EOC defined

Theoretical overview

S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.: A research tool

Applying S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.

Sample study

Conducting your own study

Check your understanding

Sources for this Web site

Additional readings



A Sample Study Using the S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. Model

Here is an example of one study that was conducted at a Puerto Rican Center (PRC) that was based on Hymesí model (Milburn, 1998).

Within one communicative event, PRC board meetings there were:

Setting: The setting was an old Victorian-type building, third floor, in the Directorís office. A table was in the front of the room with folding chairs around it. Further in the room was the Directorís desk. Pictures and plaques covered the walls and there was a clock on the wall near the door. The scene was the first Thursday of every month, the board of Directors of this non-profit cultural center were assembled to meet for one hour in the early morning to discuss and, when necessary, to vote on matters of importance to the functioning of the Center.

Participants: The potential participants for these meetings were the 13 board members, the staff, consultants, special invited guests and the public at large. The actual participants at each meeting varied depending upon who showed up or asked to be present. The frequent labels used to address were "board members" and "staff persons." In addition, the President of the Board was addressed as "Mr. President." Other board members, including the Director, were likely to be addressed by first name only. A subset of the board members, the "Executive Committee," was also addressed as such and had special rights and responsibilities.

Ends: Conversations were officially undertaken in order to conduct the business of the Center. However, usually people spoke so as to get along with the others present and be counted as a member of the community.

Act: The speech acts at the meeting were most frequently referred to as "taking a vote," or "discussion." An unlabeled speech act was the small talk or joking that occurred at the beginning of meetings as "quorum" another communicative act, was being "waited for." That is, the meeting could not officially begin until at least 8 of the 13 board members were present (quorum).

Key: There were two keys in which most conversation was conducted. The business key was official and by the rules (Roberts Rules of Order). The joking parts were light and friendly.

Instrument: We met face to face. Notes of the meeting were taken by the recording secretary and would be referred to in subsequent meetings as minutes. An agenda was also used.

Norms: There were many norms within these board meetings. One stated norm was to "be on time." However, there was a competing norm that people within this community engage in activities on what they call, "Puerto Rican time." This sense of time is more fluid and could be any time within a larger range. These competing norms both seemed to be used by different participants and it sometimes made conducting official business difficult.  For example, when someone arrived at a meeting late, the other participants would account for this action by saying, "she's on Puerto Rican time."

Genre: There was a genre thatís called relajo in Spanish. Itís a form of joking that plays with the idea of respect (or respeto). For example, one time a couple of board members were joking about calling the President of the board, your highness or "oh great one." This type of joking was making fun of the very real role distinctions that are made between participants and that one role is deserving of more respect.

Usefulness of S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. analysis

Once all of these areas have been discovered, you will be more likely to be able to communicate appropriately in a cross-cultural situation. For instance, in a board meeting you might not fault individuals for being late if you knew they were operating on "Puerto Rican time." Likewise, by knowing that the use of titles is expected, you would not fall into the trap of being disrespectful by calling everyone by first name.

Now that you have learned Hymes' S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. model, and have read one example, you should be able to apply it to a situation.

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