Jethro's Braindump


Why study conversation?

  • Tt seems that everyone can conduct conversation
  • There are basic patterns and techniques
    • People do not adopt a totally new or different system for communicating in any given situation
    • Conversational skill is adopted to other forms of interactive talk


“What I call social facts are the ways of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him”

  • Emile Durkheim

Garfinkel’s ‘breaching’ experiment

  • Spend from 15 minutes to an hour in their homes imagining that you are boarders and act out this assumption. You should conduct yourself in circumspect and polite fashion. Avoid getting personal, to use formal address, to speak only when spoken to.
  • Clarify everything which may not be immediately understandable for the non-family members

We obey certain social rules, and make underlying social assumptions in all our interactions. This brings about social order.

What is a social situation?

I would define a social situation as an environment of mutual monitoring possibilities… wherein an individual will find themselves accessible to the naked senses of all others who present – and similarly, find those others accessible to him.

  • Erving Goffman


  • Traditional linguistics see the language as an internal cognitive representation of individuals.
  • Grammatical categories reflect cultural patterns of thinking and acting – Boas, Sapir
  • Encourage inquiry to speech event, speech situation, speech community – Gumperz, Hymes

Conversation Analysis

Talk is highly organized; conversation analysis involves understanding how conversational practices fit together in highly intricate ways.

Basic assumptions

  1. Order is produced orderliness
  2. Order is produced, situated, and occasioned
  3. Order is repeatable and recurrent

Characteristics of Conversation

  • Interactive
    • Take turns – sequential activity
    • Talk is tied to prior and future turns
    • Each turn makes contributions to the conversation
  • Locally managed
    • The organization and content of a conversation are not predetermined or planned
  • Mundane
    • Commonplace and practical
    • Use language

What we ask in CA

  • What is the speaker doing in saying this and in saying it in this way?
  • We do not ask what it means. We ask what it does.

Turn taking

Turn Constructional Units (TCU)

Transition Relevance place (TRP)

  • grammatically complete
  • intonationally complete
  • pragmatically complete

We are very attuned to grammatical intonation, so we know when to start speaking.

transition Space

silence that does not belong to any particular speaker
silence that belongs to any particular speaker

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