Agency and Participation in Multilingual Family Interaction
Building on previous work in participation (Goffman 1981, Goodwin and Goodwin 2004, Goodwin 2018, Erickson 2004) and agency (Ahearn 2001, Enfield 2017), I investigate – through interactional sociolinguistic and multimodal micro-analysis of video recorded data – everyday interactions in a multilingual family (my own) where the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law do not have a common language (all other participants are Turkish-English bilingual). By focusing on moments where either the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law lacks access to the language being spoken, I demonstrate how family members draw on paralinguistic, embodied, material, and technological resources to engage in collaborative meaning making, build action in concert with each other, and constitute themselves as a family by creating connection.First, I show how the participant who does not have access to the ongoing talk formulates her requests for translation in ways that highlight shared information, which she gathers by observing the behaviors of those around her despite not understanding the language. For example, by formulating a candidate translation and asking for verification via a polar question, a monolingual participant displays her participation – in terms of attending to what is taking place around her and making sense of the situation. I then demonstrate how uses of mobile devices in face-to-face interactions present the participants with novel affordances that enhance the interactions between them. For example, the use of a mobile translation application allows the participants who do not have a common language to address each other directly, and the mistranslations produced by the application lead to further negotiation and collaborative meaning making by all participants. Lastly, I identify and define three ways of creating connection between all family members: Social referencing (where a participant observes and echoes the response of another participant), recruit and respond (where the gaze patterns of a monolingual participant function to select a bilingual as an interpreter and then the other monolingual as the primary interlocutor), and floor suturing (where a bilingual carries out interactional work to involve all parties in the interaction by translating without any verbal or nonverbal request). Ultimately, through the analysis of interactions in the context of a family that includes two members who do not have a common language, the study furthers our understanding of the moment-by-moment construction of mutual understanding; of how connection is created multimodally; and of participation and agency as co-constitutive, embodied, and distributed.
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