Michaela R. Winchatz (PhD. University of Washington) is
Associate Professor and Associate Dean in the College of Communication at
DePaul University in Chicago. Her interests are focused on ethnography of
communication, cultural discourse analysis, discourse analysis, and conversation
analysis, with a special emphasis on studying both English and German cultural
ways of speaking. She has published in a variety of journals such as Research
on Language and Social Interaction (ROLSI), Communication Monographs, Discourse
Studies and Field Methods.
Keynote Address: "If Germans see a light at the end of the tunnel, they first tend to make the tunnel longer:" German Jammern and the speech code of despondency.
Abstract: This presentation highlights and extends research I have
completed on a distinctive and culturally significant way of speaking in
Germany called Jammern (to whine or yammer). Data stem from a variety of
sources: 1) over 600 articles that appeared in regional and national German
media outlets between 2004 and 2016; 2) media coverage of the German advertising
campaign “Du bist Deutschland” (“You are Germany”); 3) fieldnotes collected
during a 4-month research stay in Landau, Germany; 4) in-depth,
semi-structured, ethnographic interviews conducted in Germany with 25 German
native speakers between the ages of 20 and 69 yrs. An examination of this data
revealed the characteristics, components and interpretations of Jammern available
in German speakers’ interactions and in German national media outlets. Further,
the findings point to a larger question: What is the system of symbols,
meanings, premises, and rules pertaining to communicative conduct within
Germany that underlies Jammern as a cultural way of speaking? Building on the
previous findings, I seek to answer this question by using elements of Hymes’s
SPEAKING mnemonic and Philipsen et al’s (2005) Speech Codes Theory in order to
formulate the main components of what I call a ‘speech code of despondency’ (“Niedergeschlangenheit”).
The formulation of this way of speaking and speech code may be helpful to
cultural and intercultural scholars seeking to better understand comparative
and contrasting communicative forms in German speech communities as well as in
broader international contexts.