Ragnar Rommetveit’s Approach to Everyday Spoken Dialogue from Within
The following article presents basic concepts and methods of Ragnar Rommetveit’s (born 1924) hermeneutic-dialogical approach to everyday spoken dialogue with a focus on both shared consciousness and linguistically mediated meaning. He developed this approach originally in his engagement of mainstream linguistic and psycholinguistic research of the 1960s and 1970s. He criticized this research tradition for its individualistic orientation and its adherence to experimental methodology which did not allow the engagement of interactively established meaning and understanding in everyday spoken dialogue. As a social psychologist influenced by phenomenological philosophy, Rommetveit opted for an alternative conceptualization of such dialogue as a contextualized, partially private world, temporarily co-established by interlocutors on the basis of shared consciousness. He argued that everyday spoken dialogue should be investigated from within, i.e., from the perspectives of the interlocutors and from a psychology of the second person. Hence, he developed his approach with an emphasis on intersubjectivity, perspectivity and perspectival relativity, meaning potential of utterances, and epistemic responsibility of interlocutors. In his methods, he limited himself for the most part to casuistic analyses, i.e., logical analyses of fictitious examples to argue for the plausibility of his approach. After many years of experimental research on language, he pursued his phenomenologically oriented research on dialogue in English-language publications from the late 1980s up to 2003. During that period, he engaged psycholinguistic research on spoken dialogue carried out by Anglo-American colleagues only occasionally. Although his work remained unfinished and open to development, it provides both a challenging alternative and supplement to current Anglo-American research on spoken dialogue and some overlap therewith.