Interactional talk in cyberobics

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2018

34 Pages, Grade: 1,0



I. Introduction to the research field

II. State of research

III. Research question

IV. Method of data collection

V. Categories and redefinition

VI. Results

VII. Comparison of data

VIII. Conclusion

IX. Outlook

X. Refernces

XI. Appendix

I. Introduction to the research field

On the basis of Boris Yelin's research in the field of the "contemporary workout video genre, in this case the P90x3 program (2013)" and the way in which they "make modern exercise program speech so effective at engaging participants" (Yelin 2016: 31), this paper will show a qualitative analysis of a virtual workout video of the company called Cyberobics. The research paper will focus on one video program called "Cycling Basic I" by the instructor Trice Johnson, which is designed to improve the participants' resistance on a very basic workout level.

The company's head quarter is located in Berlin, Germany. They created a wide range of virtual workout courses that are classified into three sections (performance, wellness and cycling).

The major emphasis in research on this kind of workout routines is the way in which the discourse between instructor and participant moves across several registers, going beyond certain directions of movements and corrections for execution. The research questions attempt to find specific patterns to explain the different use and function of intonation units, serving the purpose of motivation, knowledge, competence, but also face threat all combined in a very limited amount of time, as instructions need to come as short as possible and as long as necessary (Yelin 2016).

II. State of research

The most recent investigation has been done by Boris Yelin, who focuses on the P90x3 program. His article is still in development. Yelin published an abstract - which this paper is referring to as well - of his work in a conference paper of the Fourth International Workshop on Discourse Analysis in Santiago de Compostela, September 2016, where he briefly introduces his research field and the state of his work.

He himself based and compared his research with the findings of Delin in the late 1990 and early 2000. Delin focused on workout videos in the context of step aerobics and developed a system of categories to analyse speech sequences (intonation units) occurring during the step aerobic workout discourse (University, Reebok, Corpus). In order to create an effective strategy to meet the participants' expectations (being told what to do and how to do it), instructors must consider optionality and face threat (one's own and the participant's) (Delin 1998) on the background of efficiency, task-oriented focus and shared interest (Yelin 2016, after Brown & Levinson 1978).

Delin established three categories of utterances occurring in the step aerobic exercises:

- obligatory, temporally constrained (OTC);
- optional, temporally constrained (OpTC);
- optional, temporally unconstrained (OpTU); (Yelin 2016, after Delin 2000).

Moreover she developed five functional categories to analyse the units uttering within a workout, that will be presented in section V.

Boris Yelin based his research on Delin's system of functional categories to analyse the P90x3 program (The Challenge, Pilâtes X, Dynamix) and he compared his results with Delin's findings. The quintessence of the comparison - also keeping in mind that at least a decade lies between both research stages - states that especially the category of comments is differing significantly from Delin's numbers towards a greater amount whereas directives, narratives and teaching points seem to decrease, markers are also increasing in numbers of utterances. One of the goals of Yelin's work was to further examine subtypes of comments, as they account for the significant difference in data comparison. He set up subcategories to distinguish between four types of comments, that will also be illustrated in section V.

III. Research question

This paper follows the standards of a cloze analysis of the Cycling Basic I virtual workout video on the basis of Delin's system of functional categories and Yelin's system of subcategories in the category of comments.

The paper will compare the results with earlier findings of Yelin and aims to find any patterns for usage and frequency of speech utterances. Also, further developments and shifts in numbers of frequency of categories will be taken into consideration.

It might be challenging to apply all the categories and subcategories to the Cycling Basic I program in the way that Delin and Yelin established them, as there are different circumstances between the analysed workout programs. It might also be necessary to redefine the function of a category and cause a slight meaning shift in order to serve it's purpose in my case. Also more subdivisions within categories may be an option.

IV. Method of data collection

The method of data collection is a cloze analysis of one workout video, i.e. a quantitative analysis of the transcript of the workout video discourse. The transcription follows the CASE transcript conventions adapted from Dressier and Kreuz (2000) and Chafe (1982, 1994).

The intonation units will be categorised after Delin's system of the five functional categories (1998). The category of comments is further allocated to four subcategories set up by Yelin (2016).

As the results of the analysis will display, I set up two subcategories for the functional category of markers to further divide them after their usage in context. There is one subcategory of markers, describing a move in progress (a), and another one giving more information about the timing (b) of a movement. Also there will be examples where units could be labelled both a) and b) which therefore will build up the category a/b) (both allocations are possible).

Also it was necessary to partly redefine or at least adjust the definitions of the categories in order to apply them in the context of the Cycling Basic I workout video. One major difference amongst others is a lack of virtual participants, i.e. people taking this course within the video workout, which will be discussed in the comparison and the conclusion of the results.

V. Categories and redefinition

Delin (1998) provided the following definitions for the five functional categories:

- Directives contain the information describing what is to be done at the next change, and are delivered within the final action repetition before a change;
- Markers of one or two syllables duration are used to indicate the exact half beat before an action change;
- Narrative describes beat-by-beat what participants are supposed to be doing at the moment of speaking, often serving to reinforce a directive through a more detailed description of its content.
- Teaching points constrain an activity currently underway, so that it is done safely, or instruct participants in a new sequence of actions before they do it themselves;
- Comments check and manipulate interpersonal relations between participants and instructor.

I tried to stick to Delin's classification as closely as possible. Directives (green) are therefore announcing a move beforehand. Every time a new action is announced, it will be labelled as a directive. Whereas teaching points (orange) can appear while a movement is executed. Also it can provide additional (optional) information that comes with a move to make further explanations.


- Directive: "start to slow down your pace, and I just want you to focus on your breath,... "(6487649.)
- Teaching Point: "taking this time to focus on your lunges, how much oxygen can you get into your body?" (29./30.)

A major difficulty was the distinction between markers and narratives after the definitions that Delin provided. So I decided to use the category of narratives (blue) only for counting in my transcript, because this serves as a clear "beat-by-beat" instruction. Markers (dark red) are in the way that Delin defined them, hard to spot in a 'non-step-aerobic' context. After the exchange with Boris Yelin (2017), I decided to use the category of markers "as preparatory remarks that [do] not add new information (like a teaching point) and [do] not explicitly tell people to do something (directive) [and do] not build any sort of relationship (positive face, negative face, etc.)". As he stated some examples, I tried to apply them similarly and in a consistent way to my transcript. In the end it is also a judgement call on one's own part of interpretation. I set up my own system of subcategories (similar to Yelin's system for comments). Markers in this context do not consist of a "one or two syllable duration" (Delin 2000: 7), but describe a move in progress (a) without adding new information. They also support the narrative function through more detailed information on timing of a movement (b), whether to prepare in advance or finish the movement on time. Both functions can be found combined in a single unit, where the movement and timing is supported through one speech utterance (a/b). A fourth option shows no further allocation of the marker, which simply states the unit as a marker without specific function. The decision of redefining/adjusting the function of the markers' category makes up the difference between my work and Delin' s, which provides the basic concept for the analysis.


- Narrative: "FOUR THREE TWO" (44.)
- Marker:

a) "side to side and then go front and back front and back" (15.)
b) "READY?" (43.) a/b) "let's go." (451.)

The comments (red) are analysed after Yelin's subcategories that suggests four different types of comments:

- "Face threat: Comments that question the abilities of the participants and the instructor himself.
- Positive face: Comments that compliment the participants on screen and encourage the participants off screen.
- Discourse building: Comments that mention other exercise routines or common participants in the P90x world.
- Intertextual: Comments that bring in elements of the outside world." (Yelin 2016).

The intertextual (a) can easily be applied to the Cycling Basic I workout, as well as the categories of face threat (c) and positive face (d). I also used a category called discourse building (b), but literally to build up a discourse between instructor and participant, as there is no 'virtual' participant on screen or any other exercise routines that will be mentioned throughout the workout. Some comments can be both a threat or a positive face, which is therefore labelled with c/d) (respective to the markers' a/b). As a sixth option, no allocation to any type of subcategory is also possible.


- a) intertextual : "HERE IT GOES TO YOUR ENERGY ALL DAY." (263.)
- b) discourse building: "it's amazing (how the energy comes back, RIGHT?" (3267327.)
- c) face threat: "and we're gonna see if you could make this SECOND SPRINT better than that first one." (74.)
- d) positive face: "and we are good." (95.)
- c/d): "I said we could walk out of here a little stronger." (69)

VI. Results

The most striking figure is the equally high number (202) of both markers and comments compared to the other categories, which in this context might be a feature for a more interpersonal kind of workout style. Lowest in numbers (80) are the teaching points maybe caused by a lack of onscreen participant, as there is nobody that needs a correction hint directly. The second lowest number (87) are represented by the category of narratives. A possible reason for a relatively low number of directives might be the movement itself, which is basically riding a bike in different positions with different intensities and pace. A step aerobic workout has clearly more need for explanation when it comes to a huge variety of different moves and steps. The two new subcategories of markers are evenly spread (70/67). The timing marker often precedes or follows a narrative, whereas the move in progress marker can more or less be found everywhere.

The positive face comments are highest (61) in usage followed by face threats (45) and discourse building (48). Often it is the case that a positive face is followed by a threat or the other way around. This is the only visible pattern besides the combination of narratives with a marker for timing. The speech utterances per time are varying strongly but without any regular pattern or other striking figure.

VII. Comparison of data

Delin's data show a relatively high number of directives, compared to every other category. Yelin's data show a relatively high number of narratives and comments, but the section of directives decreased significantly, whereas my collected data displays a significantly higher number of markers and comments but a drastic decrease of a specific category or a huge gap between groups of categories is missing. Nevertheless an evenly spread frequency would be too far-fetched.

In general there is a strong tendency of a decreasing directive usage, whereas the section of comments have significantly increased. This undermines the assumption of an interpersonal style if instruction as the most effective one, especially in combination of positive face and face threat. Yelin's high figure of narratives compared to Delin's and mine might depend on the workout design regarding frequency of exercise change, repetitions, sets etc. Teaching points seem to appear less frequent in all three analyses.


Excerpt out of 34 pages


Interactional talk in cyberobics
Saarland University  (Anglistik, Amerikanistik und Anglophone Kulturen)
HS Late Modern English
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Interactional Talk, Workout Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Fitness Talk, Virtual Reality, Judy Delin, Boris Yelin
Quote paper
Shanna Große (Author), 2018, Interactional talk in cyberobics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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