Co-constructing simple and complex frames using repetition and evaluation in Taiwanese family dinner talk

  • Ping-Hsuan Wang Georgetown University
Keywords: frame lamination, repetition, evaluation, stancetaking, family dinner talk


Building on past research that uses Goffman’s (1974) framing theory to analyze family interaction, I use discourse analysis to demonstrate how a frame, or “definition of the situation,” can be co-constructed by using repetition as a linguistic strategy and evaluation in stancetaking per Du Bois’ concept of the “stance triangle” (2007). I also adopt Gordon’s (2009) theorization that frames can be “laminated” when participants interpret the current event as having more than one definition. This suggests that frame is an interactive achievement that requires collaboration of both speakers and listeners. I examine four excerpts of dinner talk in Mandarin Chinese among members of a Taiwanese family to illustrate how “topic structure” and “participant orientation,” as outlined by Schiffrin (1993) in the delineation of multiple frames, play a key role in the co-construction of both relatively simple and more complex frames. Findings show that family members may attend to different words or other linguistic units and position themselves to different stance objects. As they evaluate the topics differently in the stance triangle, their evaluations influence how the frames in the interaction are co-constructed. Whether a frame is created as intended depends not only on the speaker’s production but also on the listener’s corresponding response. Also, by establishing different alignments and assuming relational roles, family members can evoke several frames that are layered in complex configurations, such as a parenting frame laminated on top of a reporting frame when the father reports medical test results as a topic while orienting to the son in a parent-child alignment by evaluating the son’s behaviors. The study contributes to the extant research on framing theory by considering repetition and evaluation as resources to flesh out participant alignments and adds to the literature on family discourse a case study of a Taiwanese family.

Author Biography

Ping-Hsuan Wang, Georgetown University
Master's graduate from the Department of Linguistics, Georgetown University