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Radomisli, M. (1977). The Interpersonal Regulation of Dialogue. Psychoanal. Rev., 64(2):225-236.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Review, 64(2):225-236

The Interpersonal Regulation of Dialogue

Michel Radomisli, Ph.D.

Compared to prescriptive grammar and literary usage, spoken language and the regulation of verbal interchanges have been little explored. Yet there are cultural norms for the various parameters of verbal dialogue, the permissible range of deviation in these parameters, the responses to their transgressions, and the remedial measures associated with transgressions. The degree of overall constraint is one of the parameters of dialogue. The participants regulate it by varying the congruence of their utterances: congruence is defined as the degree of relatedness between two conscutive utterances. This paper explores some ways in which congruence is regulated independently of content, and it suggests implications for understanding some characteristics of psychotherapy.

For purposes of this analysis, I shall assume that a dialogue is initiated by one of two participants, that it is sustained by the alternating utterances of both, and that it is then terminated. I shall disregard numerous possible complications such as the presence and participation of other persons, extraneous interruptions, overlapping of utterances leading to simultaneous rather than alternating speech, and so forth. I shall also largely ignore the stream of significant nonverbal communication which accompanies conversation.

There are cultural norms which regulate the participants, the settings, the topics, the functions, and the styles of dyadic interactions, and also cultural norms which regulate the degree of permissible variations.2 Cultural norms also regulate reactions to transgressions and remedial interchanges when transgressions occur.3

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