Interactional linguistics

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Interactional linguistics is an interdisciplinary approach to grammar and interaction in the fields of linguistics, the sociology of language, and anthropology. Paul Hopper originally proposed emergent grammar as a functional approach to the study of syntax in 1987.[1] Later work expanded to include approaches to phonology and other aspects of grammar.[2]

Emergent grammar postulates that rules of grammar emerge as language is used. This is contrary to the a priori grammar postulate, the idea that grammar rules exist in the mind before the production of utterances.[3] Contrary to the principles of generative grammar and the concept of Universal Grammar, interactional linguistics asserts that grammar emerges from interactions among language users.[4] Whereas Universal Grammar claims that features of grammar are innate,[5] emergent grammar and other interactional theories claim that the human language faculty has no innate grammar and that features of grammar are learned through experience.

Interactional linguistics has developed in linguistic discourse analysis and conversation analysis, and is used to investigate the relationship between grammatical structure and real-time interaction and language use.[6]

Scholars in interactional linguistics draw from functional linguistics, conversation analysis, and linguistic anthropology in order to describe "the way in which language figures in everyday interaction and cognition."[7] Studies in interactional linguistics view linguistic forms, including syntactic and prosodic structures, as greatly affected by interactions among participants in speech, signing, or other language use. The field contrasts with dominant approaches to linguistics during the twentieth century, which tended to focus either on the form of language per se, or on theories of individual language user's linguistic competence.[8]


  1. ^ Hopper, Paul (1987). "Emergent Grammar". Berkeley Linguistics Society. 13: 139–157. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  2. ^ Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth; Selting, Margaret (1996). Prosody in Conversation: Interactional Studies. Cambridge University Press. 
  3. ^ Hopper, Paul (1988). "Emergent Grammar and the A Priori Grammar Postulate". In Deborah Tannen. Linguistics in Context. 
  4. ^ Su, Danjie (2016). "Grammar emerges through reuse and modification of prior utterances" (PDF). Discourse Studies. 18 (3): 330–353. 
  5. ^ Hornstein, Norbert; Nunes, Jairo; Grohmann, Kleanthes K. (2005). Understanding Minimalism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  6. ^ Fox, Barbara (2007). "Principles shaping grammatical practices: an exploration". Discourse Studies. 9 (3): 299. doi:10.1177/1461445607076201. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  7. ^ Ochs, Elinor; Schegloff, Emanuel; Thompson, Sandra (1996). Interaction and Grammar. Cambridge University Press. 
  8. ^ Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth; Selting, Margaret (2001). Studies in Interactional Linguistics. John Benjamins. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ford, Cecilia (1993). Grammar in Interaction. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Ford, Cecilia; Wagner, Johannes (1996). "Interaction-based Studies of Language". Special issue of Pragmatics. 6 (3). 
  • Hopper, Paul (2011). "Emergent Grammar and Temporality in Interactional Linguistics". In P. Auer and S. Pfänder. Constructions. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 22–44.