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Lecture: How American Third-Party Dispute Mediators Manage Disputes without Disputing: The Work of Functional Substitutes for Direct Speech Acts

The 4856th Phase of the Forum on Social Celebrities and Entrepreneurs


Theme:How American Third-Party Dispute Mediators Manage Disputes without Disputing: The Work of Functional Substitutes for Direct Speech Acts

Speaker: Professor Scott Jacobs, University of Illinois 

Moderator: Professor DENG Yiheng, School of Foreign Languages for Business



Time:Wednesday, April 4, 2018 9: 30 - 11: 00

Location:C407, Tongbo building, Liulin campus, southwest university of finance and economics


Organizer:Office of Research Affairs, School of Foreign Languages for Business


About the Speaker

Scott Jacobs is Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Previous faculty appointments include the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Arizona. He has also held visiting positions at the University of Iowa, the University of Illinois, and the University of Amsterdam, and has been a research fellow in residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. He has published on argumentation, discourse pragmatics, conversational interaction, dispute mediation, and both qualitative and quantitative research methods. His work has appeared in Argumentation, Argumentation & Advocacy, Argumentation et Analyse Du Discours, Communication Monographs, Communication Yearbook, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Human Communication Research, Informal Logic, Journal of Pragmatics, and Quarterly Journal of Speech. He has served as editor of the journal Communication Theory and as a co-editor of Argumentation.


Content of the Lecture:

The role of the mediator in American third-party dispute resolution is to manage the process of dispute resolution without influencing the substance of the decision that disputants reach. Mediators are neither advocates nor arbitrators. They are supposed to be active but neutral facilitators. This is an inherently paradoxical job, inevitably marked by the need to manage multiple competing demands as disputes unfold. Mediators must resist the impulse to agree or disagree with one party or the other, to refute or support positions, to challenge, contradict, bolster, or confirm the arguments of either party. Yet, they must see to it that decisions are reached—and good ones at that.


The bind mediators find themselves in is a paradigm case of the kind of situation which has been ordinarily thought by the pragmatics literature to lead to the formulation of indirect speech acts. And, at first glance, much of what mediators do in practice looks like indirect speech acts—in this case, indirect arguments, indirect challenges, indirect advocacy of claims. Mediators try to manage by summarizing, questioning, and offering information that might otherwise be handled with direct acts of correction, argument, disagreement, and the like. But closer inspection of these moves reveal that mediators are not really performing indirect versions of these more direct speech acts at all. These moves are ways of doing some of the work of that might be done by these direct speech acts without doing all of that work and/or by doing something other than that work. The moves by which mediators try to handle multiple competing demands of the situation are best understood as functional substitutes for these sorts of acts. In this way mediator manage arguments and disagreement while at the same time maintaining the appearance of neutrality.



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