Group Decision-Making. Language and Interaction

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: The dissertation investigates group decision-making from a linguistic perspective, which means that the linguistic interaction in group decision-making is put in focus, but also that linguistic methods are used to perform the investigation. The main research questions are i) what are group decisions, ii) how are group decisions made, linguistically, and iii) how does group decision-making relate to other social activities? The dissertation has five main parts. The first is a survey of previous research on group decision-making, including work done in social-psychology, communication research, linguistics and argumentation analysis. The second part of the dissertation is an analysis of the concept of decision, where dictionaries, thesauri and corpora are used as empirical input. The third part is a study of argumentation in group decision-making, where one well-established theory of argumentation analysis, pragma-dialectics, is discussed critically, and merged with a modern theory of language. The fourth main part of the dissertation concerns interactional patterns – a corpus of decision-making conversations is scrutinized, and patterns are extracted and discussed. The fifth and last of the main parts is a study of word frequencies in the group decision-making corpus, where methodological problems are discussed, and a number of measures based on word frequencies are presented. The results of the dissertation include the survey of previous research on group decision-making, a concept analysis of decision, as well as a new model for argumentation analysis. Some more specific results are that there is considerable variation among the groups as regards the way decisions are made, although group decisions always are oriented around proposing-accepting. In addition it was found that the language in group decision-making is often quite advanced and that arguing is an integral part of group decision-making.

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