance of Speech Codes Psychology: Every speech code thematizes the nature of individuals in a particular way. 1.Sociology:  Every speech code provides a system of answers about what linkages between self and others can properly be sought, and what symbolic resources can properly and efficaciously be employed in seeking those linkages. 2.Rhetoric: Every speech code involves ways to discover truth and create persuasive appeals.
  11. 11. Proposition # 4: Interpretation of Speech Codes Interpretation of Speech Codes The significance of speaking depends on the speech codes used by speakers and listeners to create and interpret their communication. People in a culture decide what their prominent speech practices mean.
  12. 12. Proposition # 5: The Site of Speech Codes The Site of Speech Codes The terms, rules, and premises of a speech code are inextricably woven into speaking itself. Highly structured cultural forms often display the cultural significance of symbols and meanings, premises, and rules that might not be accessible through normal conversation.
  13. 13. Proposition # 6: The artful use of a shared speech code is a sufficient condition for predicting, explaining, and controlling the form of discourse about the intelligibility, prudence, and morality of communication conduct. By a thoughtful use of shared speech codes, participants can guide metacommunication - talk about talk
  14. 14. Performative Ethnography Some researchers favor the concept of performing ethnography over doing ethnography. A.Performative ethnography is grounded in several theoretical principles. 1.Performance is both the subject and method of performance ethnography.* 2.Researchers consider their work performative; they do not just observe performance but are co-performers. 3.Performance ethnographers are also concerned about performance when they report their fieldwork.* A.Performance ethnography almost always takes place among marginalized groups
  15. 15. Critique A. B. C. D. Most interpretive scholars applaud Philipsen’s commitment to longterm participant observation. However, they criticize his efforts to generalize across cultures and his scientific goals of explanation, prediction, and control. Theorists from feminist, critical, or cultural studies perspectives charge that he is silent—even naïve—about power relationships. Empiricists wish that Philipsen backed his generalizations with more scientific rigor. 1. The Nacirema study raises a number of important methodological questions. 2. Philipsen needs more than two data sets—otherwise, his work suggests that there are only two cultural clusters.
  16. 16. Places & Situations with Speech Codes Within cultures Workplace Social Groups

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