Before examining the concept of reciprocity as it applies to a speech situation let us look at the origin and meaning of the word ‘reciprocity’. It is derived from the Latin word ‘ reciprocus’, which means ‘alternating’. It contains the prefixes ‘re—‘ ( back ) and ‘pro-‘ ( forward ). …
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These morphemes imply some kind of a back and forth movement. ‘Reciprocity’ is also related to feedback, interaction and causality. In a speech situation when a speaker puts across his message, the hearer listens to it and signals that he has heard it. This is the feedback. This takes place constantly between the speaker and the listener, and there is interaction among them. The response of a speaker depends upon what he hears. The speech is a cause and the response is the effect. Hence, there is causality involved in reciprocity.
2. Concept Of Reciprocity In Discourse
A speech situation involves a speaker and a listener. “Reciprocity condition of speech refers to the relation between the speaker and the listener in the process of speech.” ( Bygate, 1987 ) Speech is a reciprocal activity. At this point, it is necessary to differentiate between speech and writing. The way language is organized in speech is different from the way it is organized in writing. In order to speak fluently, a speaker must have grammatical competency which includes knowledge of vocabulary, pronunciation, sentence structure and meaning. But speaking does not mean merely putting together words in a grammatical structure. The capacity to use language appropriately is called communicative competence. It is the knowledge that underlines the use of grammatical competence in communicative situations. Speech situation consists of various factors like topic, purpose, social relations, environment etc. These differ from culture to culture and community to community. In short, “speaking is not a discrete skill. It overlaps a number of other areas. Structure of conversation is culturally determined.” ( Hughes, R., 2002 ) Now let us look closely at what happens when two people speak. The speaker has a message which he encodes and transmits to the listener through speech. The listener listens to the speech and decodes the message. The listener then responds in the same way, by transmitting a message. Hence, the speaker becomes the listener and vice versa. An individual takes turns at being a speaker and a listener alternately. This is called ‘turn taking’. In a speech event, the participants are face-to-face and the turn-taking is a continuous process. Hence, we see that casual conversations are also organized by rules. People take turns at speaking and listening, they answer questions, mark the beginning and end of a conversation, make mistakes and correct themselves. All this needs some kind of direction and control on the part of the speakers. People do not say – I have finished now. You can answer my question. Conversations are organized covertly and the organizational principles provide a discreet interactional framework. It is within this framework that reciprocity takes place. “Reciprocity develops during the ongoing negotiation of meaning between speaker and listener, thus producing a joint construction of communication.” ( Byrne D., 1987 ) Reciprocity involves the use of turn-taking skills, strategies to interrupt and to control the topic, which are necessary to maintain meaningful interaction. During conversations, individuals follow norms like politeness principles and co-operative principles. They also reciprocate each others’ verbal and non-verbal behavior. In a social intercourse, people are obligated to help and not to harm those who help them. Social activity is also reciprocal and ubiquitous. The ability to appropriately reciprocate or compensate a partner’s communicative response is an essential element of communicative
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