An ELT Glossary : Negotiation of Meaning


Negotiation of meaning can occur in any type of discourse, but is typically of primarily transactional discourse  - ie interaction where the content of the message is predominant rather than the social relationship between the participants. For example, imagine a conversation in a greengrocer's shop :

Customer : I'd like 2lbs of those apples please.
Greengrocer : These Cox's or the Granny Smith's?
Customer : The Cox's please.
Greengrocer : OK - did you say 2lbs?
Customer : Yes, that's right.

In this situation the greengrocer recognises (in the first instance) or suspects (in the second) that he hasn't fully understood the customer's meaning and queries or checks it - it's obviously important to the transaction that he understands exactly what she wants and he therefore "negotiates meaning"  until he understands fully.