Operationalizing Sociolinguistics for Insights into Social Positioning

A snippet of script from the Ironman movie


Linguistic behaviors in group work positions individuals in such a way as to increase or decrease their opportunities to engage and learn in educational settings. In this large body of work I present a multi-dimensional linguistic framework derived from sociolinguistics for identifying social positioning through language choices.

Authoritativeness or the Negotiation Framework is our research group's operationalization of the concept from Systemic Functional Linguistics. Authoritativeness is demonstrated by making a contribution to a conversation that is not meant to be validated by another group member. Our work has resulted in a reliable coding manual for Authoritativeness with the following codes:

In Line 7 of Table 2 above, we see that Stark asks if Jarvis is awake, which indicates that he is not the Primary Knower. Jarvis is the source of that knowledge (K1, Line 8). Stark asks Jarvis to perform some actions in Lines 9, 10, and 12 which positions him as the Secondary Actor (A2).

Our Heteroglossia Framework is based on Martin & White's Engagement Framework: once again, another operationalization of a concept for Systemic Functional Linguistics. It is intended to denote the identification of word choice that allows or restricts other possibilities and opinions. Think of it as a little like "hedge words", although considerably more complex as we created a reliable coding framework to identify heteroglossia. The Heteroglossia Framework has a rather simple divide in possible coding terms for contributions:

Line 12 of Table 2 above is particularly interesting from a Heteroglossia and User Interface standpoint. "Till further notice, why don't we just keep everything on my private server?" is a command to Jarvis (as indicated by the Neg:A2 code), but it is also Heteroglossic-Expand. So it is not a direct command. This nuanced phrasing makes designing naturalistic dialogue interfaces, like Jarvis, challenging.

These examples were adapted from those in our paper, Modeling the Rhetoric of Human-Computer Interaction. Considerable more detail is provided in the documentation below.


Overview & Automation
Adobe PDF link Howley, I., Mayfield, E., & RosÚ, C. P. (2012). Linguistic analysis methods for studying small groups. The International Handbook of Collaborative Learning.

Applications to HCI
Adobe PDF link Howley, I., & RosÚ, C. P. (2011). Modeling the rhetoric of human-computer interaction. In Human-Computer Interaction. Interaction Techniques and Environments (pp. 341-350). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Collective self-efficacy behavioral measure
Adobe PDF link Howley, I., Mayfield, E., & RosÚ, C. P. (2011). Missing something? Authority in collaborative learning. In Proceedings of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.


linguistic analysis, statistical analysis, coding manuals, discourse analysis, protocol analysis, coding & counting, ANCOVA, learning science, HCI

Coding Manual Development Process