new subscriber introduction

julie sugarman julie at CAL.ORG
Wed Sep 13 18:54:55 UTC 2000

Hello list members!  I would like to introduce myself, and in doing so ask a philosophical/methodological question.

I'm a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Virginia, and currently working at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC on a bilingual education research project.  I hope to write my dissertation on the topic of debates over bilingual education: not so much _why_ people disagree (I think we know this), but _how_ they disagree, specifically looking at what conversational strategies people use for convincing, reasoning, etc., and what kinds of metaphors are used by both sides, with my eventual goal being to be able to help people who want to lobby for bilingual education to be able to communicate effectively with the opposition (and vice versa).

My current problem is in thinking about how to do research on arguments: I'm not sure if I will be able to get "live people" to argue in my presence about just the thing I want them to argue about, so this leaves me with two alternatives that I can think of:

- rely on television/radio broadcasts and/or transcripts
- get people together in a 'focus group' to talk about bilingual education

The problems with the first choice are the usual problems with bias from editing and not having the complete record of the speech act (visual cues, pauses, etc.) and also that since I'm getting a degree in anthropology, I feel something of an obligation to do something more 'participatory'.  The second choice also makes me nervous because I don't want to put people together who wouldn't naturally interact, and more importantly I feel torn because I _want_ them to argue freely, but I feel like that could be like throwing two tigers in a cage to study how they rip each other to shreds.  Obviously that's not very ethical and I also would want something constructive to come out of such a meeting that might only happen if the discussion is moderated (which wouldn't as useful for my data!).

Forgive me if this is something you guys have already talked about, or if I'm showing my ignorance of CDA by not knowing papers and books written on this subject!  If anyone has any suggestions for references or ideas or experiences which might help, I'd greatly appreciate it.


Julie Sugarman
Center for Applied Linguistics
(202) 362-0700 x270
julie at

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