Interaction in Recipes from Chinese Food Blogs: Authors’ Language Choices

Author: Chi-hua Hsiao (Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Tunghai University)
Speaker: Chi-hua Hsiao
Topic: General sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Halliday and Matthiessen (2002:356) indicate that the nature of a recipe is interactive because it is a “macro-proposal, consisting of a number of instructions or directions to the reader.” To investigate how writers of Chinese food blogs balance multiple frames – to explicate cooking instructions, present personal lifestyles, and motivate readers to participate in discussions, this study uses insights from contextualization cues (Gumperz 1992) and frames (Goffman 1974) to address two questions. First, how do writers employ contextualization cues to facilitate interaction with readers? Second, how do contextualization cues help readers choose frames when responding to writers?

This study adopts two research methods: the Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis approach (Herring 2004) and interviews. The data of this study were collected from five Chinese food blogs. Employing CMDA, I focus on three linguistic contextualization cues: narrative orientation, speech acts presented with politeness (Brown and Levinson 1987), and reported speech from family members. These three discursive contextualization cues can be ascribed to one chief attribute that runs through the communities of Chinese food blogs: Most writers and readers are female caregivers in their families, especially full-time or working mothers and wives, who like to share stories on how food enriches their lives.

After my analyses, I conducted interviews with three authors of the five food blogs, and I presented my research results to them. Invited to reflect upon their language choices when they compose recipes, the authors explained why, in addition to other cues, they often choose these three types of contextualization cues to motivate readers’ interaction. The reasons are as follows. First, a narrative orientation relates a dish to the writer’s life, unfolds the human side of the writer, and establishes the keynote of a recipe that it is not an authoritative text but a piece of information to be shared with like-minded friends. Second, the writers gravitate toward speech acts, especially indirect speech acts, to display an expert frame, demonstrate professional knowledge, and convince readers that gastronomy is a realizable goal. Third, reported speech, especially that between family members, galvanizes readers to volunteer their similar experiences. Writers and readers recount how their family members, particularly children, evaluate, relish, or influence their cooking.

Finally, readers’ involvement in recipe discussions is evidenced by how they frame comments. Readers often adopt one of the frames created by writers in the recipes. They opt for the same frames for their comments to create coherent discourses.