Title:
Encounters along Micro-Level Borders: Silence and Metacommunicative Talk in Service Encounter Conversations between Finnish Employment Officials and Immigrants
Author:
Tarja Tanttu: Language Centre, University of Eastern Finland, Finland
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1461227
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Year:
2014
Volume:
6
Theme:

Part 4: Displaced and symbolic borders

Pages:
1227-1250
No. of pages:
24
Publication type:
Introduction
Published:
2014-12-15


This article examines the interaction between Finnish employment officials and their immigrant clients in service encounter conversations. It employs the concepts of metacommunicative talk, silence, agency and asymmetric interaction situation. Such service encounters between native speakers of Finnish and immigrants going through the integration process and speaking Finnish as their second language constitute situations of institutional interaction, characterised by asymmetry. Asymmetry during the service encounter arises from the roles and power relations between the official and client, a familiarity with the routines associated with service encounters, and the use of Finnish as the language of conversation during the encounter.

This article examines two authentic service encounters, recorded in a Finnish employment office. The encounters are analysed using discourse analysis, combining micro-level analysis of language use and macro-level analysis of the situation. Interviews with the employment officials and background information collected from the officials and clients via questionnaires are used in support of the qualitative analysis.

Officials use different methods of interaction with their clients. In addition, the individual characteristics of officials and clients and their cultural differences influence the construction of interaction during a service encounter. Finnish officials can sometimes handle service encounters with very little talk – sometimes with hardly any talk at all. However, metacommunicative talk can serve as a vehicle for reinforcing the client’s agency and supporting the immigrant in learning the language and customs, as well as in establishing a foothold in the new community, and thereby promoting the integration process as a whole.

Keywords: Service encounter conversation; institutional interaction; metacommunication; silence; Finnish as a second language; immigrants; integration

Volume 6, Theme::

Part 4: Displaced and symbolic borders

, Article 67, 2014
Author:
Tarja Tanttu
Title:
Encounters along Micro-Level Borders: Silence and Metacommunicative Talk in Service Encounter Conversations between Finnish Employment Officials and Immigrants:
DOI:
10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1461227
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