Affectivity in conversational storytelling: An analysis of displays of anger or indignation in complaint stories

Margret Selting


This paper reports on some recent work on affectivity, or emotive involvement, in conversational storytelling. After presenting the approach, some case studies of the display and management of affectivity in storytelling in telephone and face-to-face conversations are presented. The analysis reconstructs the display and handling of affectivity by both storyteller and story recipient. In particular, I describe the following kinds of resources: - the verbal and segmental display: Rhetorical, lexico-semantic, syntactic, phonetic-phonological resources; - the prosodic and suprasegmental vocal display: Resources from the realms of prosody and voice quality; - visual or "multimodal" resources from the realms of body posture and its changes, head movements, gaze, and hand movements and gestures. It is shown that the display of affectivity is organized in orderly ways in sequences of storytelling in conversation. I reconstruct (a) how verbal, vocal and visual cues are deployed in co-occurrence in order to make affectivity in general and specific affects in particular interpretable for the recipient and (b) how in turn the recipient responds and takes up the displayed affect. As a result, affectivity is shown to be managed by teller and recipient in storytelling sequences in conversation, involving both the reporting of affects from the story world as well as the negotiation of in-situ affects in the here-and-now of the storytelling situation.

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