Shimazumi, Marilisa and Tony Berber Sardinha
University of Liverpool

Marilisa Shimazumi
15 Lancaster Ave
Liverpool L17 3AY

Mr. Tony Berber Sardinha
University of Liverpool
PO Box 147
Liverpool L69 3BX

Fax 44-51-794-2739

Strand: discourse English

Title: Transitivity Control in Institutional interactions

Transitivity choices are typically studied as a set of individual choices. Nevertheless, it is also possible to view process choices as a sequence of interrelated choices, with each individual choice affecting subsequent ones. This paper is aimed at investigating role relations of power between an expert (`the Knower') and a client (`the Informant') in institutional contexts from the point of view of interrelated transitivity choices. Transitivity control is described as the control exerted by the Knower over the Informant's transitivity choices. Initially it was expected that within the same exchange the Informant would more likely follow the Knower's transitivity choices by responding with the same process types used by the Knower in the initiation. The rationale behind the Transitivity Control hypothesis is based on the idea that choices within the system of transitivity are affected by power relations, which are a determining factor in Institutional discourse. Ten texts from the spoken section of the British National Corpus (BNC) belonging to the genre of institutional interactions were analysed in transitivity terms and also according to their position in the exchange. Statistical analyses of the distribution of process types across exchange moves and speakers did not indicate a clear match between power status and process choice. This led to a revaluation of the initial hypothesis of interrelation of power and transitivity. The results suggested that each choice in a sequence of processes seemed to be affected by previous choices. This was interpreted as indication that speakers seemed to cooperate with each other rather than dominate or be dominated by each other.