While working on a revision of the illustrations for the “Talking Shit in Rayne” essay, I considered for a time the use of a three-dimensional graph to represent how changes in genre interacted with changes in the interactional order. One axis was, of course, time. The second axis of the original graph was a kind of loose approximation of — okay a complete approximation of the degree of interaction occurring between the speaker and the audience.
In order not to have a fake 3D graph, of which there are plenty, I searched for a third axis of information that I could use. I fell upon the idea of trying to quantify the amount of interaction within a given text (semantic interaction, if you will) — as a way to explore the amount of interaction that a text created at the pragmatic level. My initial idea was to count the number of lines of direct discourse and then to divide by the total number of lines in a given text. That yielded the following results:
|Text||Direct Discourse Lines||Total Lines||Percentage|
A couple of notes first:
- Texts 1.1 – 1.4 are toasts.
- Texts 1.5 – 1.8 are jokes.
- Texts 1.13-1.18 are memorates, first-person accounts of encounters with the supernatural.
A couple of things stand out here:
- First, this kind of pattern seeking really wants more texts, and so there really isn’t enough data here.
- Second, I don’t even have all the data for all the texts I have — I was missing some transcripts when I did this.
- Third, despite all these qualifications, there are still some interesting patterns here:
- It’s hard to ignore the clustering of the first three texts, all of which are toasts, with values of .55-.58.
- It’s also hard to ignore the pair of jokes with a similar mirroring of percentages of direct discourse, despite enormous differences in length.
- The same can be said about the cluster of memorates, 14-17.
Another thing to note is that having to count lines of direct discourse was a bit more challenging than it seemed, though I think I made reliable distinctions. Just as importantly, however, was the fact that there were a few instances of indirect discourse that gave me pause. But very few. So few that now I want to go back and examine those instances more closely to see if I can’t discern any patterns of why it occurs at all.