4.4.3. The Significance of the Addressee

To what degree does the extent to which an individual uses features of co- operative / non-co- operative / competitive talk vary depending on the addressee?

It appears that the degree to which an individual uses a co-operative, competitive, or non-co-operative style depends strongly on the addressee, and the relationship between the speaker and the addressee. For example, the girls in Group I, who are co-operative to one another (although G2 and G3 are more co-operative towards each other and less so towards G1) are non-co-operative and competitive in their behaviour towards B1. Similarly, G5 and G6 are co-operative towards each other, less so towards G7, and non-co-operative and competitive towards G8. In Group III, G5, B6 and B7 are competitive, at least in part, towards B5, but less so towards each other.

From these cases, it appears that speech style is not a fixed attribute of the speaker, but a response to the relationship between the speaker and the addressee.

Another variable which may affect the style group members use is the topic which they have been given to discuss; some topics may promote an adversarial style more than others. A discussion on the existence of the Loch Ness Monster (Group III) may be more likely to induce participants to take up extreme, polarised, positions. Other topics may make it difficult for speakers to do this, for example the ranking of possible endings to Twelfth Night (Group IV), or the ranking of qualities you would like in a teacher (Group V).

The data sample was not broad enough to investigate this possibility, but it is one which might be worth consideration from teachers setting topics for group discussions, and which might be considered in further research.


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