A Layered Approach to a Common Ground Reading

5 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011

See all articles by Ryan Dewey

Ryan Dewey

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science

Date Written: March 12, 2011


In a January 27, 2011 interview on the National Public Radio radio show Fresh Air (hosted by Terry Gross), guest Robert Spitzer made this comment: “Brazil doesn’t have a second amendment in their constitution.” However, as of May 2010 the Citizen Constitution (Brazil’s constitution since 1988) has been amended 64 times, which necessarily includes a second instance of an amendment being made. This fact renders a literal reading of Spitzer’s remark to be infelicitous. Instead, it is argued that Spitzer’s remark utilized the architecture of the situation to engage participants in a joint activity of maximizing the common ground.

This essay explores the role of a shared common ground in layered communication situations which enables participants to understand speaker construals. This falls within the domain of joint attention and pragmatic analysis of communication situations. Clark’s (1996) notion of Common Ground will be used to analyze the situation and untangle the communication layers to question what each participant needs to understand in order to orient on the intended meaning of the speaker. Using attested data from a radio interview, this paper explores three layers of communication and identifies the various aspects of a common ground that are required for a proper reading of a speaker’s intended meaning. This common ground is argued to be essential in the process of the negotiation of meaning. What follows is an initial exposition of the methodological process in this analysis, followed by a situating of the context for the data, and finally the application of the analytical method to the data with appropriate conclusions.

Keywords: Common Ground, Layered Communication, Political Discourse, Construal, Second Amendment Discourse, Negotiation of Meaning

Suggested Citation

Dewey, Ryan, A Layered Approach to a Common Ground Reading (March 12, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1794523 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1794523

Ryan Dewey (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University - Department of Cognitive Science ( email )

10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7068
United States

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