~(}Yvr-, C 4563) organized around a conversational

6.0 Introduction

setting: the phenomena involve
6 t~~ constraints on the way in which information has to be presented if
it is to be introduced to particular participants with specific shared
Conversational structure ' assumptions and knowledge aboutthe world. The issues touch
elosely on the distinction between given and new (see e.g. Clark &
Haviland, 1977), and concern constraints on the forrnulation of
information (that is, the choice of just one out of the indefinitely many
possible descriptions of some entity - see Schegloff, 197zb), both of
which are important issues in conversational organization. Similarly,
implicatures derive from specific assumptions about conversational
context: they do not always arise in the same way in a11 kinds of
'I 6.0 Introduction
discourse - rather they are typical of conversation (yet, as we have
In this Chapter we shall be centrally concerned with the
seen, they have general grammatical reflexes, as in the constraints they
organization of conversation. Definitions will emerge below, but for
impose on lexicalization). In the same way it may be argued that many
the present conversation may be taken to be that familiar pre-
kinds of speech act are built on the assumption of a conversational
dominant kind of talk in which two or more participants freely
matrix - betting, for example, requires upt.ake to be effective, so that
alternate in speaking, which gene rally occurs outside specific insti-
the utterance of I bet you six pence does not succeed without the
tutional settings like religious services, law courts, elassrooms and the
interactional ratification typical of conversation. Indeed the conversa-
like.
ti on al dependence of i11ocutionary force is such that the concept itself
I t is not hard to see why one should look to conversation for insight
can be elaimed to be substantia11y replaced by concepts of
into pragmatic phenomena, for conversation is elearly the prototypical
conversational function, as we sha11 see.
kind of language usage, the form in which we are all first exposed to
Nearly a11the pragmatic concepts we have reviewed so far can thus
languagc - thc matrix for language acquisition. Various aspects of
be elaimed to tie in elosely with conversation as tbe central or most
pragmatic organization can be shown to be cent rally organized around
basic kind of language usage. Now if, as we sball argue, the proper
usage in conversation, ineluding the aspects of deixis explored in
way to study conversational organization is tbrough empirical
Chapter z where it was shown that unmarked usagcs of grammatical
techniques, this suggests that the largely philosophical traditions that
encodings of temporal, spatial, social and discourse parameters are
have given rise to pragmatics may have to yield in the future to more
organized around an assumption of co-present conversational
empirical kinds of investigation of language usage. Conceptual
participants. Presupposition mayaiso be seen as in some basic ways
analysis using introspective data would then be replaced by careful
1 Illustrative data in this Chapter are drawn where possible from published inductive work based on observation. The issue raised here is whether
sources so that readers can refer to them for additional context or further
pragmatics is in the long term an essentially empirical discipline or
discussion; in those cases the source heads each extract. \Vhere this has not
been possible data have been drawn from transeripts circulated by workers
an essentially philosophical one, and wh ether the present lack of
in con ver sat ion analvsis, such sources being indicated by customary integration in the subject is due primarily to the absence of adequate
identifying initials (e.g. es, DCD), a large proportion of which have been theory and conceptual analysis or to the lack of adequate observational
transcribed bv Gail J efferson; otherwise, data headcd by a number (e.g.
I 76ß) are drawn from the author's collection, some ofwhich were transcribed
data, and indeed an empirical tradition. So far, in this book, we have
by Mar iori Owen. Data without a heading are constructed for illustrative reviewed the philosophically rooted traditions, but in this Chapter we
purposes unless ot herwise indicated in the text. It has not been possiblc to turn to the outstanding empirical tradition in pragmatics. First,
check transcripts against the original recordings, so there may only be a
however , we should make elear the reasons for preferring this
modicum of consistencv in the use oftranscription conventions (see Appendix
to this Chapter). tradition to other approaches to the study of conversation.

284 285
Conoersatioual structure 6. [ Discourse analysis uersus conuersation analysis

6.1 Discourse analysis versus conversation analysis collections in Schenkein , 1978; Psathas, 1979; Atkinson & Heritage,
In this section some different approaches to the study of .~l in press). The methods are essentially inductive; search is made for
conversation are assessed. At the risk of oversimplification, there can recurring patterns ac ross many records of naturally occurring
be considered to be two major approaches to the analysis of conversations, in co nt rast to the immediate categorization of (usually)
conversation, which we shall designate discourse analysis and restricted data which is the typical first step in DA work. Secondly,
conversation analysis (other distinctive approaches exist, of which in place of a theoretical ontology of rules as used in syntactic
the most important is probably the modelling of conversation using ~. description, we have an emphasis on the interactional and inferential
computer programs instead of human participants, as yet in its consequences of the choice between alternative utterances. Again in
infancy - but see e.g. Power, 1979). Both approaches are centrally contrast to DA, there is as little appeal as possible to intuitive
concerned with giving an account of how coherence and sequential judgements - they may, willy-nilly, guide research, but they are not
'1 organization in discourse is produced and understood. But the two explanations and they certainly do not circurnscribe the data; the
approaches have distinctive and largely incompatible styles of analysis, emphasis is on what can actually be found to occur, not on what one
·li
~ tt. ,
which we may characterize as folIows. would guess would be odd (or acceptable) if it were to do so. Intuition,
~i I
Discourse analysis (or DA) employs both the methodology and the it is claimed, is simply an unreliable guide in this area, as indeed it
:1
lil kirids of theoretical principles and primitive concepts (e.g. rule, may be in other areas of linguistics (see e.g. Labov, 1972a). There
zoell-formed formulai typical of linguistics. It is essentially aseries of is also a tendency to avoid analyses based on single texts. Instead, as
attempts to extend the techniques so successful in linguistics, beyond many instances as possible of so me particular phenomena are examined
the unit of the sentence. The procedures employed (often implicitly) across texts, not primarily to illuminate "what is really going on"
are essentially the following: (a) the isolation of a set of basic in some interaction (a goal judged impossible, such illuminations
categories or units of discourse, (b) the formulation of a set of evading participants as weil as analysts on many occasions), but rather
concatenation rules stated over those categories, delimiting well- to discover the systematic properties of the sequential organization
formed sequences of categories (coherent discourses) from ill-formed of talk, and the ways in which utterances are designed to manage such
sequences (incoherent discourses). There are a number of other sequences.
features that tend to go with these. There is typically an appeal to Which is the correct manner in which to proceed? The issue is a
intuitions, about, for example, what is and what is not a coherent or live one: DA theorists can accuse CA practitioners of being inexplicit,
well-formed discourse (see e.g. Van Dijk, 1972; Labov & Fanshel, or worse, plain muddled, about the theories and conceptual categories
1977: 72). There is also a tendency to take one (or a few) texts (often they are actually employing in analysis (see e.g. Labov & Fanshel,
constructed by the analyst) and to attempt to give an analysis in depth 1977: 25; Coulthard & Brazil, 1979); CA practitioners can retort that
of all the interesting features of this limited domain (to find out, as DA theorists are so busy with premature formalization that they pay
so me have put it, "what is really going on" - Labov & Fanshel, scant attention to the nature of the data. The main strength of the
1977: 59, 117)· Into this broad avenue of work fall not only (and most DA approach is that it prornises to integrate linguistic findings about
obviously) the text grammarians (like Petöfi and Van Dijk - see de intra-sentential organization with discourse structure; while the
Beaugrande & Dressler, 1981: z.aff for review), but also the rather strength of the CA position is that the procedures employed have
different work based on speech acts (or related notions) of researchers al ready proved thernselves capable of yielding by far the most
such as Sinclair & Coulthard (1975), Longacre (1976b), Labov & substantial insights that have yet been gained into the organization
Fanshel (1977) and Coulthard & Brazil (1979). of conversation.
In contrast, conuersation analysis (or CA), as practised by Sacks, There may weil seem to be room for some kind of accommodation
Schegloff, jefferson, Pomerantz and others, is a rigorously empirical or even synthesis between the two positions; however there are some
approach which avoids premature theory construction (see the rcasons to think that the DA approach as outlined is fundamentally

286 287
Conversational structure 6.1 Discourse analysis verS11S conversation analysis

misconceived. We may start by noting that DA analysts can be (4) ( i) There are unit acts - speech aets or moves - that are
divided into two basic categories - the text grammarians and the performed in speaking, which belong to a specifiable,
delimited set
speech act (or interactional) theorists. The text grammarians believe,
(ii) Utterances- are segmentable into unit parts - utterance-
at least in the simplest formulations, that discourses can be viewed
units - each of which corresponds to (at least) one unit act
simply as sentences strung together in much the same way that (iii) There is a specifiable function, and hopefully a procedure,
clauses within sentences can be conjoined with connectives of various that will map utterance units into speech acts and vice
kinds. 1t follows that there are no problems for discourse analysis that versa
are not problems for sentential analysis - "discourse can be treated (iv) Conversational sequences are primarily regulated by a set
of sequencing rules stated over speech act (or move) types
as a single sentence in isolation by regarding sentence boundaries as
sentential connectives" (Katz & Fodor, 1964: 490; see critique in The kernel idea here is both simple and highly plausible: since
'\ Edmondson, 1978, 1979). However adequate such a view may be for sequential constraints are clearly not easily stated on the form or
written non-dialogic text, it is simply not feasible as a model for meaning of wh at is said, utterances have to be 'translated ' into the
conversation where the links between speakers cannot be paraphrased underlying actions they perform, because on this deeper (or more
as senten ti al connectives - for example (I) does not paraphrase as (z): abstract) level rules of sequencing will be straightforwardly
describable. Such a model seems to capture the obvious regularities
(I) A: How are you ?
B: To hell with you of the sort that answers gene rally follow questions, actions or excuses
(2) How are you and to hell with you follow requests, acceptances or rejections fallow offers, greetings
(3) Anne said "Howare you?" and Barry replied "To hell with follow greetings, and so on. The difficulties are thus gene rally
you considered to lie at the level of (iii) above , the translation from
Even if (I) can be reported as (3), this shows nothing about the utterances into acts - "the rules of production and interpretation ...
reducibility of (I) to (3), but merely that like all other kinds of events are quite complex; the sequencing rules are relatively simple"
conversations are reportable (contra Katz & Fodor, 1964: 491). (Labov & Fanshel, 1977: I 10) - and the variaus theories of indirect
The DA theorists that are therefore of interest to us are those who speech acts are therefore a focus of interest.
have been specifically concerned with conversation as a particular If the view is right then we can build up a model of conversation
type of discourse, and we shall devote the rest of this section to a from a linguistic base by utilizing (while improving) the basic notions
critique of their basic methods and assumptions. Here there is a of speech act theory, merely adding a syntax far the concatenation of
remarkable underlying uniformity of views, a basic assumption speech act categories that will capture the simple regularities noted
(probably right as far as it goes) that the level at which coherence or above.
order in conversation is to be found is not at the level of linguistic However there are some strong reasons to believe that such models
expressions, but at the level of the speech acts or the interactional are fundamentally inappropriate to the subject matter, and thus
moves that are made by the utterance of those expressions. Or, as irremediably inadequate. Some of these have to do with the general
Labov & Fanshel (1977: 70) put it: "obligatory sequencing is not problems that beset speech act theory, which we have already
to be found between utterances but between the actions that are being reviewed in Chapter 5. But in fact there are severe problems for each
performed". It is thus possible to formulate the general properties
of the whole class of models to which, in one guise or another, most , As noted in Chaptei I, considcrablc ambiguities attend the use of tbis term.
We have generally used the term in prior Chapters to denote asentence-context
DA theorists of conversation would subscribe (see e.g. Labov, I 97zb;
pair; however here, and generally elsewhere in this Chapter, it is being used
Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975; Longacre, I 976b; Labov & Fanshel, in the sense of a product of an act of utterance, occurring within a turn (see
1977; Coulthard & Brazil, 1979; Edmondson, 1981): be low) at talk. On the notion ut.ter ance-unit. see Lyons, 1977a: 633ff;
Goodwin , 1981: 25ff.

288 289
Conuersational structure ,'~,. 6.I Discourse analysis uersus eonversation analysis

of the basic assumptions in (4), which should be brieAy indicated (see J; can be mapped. Single sentences can be used to perform two or more
also Levinson, 1981a, 198Ib). speech acts in different c1auses, and each clause (as we have seen) may
First, there are a number of problems with assumption (4)(i). One perform more than one speech act. Further, there are many sub-
of these is that some single-sentence utterances c1early perform more sentential units that occur as utterances, and it is possible for
than one speech act at a time (if the notion of a speech act is to capture non-Iinguistic vocalizations (e.g. laughter), non-vocal actions (like
at least what utterances conventionally achieve) - consider, for handing someone something requested), and sheer silence (e.g. after
example, the first utterance in the following exchange: a loaded question) to perform appropriate responses to utterances.
The problem is that in order for the function in property (4)(iii) to
(5) A: Would you like another drink?
B: Yes I would, thank you, but make it a small one be well-formed, there must be an independently specifiable set of
utterance-units onto wh ich actions can be mapped. But in fact it is
The first utterance seems to be both a question and an offer, as impossible to specify in advance what kinds of behavioural units will
1 indicated by the response. Now such multiple functions are not in ':.;;
carry major interactional acts; rather the units in question seem to
principle problematic for assumptions (4)(i) and (4)(iii), but as they
, I:: be functionally defined by the actions they can be seen to perform
accumulate they do render the whole model considerably less in context.
"1
I1
111, attractive. How, for example, are the sequencing rules in (iv) to The requirement (4)(iii), therefore, inherits two problems: for a
:1
operate if more' acts are being done than can feasibly be responded function to map actions onto utterance-units, there must be well-
to directly? Moreover, as we shall see, the sources for multiple defined sets of (a) relevant actions and (b) relevant utterance-units,
functions often lie outside the utterance in question, in the sequential eTfi
;:a· But we have seen that there are not. In addition, for this kind of model
environment in which it occurs ; but such environments are not to have any real interest, we require not merely an abstract function,
obviously restricted in kind, so that the existence of a well-defined but an actual procedure or algorithm that will implement the
and delimited set of speech act types, as required by the model, is ,li; function. But here we shall be even more disappointed, for as our
quite dubious, discussion of speech act theory in Chapter 5 showed, there simply
However, more problematic for the assumption in (4)(i) is the fact is no simple form-to-force correlation, and the attempts to bridge the
that conversational responses can be directed not just to the illocutions gap (between what utterances 'Iiterally' mean and "actually ' do in
performed by utterances, but to their perloeutions too. Suppose, for the way of actions) with theories of indirect speech acts have provided
example, that A and his companion Bare at a party, and A being bored at best only partial solutions, For questions of context, both sequential
says to B: (or discourse) context and extra-Iinguistic context, can playa crucial
(6) A: It's getting late, Mildred role in the assignment of utterance function. We can expect, therefore,
B: a. But l 'rn having such a good time no simple' force conversion ' rules to supply a general solution here,
b. 00 you want to go? but rather some immensely complex inferential process that utilizes
c. Aren 't you enjoying yourself, dear? information of many different kinds. In the present state ofknowledge,
Then B might reply in any of the ways indicated, but none of these proponents of the kind of model outlined in (4) cannot expect to have
addresses the illocutionary force of A's utterance; rather they respond even the general outlines of such an algorithm.
to a number of possible perlocutionary intents that A might have had. But this has an unfortunate consequence for such models, namely
But this is highly problematic for the species of model in question : that they are unfalsifiable, and therefore essentially vacuous. The
for perlocutions are unlirnited in kind and nurnber and any responses reasoning is this: suppose I claim (in accordance with the final
based on them will necessarily fall outside the scope of such a model. assumption in (4») that, given some set of speech act types or moves
There are serious problems too with (4)(ii), the requirement that (Iet us call them X, Y and Z), only some sequences of these are
there be identifiable utterance-units upon which speech acts or moves well-formed or coherent sequences (say, XYZ, XZ, YXX) while all

29° 291
Comiersational structure 6.1 Discourse analysis uersus conuersation analysis

others (like *ZXY, *XYX, *ZX, ete.) are ill-formed sequenees. landlord B - it will seem natural and indeed quite unremarkable. So
~
Then in order to be able to disprove this hypothesis it must be the fundamental basis for the postulation of general sequeneing rules,
possible to test independently whether some sequence of utterances namely the existenee and predictability of ill-forrned sequences, is
in fact corresponds to, say, the string XYZ. But such a test is only seriously called into question.
possible if there is an explicit procedure for assigning utterances to It is an initial eonsideration of paired utterances like questions and
categories like X, Y and Z. And as there is no such procedure, there answers, offers and acceptanees (or rejeetions), greetings and greetings
is no empirical content to the claim that strings of the form XYX do in response, and so on, that motivates the sequencing rules approach.
not or should not occur in discourse. But not only is conversation not basically eonstituted by such pairs
Finally we come to (4)(iv), the assumption that there is a set of (cf. Coulthard, 1977: 70) but the rules that bind them are not of a
sequeneing rules, stated over speech aet (or related) eategories, whieh quasi-syntactic nature. Forexample, questionsean be happily followed
il govern the sequential organization of conversation. This assumption by partial answers, rejections of the presuppositions of the question,
is the motivating property of all such models, for the point of statements of ignorance, denials of the relevanee of the question, and
'translating' utte rances into the actions they perform is to reduce the so on, as illustrated below:
11
'I problems of sequencing in conversation to a set of rules governing (8) A: Wh at does john do for a living?
ili,
il i well-formed action sequences. The assumption embodies a strong B: a. Oh this and that
claim about the 'syntactic' nature of sequential constraints in b. He doesn't
conversation, and essential to such a claim is that there should be clear c. I've no idea
cases of ill-formed sequences (like *XYX above) just as there are in d. What's that got to do with it?
sentence grammars (like "on cat the sat mal the). Yet eases of such Rather we want to say that given a question an answer is relevant,
impossible discourses are hard if not impossible to find (see e.g. the and responses can be expected to deal with this relevance (see the
successful contextualization by Edmondson, 198 I : I aff ofthe allegedly explication of the notion of conditional relevance in 6.2. 1.2 below).
ill-formed discourses in Van Dijk, 1972). One reason for this is :,-: Such expectations are more like the maxims proposed by Grice, with
predicted by Grice's theory of implicature: any apparent conversa- their associated dcfeasible inferences, than like the rule-bound
tional violation (e.g. a Aouting of Relevance) is likely to be treated on expectancy of an object after a transitive verb in English. This is made
the assumption that the utteranees involved are in fact interpretable, clear by, for example, the fact that in conversation inventive co-
if additional inferences are made (see Chapter 3 above). Another is operative responses following questions may be preferabJe to
that, as mentioned above, responses can be made to perlocutions, and answers:
perloeutions are not limited in kind and number and are not solely
(9) A: Is johnthere ?
predictable from the utterances involved. A third is that our intuitions
B: You can reach hirn at extension th irty-Four sixty-two
do not seem to be reliable guides in this area - sequences that we
might judge 'ill-formed' in isolation do in fact frequently occur. Finally we should note that sequencing constraints in conversation
Consider the following example (from Sacks, 1968, April 17): could in any case never be captured fully in speech act terms. What
makes sorne utterance after a question constitute an answer is not only
(7) A: I have a fourteen year old son
B: Weil that's all right the nature of the utterance itself but also the fact that it oecurs after
A: I also have a dog a question with a particular content - 'answerhood' is a complex
B: Oh l 'rn sorry property composed of sequcntiaJ location and topieal cohcrence
which can seem in isolation quite bizarre, but when re-embedded in aeross two utterances, amongst other things; significantly, there is no
the actual conversation from whieh it is taken - in whieh A is raising proposed illocutionary force of answering. But the model in question
aseries of possible disqualifieations for apartment rental with the skirts the puzzling issuc of constraints on topical coherence, despite

292 293
Conuersational structure 6.2 Conoersation analysis

the fact that their relevance to issues of conversational sequencing is of sociologists, often known as ethnomethodologists. The relevance
made clear by examples like (7). It seems, then, that it is doubtful of the sociological background to the pragmaticist is the methodo-
that there are rules of a syntactic sort governing conversational logical preferences that derive from it. The movement arose in
sequencing, and that even if such rules could be found they would reaction to the quantitative techniques, and the arbitrary imposition
not give anything but a partial account of constraints on conversational on the data of supposedly objective categories (upon which such
sequences. techniques gene rally rely), that were typical of mainstream American
The conclusion that can be drawn is that all of the models that fall sociology. In contrast, it was argued cogently, the proper object of
within the class having the general properties out!ined in (4) are beset sociological study is the set of techniques that the members of a
with fundamental difficulties. In addition, the actual analyses offered society themselves utilize to interpret and act within their own social
within theories of this kind are often quite superficial and disap- worlds - the sociologist's "objective ' methods perhaps not really
1 pointing, involving an intuitive mapping of unmotivated categories being different in kind at all. Hence the use of the term erhno-
onto a restricted range of data. Even where this is not so (as in the methodology, the study of ' ethnic' (i.e. participants' own) methods
major work by Labov & Fanshel, 1977), the analyses can often be of production and interpretation of social interaction (see Garfinkel,
11!
shown to have obscured basic features of conversational organization 1972; Turner, 1974a). Out of this background comes a healthy
i
:1 " (see e.g. the re-analysis of their data in (1°4) below). suspicion of premature theorizing and ad hoc analytical categories:
I t seems reasonable, then, to turn to CA as the approach that, at as far as possible the categories of analysis should be those that
least at present, has most to offer in the way of substantial insight into participants themselves can be shown to utilize in making sense of
the nature of conversation. It is important to see, though, that the interaction ; unmotivated theoretical constructs and unsubstantiated
basis for the rejection of DA is that the methods and theoretical tools intuitions are all to be avoided. In practice this results in a strict and
advocated, namely those imported from mainstream theoretical parsimonious structuralism and a theoretical asceticism - the
linguistics, seem quite inappropriate to the domain of conversation. emphasis is on the data and the patterns recurrently displayed
Conversation is not a structural product in the same way that a therein.
senten ce is - it is rather the outcome of the interaction of two or more The data consist of tape-recordings and transcripts of naturally
independent, goal-directed individuals, with often divergent interests. occurring conversation, with !ittle attention paid to the nature of the
lVloving from the study of sentences to the study of conversations is context as that might be theoretically conceived within sociolinguistics
like moving from physics to biology: quite different analytical or social psychology (e.g. whether the participants are friends or
procedures and methods are appropriate even though conversations distant acquaintances, or belong to a certain social group, or whether
are (in part) composed of units that have some direct correspondence the context is formal or informal, etc.j.! As anyone who works on
to sentences. conversational data knows, heavy reliance inevitably comes to be
placed on transcriptions and, as in phonetics, issues immediately arise
6.2 Conversation arralysis" here as to how broad or narrow such transcriptions should be, what
Conversation analysis of the sort that will be described in notation al systems should be used, and to what extent the exercise
the rest of this Chapter has been pioneered by a break-away group of transcription itself embodies theoretical decisions (see Ochs,
3 This Chapter, though relatively long because of the need to eite a considerable
1979d). Excerpts from transcripts will here be given in the notation
amount of data, is only a preliminary int roduct ion. It rnay be supplemented generally utilized in conversation analysis and listed in the Appendix
with the introductory Chapters of Atkinson & Drew, 1979; the exemplary
papers bv Schegloff & Sacks (1973), Schegloff (1976); and the colleetions in , It is not that the relevance of these factors is den ied a prtori, but simplv that
Schenkein, 1978; Psathas, 1979; Atkinson & Heritage, in press, See also the it is not assumed ~ if participants thernselves can be rigorously shown to
introduction bv Coulthard (1977), I t should also be noted that for expositional ernplov such categories in the producnon of conversat ion , then they would
purposes I have presented in a bald and simplified way a number of findings be of interest to CiL See e.g. j effer sori, 1974: 198,
that are still treated as working hvpotheses in conversation analvsis.

294 295
~
'~

r....~.
::q
Conuersational structure 6.2 Conuersation analysis
i) J.>
I to this Chapter: standard orthography will be used in some places starting are frequently measurable in just a few micro-seconds and
,
I
where linguists might prefer phonetic transcription, and there is not, they average amounts measured in a few tenths of a second (see
!
unfortunately, an adequate treatment of prosodic, and especially Ervin-Tripp, 1979: 392 and references therein). How is this orderly
intonational, cues." transition from one speaker to another achieved with such precise
In section 6.2. I we shall present so me of the most basic findings timing and so little overlap? A second puzzle is that, whatever the
that have resulted from this kind of work. These findings are not in mechanism responsible, it must be capable of operating in quite
themselves, perhaps, of a very surprising sort, but we will then go different circumstances: the number of parties may vary from two to
on to show in later sections (especially, 6.2.2 and 6.2.3) that these twenty or more; persons may enter and exit the pool of participants;
apparently disparate little facts about conversation all fit together in turns at speaking can vary from minimal utterances to many minutes
a systematic way, and it is only then that one can begin to see that of continous talk; and if there are more than two parties then
i conversation has in fact an elaborate and detailed architecture.
One important caveat should be made immediately. The work here
provision is made for all parties to speak withour there being any
specified order or "queue ' of speakers. In addition the same system
reviewed is based alm ost enti rely on English data, especially telephone seems to operate equally weil both in face-to-face interaction and in
,,)ii
,'"
conversations and group talk, and we simply do not know at the
present to what extent these findings extend to other languages and
the absence of visual monitoring, as on the telephone.
Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson (1974, 1978) suggest that the
cultures. But although the findings here may be in part culturally mechanism that governs turn-taking, and accounts for the properties
specific, the methods employed should be of quite general noted, is a set of rules with ordered options which operates on a
application. turn-by-turn basis, and can thus be termed a local management
system. One way of looking at the rules is as a sharing device, an
')
6.2.1 Same basic findings ;~- "economy ' operating over a scarce resource, namely control of the
'~~

:.,
" 6.2. 1.1 Turn-taking "floor '. Such an allocational system will require minimal units (or
H-, We may start with theobviousobservation thatconversation
'I:!
~'

1:'. "shares ') over which it will operate, such units being the units from
-, ;
:)
is characterized by turn-taking: one participant, A, talks, stops; which turns at talk are constructed. These units are, in this model,
another, B, starts, talks, stops; and so we obtain an A-B-A-B-A-B . determined by various features of linguistic surface structure: they
distribution of talk across two participants. But as soon as elose are syntactic units (sentences, c1auses, noun phrases, and so on)
attention is paid to this phenomenon, how such a distribution is identified as turn -units in part by prosodic, and especially intonational,
Ti
actually achieved becomes anything but obvious. First there are the means. A speaker will be assigned initially just one of these turn-
surprising facts that less (and often considerably less) than 5 per cent constructional units (although the extent of the unit is largely
of the speech stream is delivered in overlap (two speakers speaking within the speaker's control due to the flexibility of naturallanguage
simultaneously), yet gaps between one person speaking and another syntax). The end of such a unit constitutes a point at which speakers
Workers in CA ha ve sometimes used ad hoc orthography to represent may change - it is a transition relevance place, or TRP. At a TRP
segmental featur es , to the irritation of linguists, although no serious theoretical the rules that govern the transition of speakers then come into play,
issues seem to be involved (see Goodwin, 1977' 120, 1981: 47). J have taken which does not mean that speakers will change at that point but
the considerahle liberty of standardizing the orthograpby of transcripts, but
orily where non-native speakers might otherwise have difficulty interpreting
simply that they may do so, as we shall see. The exact characterization
tbe text. Punctuation marks are also used by workers in CA to give some of such units still requires a considerable amount of linguistic work
indicarion of intonation (see Appendix) and the original punctuation has (see Goodwin, 1981: 15ft), but whatever its final shape the characteri-
therefore been reproduced in exarnples taken from these printed sources. One f.
zation must allow for the projectability or predictability of each
ho pes that in future work a better system of prosodie transcription will be
adopted (as used in e.g. the British tradition bv Crystal (1969); O'Connor unit's end - for it is this alone that can account for the recurrent
& Arnold (1973); Brazil, Coulthard & j ohns (1980)). marvels of split-second speaker transition.
,,
296
297
"
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

There is one other feature of turn-units that has to be mentioned simultaneously). However where overlaps do occur, they can be
before the rules can be presented, namely the possibili ty of specifically predicted to be, at least in the great majority of cases, precisely placed:
indicating within such a unit that at its end some particular other overlaps will either occur as competing first starts, as allowed by Rule
party is invited to speak next. Techniques for selecting next speakers I(b) and illustrated in (I I), or they will occur where TRPs have been
in this way can be quite elaborate, but include such straightforward misprojected for systematic reasons, e.g. where a tag or address term
devices as the following: a question (offer, or request, etc.) plus an has been appended as illustrated in (12), in which case overlap will
address term; a tagged assertion plus an address feature; and the be predictably brief. The rules thus provide a basis for the
various hearing and understanding checks (Who?, You did what?, discrimination (which we all employ) between inadvertent overlap as
Pardon?, YOll mean tomorrow?, etc.) which select prior speaker as in (I I) and (12) and violative interruption as in (13):
next.
1 Operating on the turri-urrits are the following rules (slightly (II ) Sacks, Schegloft & Jefterson, I978: I6

simplified from Sacks, Schegloff & jefferson, 1978), where C is
J: Twelve pounds I think wasn't it. =
D: = IICan you believe it?
current speaker, N is next speaker, and TRP is the recognizable end L: Twelve pounds on the Weight Watchers' scale.
of a turn-constructional unit: (12) Sacks, Schegloff & Jeftersoll, I978: I7
It j A: Uh you been down here before I I havenche.
(JO) Rule I - applies initially at the first TRP of any turn

" (a) If C selects N in current turn, then C must stop
speaking, and N must speak next, transition occurring
at the first TRP after N -selection
(13)
B:
DCD:22
Yeah.

C: We:ll I wrote wh at I thought was a a-a
rea :s'nl Ible explanatio:n
(b) If C does not select N, then any (other) party may ->
F: I: think it was a very rude le :tter
self-select, first speaker gaining rights to the next turn
(c) If C has not selected N, and no other party self-selects It is also predicted that when silence - the absence of vocalization -
under option (b), then C may (but need not) continue
occurs, it will be differentially assigned, on the basis of the rules, as
(i.e. claim rights to a further turn-constructional unit)
Rule 2 - applies at all subsequent TRPs either (i) a gap before a subsequent application of Rules r Ib) or I(C),
When Rule I(C) has been applied by C, then at the next or (ii) a lapse on the non-application of Rules I(a), (b) and (c), or
TRP Rules I (a)-(c) apply, and recursively at the next (iii) a selected next speaker's significant (or attributable) sflericev
TRP, until speaker change is effected after the application of Rule I(a). Thus in (14) we have first a gap
It may be asked whether Rule I(C) is not just a special case of Rule by delay of the Rule I (b) option for just one second, then a lapse of
I (b), and therefore redundant. However there is some evidence that sixteen seconds:
the self-selecting parties in Rule I (b) should not properly include
(14) Sacks, Schegloft & Jeftersoll, I978: 25
current speaker (C): for example, the delays between two turns by C: WeIl no 1'11 drive (I don't millnd)
different speakers are statistically shorter than between two turn- J: hhh
constructional units produced by a single speaker, suggesting that --> (1.0)
opportunity for others to speak is specifically provided by Rule I (b) J: I meant to ofter.
--> (16.0)
(see Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson, 1978: 54 n·30). J: Those shoes look nice ...
Careful consideration will show that the rules provide for the basic
observations already noted. On the one hand they predict the While in (15) we have two clear cases of attributable silence, by virtue
following specific details. First, only one speaker will generally be
" Henccforth the tcrm silence is sometimcs used in this tcchnical sense, wh ile
speaking at any one time in a single conversation (although four or
the terrn pouse is used as a general cover term for these var ious kinds of
more speakers may often conduct more than one conversation periods of non-speech. Other usages will be elear from the context.

298 299
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

of the fact that A's utterances select B as next speaker, and by Rule system which works roughlyon a syllable-by-syllable basis, whereby
I (a) B should then speak: the speaker who 'upgrades' most wins the floor, upgrading consisting
of increased amplitude, slowing tempo, lengthened vowels and other
(15) At.hinson [5 Drew, J979: 52
features, as illustrated in (17):
A: I s there something bothering you or not?
-> (1.0 ) (17) US: 43
A: Yes or no -> J: Hut dis // person thet DID IT* IS GOT TO BE::
-> (I. 5) V: If I see the person
A: Eh? J: .hh taken care of
B: No.
There is, then, quite an elaborate back-up machinery for resolving
While making such specific predictions, the rules also allow for the
overlap if, despite the rules, it should occur (see Jefferson & Schegloff,
observable variations in conversation: lapses may or may not occur;
1975)·
there is no strict limit to turn size given the extendable nature of
I t is important to see that, although the phenomenon of turn-taking
syntactic turn-constructional units and the continuations allowed for
i'~
is obvious, the suggested mechanism organizing it is not." For astart,
by Rule I(C); there is no exclusion of parties; the number of parties
'1'
11
things could be quite otherwise: for example, it is reported of the
'I' to a conversation can change. These diverse variations are allowed for
African people, the Burundi (see Albert, 1972: 81ff), that turn-taking
basically because the system is locally managed, i.e. it operates on
(presumably in rather special settings) is pre-allocated by the rank of
a turn-by-turn basis, organizing just the transition from current
the participants, so that if A is of higher social status than B, and B
speaker to next, and is therefore indifferent to, for example, the pool
than C, then the order in which the parties will talk is A-B-C. Of
of potential next speakers.?
course in English-speaking cultures too there are special non-
An important consequence of the system is that it provides,
conversational turn-taking systems operative in, for example,
independently of content or politeness considerations, an intrinsic
classrooms, courtrooms, chaired meetings and other 'institutional'
motivation for participants to both listen and process what is said - for
settings, where turns are (at least in part) pre-allocated rather than
the transition rules require prior location of next speaker selection
determined on a turn-by-turn basis, and these too emphasize that the
should it occur, and the projection of upcoming TRPs.
rules in (10) are not the only possible or rational solution to the
Where, despite the rules, overlapping talk occurs, detailed study
organization of the 'economy' of turns at talk. Nevertheless, there
has revealed the operation of a resolution system that is integrated
is good reason to think that like many aspects of conversational
into the main turn-taking system. First, if overlap occurs, one speaker
organization, the rules are valid for the most informal, ordinary kinds
gene rally drops out rapidly, as in (16):
of talk ac ross all the cultures of the world. There is even evidence of
(r6) Athinson [5 Drew, 1979: 44 (simplified) ethological roots for turn-taking and other related mechanisms, both
D: ... hes got to talk to someone (very sor) supportive way from work on human neonates (see e.g. Trevarthen, 1974, 1979) and
towards you (.) primate research (see e.g. Haimoff, in press).
-> A: / /Greg's (got wha-)*
Another indication that the suggested mechanism is far from
G: Think you sh* - think you should have one to: hold him
obvious is that psychologists working on conversation have suggested
Secondly, as soon as one speaker thus emerges into 'the clear ', he a quite different solution to how turn-taking works. According to this
typically recycles precisely the part of the turn obscured by the R It is also worth po int ing out that the mot ivat ion for turn-taking is not as
overlap, as in G's turn in (16). Finally, if one speaker does not obvious as it mav seem: as ;,Iiller has noted (1963: 418) turn-taking "is not

immediately drop out, there is available a competitive allocation a nccessarv eonsequenee of any auditory or physiologieal inability to speak
and hear simultaneouslv; one voice is POOf masking for another " (ci ted in
Although such factors do influence, for example, the details of techniques Goodwin, 1977: 5)· The possibilirv of simultaneous translation bears witness
for next-speaker selection to this (see Goldman-Eisler, 1980).

3°0 3°1
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

other view, turn-taking is regulated primarily by signals, and not by Schegloff & J efferson (1978), but rather around functional units-
opportunity assignment rules at all (see e.g. Kendon, 1967; jaffe & speech acts, moves, 01' perhaps ideational units (as in Butterworth,
Feldstein, 1970; Duncan, 1974; Duncan & Fiske, 1977)· On such a 1975)· Such a view has an initial plausibility: as a participant one
view a current speaker will signal when he intends to hand over the should wait until one sees wh at interactional contribution the other
floor, and other participants may bid by recognized signals for rights party is making, and then perform ones own. Again, however, such
to speak - a practice similar to the 'over' announcement on a field a view makes the wrong predictions - for example, since greetings,
radio transmitter. One of the most plausible candidates for such expressions like How are you?, etc., are gene rally precisely predictable,
signals is gaze : it seems roughly true, for example, that a speaker they ought to get regularly overlapped, but this is not the case.
wil! break mutual gaze while speaking, returning gaze to the addressee Similarly, where a speaker fails to make himself audible or compre-
upon turn completion (Kendon, 1967; Argyle, 1973: 109, 202; but hensible to a recipient, requests for repair ought to occur immediately
sec contrary findings in Beattie, 1978a; and see Goodwin, 1977, 198 I after the 'repairable', whereas in fact the initiation of repair gene rally
for a CA approach to gaze). The problem here is that if such signals awaits the next TRP (see Sacks, Schegloff & J efferson, 1978: 39, and
formed the basis of our turn-taking ability, there would be a clear section 6.3.2 below). And in general, given the apparent projectability
1
prediction that in the absence of visual cues there should either be of other persons' utterances, we should expect the rnajority of turns
1II much more gap and overlap or that the absence would require to be completed in overlap - and of course such is not the case. So
compensation by special audible cues. But work on telephone despite its plausibility, this view too seems to be wrong: turn-taking
conversation shows that neither seems to be true - for example, there is firmly anchored around the surface-structural definition of turn-
is actually less gap and shorter overlap on the telephone (see units, over which rules of the sort in (IO) operate to organize a
Butterworth, Hine & Brady, 1977; Ervin-Tripp, 1979: 392), and systematic distribution of turns to participants.
there is no evidence of special prosodic or intonational patterns at
turn-boundaries on the telephone (although there is evidence that 6.2. 1.2 Adjacency pairs
such cues are utilized both in the absence and presence of visual We now turn to another local management organization in
contact to indicate the boundaries of turn-constructional units - see con versation , namely adjacency pairs - the kind of paired utterances
e.g. Duncan & Fiske, 1977). In any case it is not clear how a of which question-answer, greeting-greeting, offer-acceptance,
signal-based system could proviele for the observed properties of apology-rninimization, etc., are prototypical. We have already noted
turn-taking anyway: for example, a system of intonational cues would that these are deeply inter-related with the turn-taking system as
not easily accomplish the observable lapses in conversation, or techniques for selecting a next speaker (especially where an address
correctly predict the principled basis of overlaps where they occur, term is included or the content of the first utterance of the pair clearly
or account for how particular next speakers are selected (see Goodwin, isolates a relevant next speaker). Once again, the existence of such
1979b, 1981: z jff). Therefore the signalling view, plausible as it is, paired utterances is obvious, but a precise specification of the
viewed as a complete account of turn-taking seems to be wrong: underlying expectations upon which the regularities are based is not
signals indicating the completion of turn-constructional units do so easy. Schegloff & Sacks (I ]73) offer us a characterization along the
indeed occur, but they are not the essential organizational basis for following lines:
turn-taking in conversation. That organization seems rather to be
based on an opportunity assignment of the sort specified by the rules (18) adjacency pairs are sequences of two utterances that are:
(i) adjacent
in (10).
(ii) produced by different speakers
Another possible view that also seems to be incorrect is that, while
(iii) ordered as a first part and a second part
turn-taking is indeed an option-based system, the options are
(iv) typed, so that a particular first part requires a particular
organized not around surface-structural units, as suggested by Sacks, second (or range of second parts) - e.g. offers require

3°2 3°3
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

acceptances or rejections, greetings require greetings, and B: =thanks «ACCEPT»
so on ( ro.o)
A: Three pounds ni ne teen a tube sir «Ar»
and there is a rule governing the use of adjacency pairs, namely:
Indeed numerous levels of embedding are not at all infrequent, with
(r 9) Having produced a first part of some pair, current speaker must
stop speaking, and next speaker must produce at that point a the consequence that, say, a question and its answer may be many
second part to the same pair utterances apart; nevertheless the relevance of the answer is merely
held in abeyance while preliminaries are sorted out, and insertion
Adjacency pairs seem to be a fundamental unit of conversational
sequences are thus restricted in content to the sorting out of such
organization - indeed it has been suggested that they are the funda-
preliminaries. In fact (z I) is extracted from the larger sequence of
mental unit (see e.g. Goffman, 1976; Coulthard, 1977: 70). Such a
nested adjacency pairs in (z z) (here R labels arequest first part, Q
11 view seernr to underlie the speech act models of conversation
and A question and answer , respectively, and turns are numbered TI,
reviewed in section 6.1 above. However there are many other kinds
Tz, etc., for reference):
lil
;~

of more complex sequential organizations operating in conversation,
as we shall see, nor indeed can the constraints across such pairs be
(z z ) I44/6
:,111 properly modelled by formation rules analogous to syntactic rules. It Tr B: ... I ordered sorne paint from you uh a couple
is therefore important to see that the characterization of adjacency of weeks ago sorne vermilion
pairs in (18) and (19) is only a first approximation, and is in fact Tz A: Yuh
inadequatc in a numbcr of important respects. T3 B: And Iwanted to order some more the name's
There are problems with each of the conditions in (18), but we shall Boyd «RI»
T4 A: Yes / / how many tubes would you like sir «QI»
focus on (i), adjacency, and (iv), the kinds of expectable second parts.
TS B: An-
First, strict adjacency is actually too strong a requirement: there T6 B: U :hm (.) what's the price now eh with V.A.T.
frequently occur insertion sequences (Schegloff, 197za) like the
following in which one question-answer pair is embedded within T7
da you know eh
A: Er I'll just work that out for you =
«o»
«HOLD»
another (where Q 1 labels the first question, AI its answer , and so on): T8 B: =Thanks «ACCEPT»
(r o.o)
T9 A: Three pounds nineteen a tube sir «Az»
(zo) Merritt, I976: 333 TIO B: Three nineteen is it =
A: May I have a bottle of Mich? «Q3»
«Qr» TI I A: =Yeah
B: Are you twenty one ? «o.» TIZ B: E::h (1.0) y es u:hm «dental dick» «in paren-
«A3»
A: No «Az» thetical tone} e:h jus-justa think, that's wh at
B: No «Ar» three nineteen
or like the following where a notification of temporary interactional That's for the large tube isn't it «Q4»
TI3 A: Well yeah it's the thirty seven c.c.s «A4»
exit and its acceptance are embedded within a question-answer pair :" TI4 B: Er, hh 1'11 tell you what I'lljust eh eh ring you
(z r ) I44/6 back I have to work out how many 1'11 need.
B: U:hm (.) what's the price now eh with V.A.T. Sorry I did- wasn 't sure of the price you see «ACCOUNT
da you know eh «Qr» FOR
A: Er 1'11 just work that out for you= «HOLD» NO Ar»
TIS A: Okay

• Hold and acceptt ancei are ad hoc terms for the parts of the adjacency pair that
are used to initiate an interactional interlude or 'time out'. Interaction may A number of points may be parenthetically made here. First,
then, but necd not, be re-initiated b y another adjacency pair (Hello?; Hellos. insertion sequences, which are of great interest in their own right, can

3°4 3°5
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

effectively structure considerable stretches of conversation. So what set of seconds, the concept will cease, it seems, to describe the tight
is strictly a local system, operating over just two turns ~ namely organization in eonversation that is its principal attraction. But in fact
adjacency pair organization ~ can by means of the accumulation of there are, for example, a great many responses to questions other than
first pair parts project a large sequence of expectable seconds, as in answers which nevertheless count as acceptable seconds (rather than,
the structure schematized in (23): say, beginnings of insertion sequences prior to answers) ~ ineluding
(23) (QI(Q2(Q3(Q4~A4)A3)A2)AI) protestations of ignorance, 're-routes' (like Better ask John), refusals
to provide an answer, and challenges to the presuppositions or
Secondly, we should note that in (22) neither the initial request (RI)
sincerity of the question (and see (8) above). For example, we noted
nor the first question (Q I) ever receives its second part (an acceptance
in (22) that in TI 4, the slot for an answer to Q I, we have not an answer
or rejection, and an answer, respectively). Nevertheless wh at takes
but a promise to provide an answer at a later date, together with an
place after these two turns, T3 and T 4, takes place under the umbrella account explaining the deferral. So while responses to, for example,
of the expectation that the relevant second parts will be forthcoming.
questions may be restricted, they certainly do not constitute a small
Finally in TI4 an explanation or account is provided for the failure
set, and this does seem to undermine the structural significance of the
to provide an AI for Q I, showing that there is an orientation to the concept of an adjacency pair.
I
i expected appropriate second part even though it never occurs.'
However the importance of the notion is revived by the concept
Further, note that the acknowledged failure to produce an AI is
of preference organization. The central insight here is that not
sufficient to explain the absence of any response to RI: failure to
all the potential second parts to a first part of an adjacency pair are
resolve an insertion sequenee regularly aborts the entire umbrella
of equal standing: there is a ranking operating over the alternatives
sequence too. such that there is at least one preferred and one dispreferred
But the main point is that we need to replaee the striet criterion
category of response. It must be pointed out immediately that the
of adjacency with the notion of conditional relevance, namely the
not ion of preference here introduced is not a psychological one, in the
criterion for adjacency pairs that, given a first part of a pair, a second
sense that it does not refer to speakers' or hearers' individual
part is immediately relevant and expectable (Schegloff, 1972a: 363ff)·
preferenees. Rather it is a structural notion that corresponds elosely
If such a second fails to occur, it is noticeably absent; and if some
to the linguistic concept of markedness. In essence, preferred
other first part oceurs in its place then that will be heard where
seconds are unmarked ~ they occur as structurally simpler turns; in
possible as some preliminary to the doing of the second part, the
contrast dispreferred seconds are marked by various kinds of
relevance of which is not lifted until it is either directly attended to
structural complexity. Thus dispreferred seconds are typically
or aborted by the announced failure to provide so me preliminary
delivered: (a) after some significant delay ; (b) with some preface
action. What the notion of conditional relevance makes elear is that
marking their dispreferred status, often the partiele welf; (c) with
what binds the parts of adjaceney pairs together is not a formation
some account of why the preferred second cannot be performed. For
rule of the sort that would specify that a question must receive an
the present (but see 6·3) a contrastive pair of examples will suffice to
answer if it is to count as a well-formed discourse, but the setting up illustrate the notion :
of specific expectations which have to be attended to. Hence the
non-occurrences of an RI and an AI in (22) do not result in an (24) Woot ton, in press
incoherent discourse because their absences are systematically Child: Could you .hh could you put on the light for my
.hh roorn
provided for.
Father: Yep
A seeond kind of problem that arises with the notion of an
adjacency pair concerns the range of potential seconds to a first part.
In In cxamples from telephone calls, where the roles of caller and recc ive r may
Unless for any given first part there is a sm all or at least delimited
be relevant to the interpretation, caller is labelIed C, rece iver R.

306 3°7
Conversational structure 6.2 Conoersation analysis

(25) 176B10 of the exchanges within some specific kind of conversation, and it is
C: Um I wondered ifthere's any chance ofseeing you tomorrow these that we shall illustrate here.
sometime (0.5) morning or before the seminar One kind of conversation with a recognizable overall organization
---+ (1.0)
that has been much studied is the telephone cal!. But it is not by virtue
R: Ah um (.) I doubt it
C: Uhm huh of 'being on the telephone' that such conversations have most of the
R: The reason is I'm seeing Elizabeth features of overall organization that they display: rather they belong
fairly clearly to a dass of verbal interchanges that share many feat-
In (24) a granting of arequest is done without significant delay and ures, namely those that are social activities effectively constituted
with a minimal granting component Yep. In contrast in (25), a by talk itself, like achat on a chance meeting in the street, or a talk
rejection of arequest for an appointment is done after a one second over the garden fence. These tend to have clear beginnings and
delay, and then, after further delay components (ah um, the micro- carefully organized closings. Thus in telephone calls we can recognize
pause (.», by a non-minimal turn (compare I doubt it with No), the following typical components of an operring section: the
followed by an account or reason for the difficulty. In fact, rejections telephone rings and, upon picking up the receiver, the person at the
of requests are norrnally done in this marked way. Thus we can say receiving end almost invariably speaks first, either with astation
grantings are preferred seconds (or preferreds for short) to requests, identification (name of a firm, a telephone number, etc.) or a plain
rejections are dispreferred seconds (or dispreferreds). This is a Hello, whereupon the caller produces a Hello, often with a self-
general pattern: in contrast to the simple and immediate nature of identification. If the call is between two friends or acquaintances we
preferreds, dispreferreds are delayed and contain additional complex may expect an exchange of Houi are yous. Then at that point we expect
components; and certain kinds of seconds like request rejections, some announcement from the caller of the reason for the call, and we
refusals of offers, disagreements after evaluative assessments, etc., are thereby find ourselves projected into the substance of the call, and
systematically marked as dispreferreds. thus (as we shall see) into matters of topical organization.
Preference organization is described in detail in section 6.3 below, 1'0 say this is to say little more than that telephone conversations
but the relevance here is that by ordering seconds as preferreds and have recognizable openings. But there is much elaborate structure
dispreferreds, the organization allows the notion of an adjacency pair here. For astart we may note that such openings are constructed
to continue to describe a set of strict expectations despite the largely from adjacency pairs: thus we typically get paired Hellos as
existence of rnany alternative seconds to most kinds of first parts."! an exchange of greetings, we may get self-identifications with paired
recognitions, and an exchange of How are yous each with their paired
6.2. 1.3 Overall organization responses (see Schegloff, 1972a, 1979a; Sacks, 1975, respectively, for
We have now described two kinds of local organization each of these). There is, moreover, a puzzle about why the receiver,
operating in conversation - local in the sense that turn-taking and the person with the least information about the identity and purposes
adjacency pair organization operate in the first instance ac ross just two of the other, almost invariably talks first. The puzzle dissolves when
turns, current and next. But there are quite different orders of we assimilate the openings of telephone conversations to summons-
organization in conversation: for example, there are certain recurrent answer sequences. Such sequences in face-ta-face interaction run
kinds of sequence definable only over three or four or more turns, typically in any of the following ways:
like those treated in following sections that deal with repair (6.3) or
(26) Terasaki, 1976: 12,13
begin with pre-sequences (6.4). Further, there are some that can
be called overall organizations in that they organize the totality (a) A: Jim? (b) A: Mo:m (c) A: (Iknock knock knock)
B: Yeah? B: What? B: Come in::
11 The exceptions here incIude greetings, where return greetings are more or
(27) Athinson & Drew, 1979: 46
less the orily kind of second. Ch: Mummy

308 3°9
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

lVI: Yes dear to make the third turn redundant. It is the three-turn structure of such
(2.1) sequences that establishes not only the obligation for the summoner
Ch: I want a cloth to clean (the) windows to produce a T3, but an obligation for a recipient who has produced
where the first utterance (or action) is a summons, the second an a Tz to attend to a T3. The sequence thereby serves to estab!ish the

ans wer to the summons, the exchange establishing an open channel . co-participation necessary to conversation.
for talk. Schegloff (I 972a) suggests that the ringing of the telephone One important feature of opening sections in telephone conver-
is the summons component in such an adjacency pair, so that the first sations is the immediate relevance, and the potential problems, of
turn at talk (the receiver's Hello) is actually the second interactional identification and recognition (Schegloff, 1979a). Many telephone
move. This explains a number of features of telephone openings, conversations have as thei r first three turns the following, or something
closely similar:
including the strong compulsion to respond, and the reportable
inference wh ich motivates it ~ namely that (by conditional relevance) (Z9) C: « causes telephone to ring at R's location))
no response' means' that 'no one is at home'. It even explains the TI R: Hello
'1'2 C: Hi
mechanical r ing-pause--ring , which imitates the recursive repetition
I. T3 R: Oh hi::
of a verbal summons that is not attended to. That repetition is in turn
1I
,. the basis of the rare exceptions to the generalization that the receiver Such openings illustrate a basic finding of CA, namely that a single
speaks first, for these occur where the receiver upon picking up the minimal utterance or turn can be the locus of a number of quite
telephone after the first (mechanical) summons, fails to respond ~ we different overlapping constraints ~ it can thus perform, and can be
then get a repeated summons (now verbal) from the caller. carefully designed to perform, a number of quite different functions
A moment's consideration will show too that surnmoris+answer at once. Here for example, TI, despite being the first turn in the
sequences are a !ittle different from other adjacency pairs (!ike conversation, is not (as we have seen) the first move in the interaction :
greetings~greetings, offers~acceptances/refusals) in that they are the ring is the summons, and TI its answer. But TI is also
always aprelude to something. Moreover the something in question simultaneously a display for recognitional purposes of recipient's
can be expected to be produced by the summoner as the reason for identity (in cases where recognition is relevant, as not always, e.g. in
the summons. So summons--answer sequences are actually elements business calls), and it is notable that speakers tend to use a 'signatured'
of (minimally) three-turn sequences, as illustrated below (and in (z7) prosody or voice-quality in this turn (Schegloff, I 979a: 67). Despite
above) : the apparent greeting token in TI, grceting is not what the turn
(28) appears to do, as the discussion of T3 will make clear. Tz on the other
'1'1 A: John? «SUMMONS)) hand is indeed a greeting token that does greetings, and greetings
Tz B: Yeah? «ANSWER)) being adjacency-paired, Tz gets areturn greeting in T3 (this showing
T3 A: Pass the water wouldja? «REASON FOR that TI is hardly a greeting after all, greetings being in general not
SUMMONS))
reiterable kinds of things). But that is not all, indeed the least, of what
The three-part structure is evidenced by the common use of question is going on in Tz and T3.12 Tz, by virtue of its minimal greeting form,
components in Tz (like What?, What is it?, Yeah ?), which, by actually claims recognition of the recipient on the sole basis of the
simultaneously being the second part to the summons and a first part voice-quality sam pie offered in TI; and moreover Tz claims that the
requesting reasons for the summons, proviele for a three-turn structure recipient should likewise be able to rccognize the caller on the basis
constructed out of two adjacency pairs. Üne mayaiso note thc of the minimal voicc-quality sampie it provides. T3 thcn, in
obligation that the summoner often feels, for example, in calling a
t a Note that the 0" in '1'3, normally a marker of receipt of new information,
store to find if it is open, to produce a T3 (e.g. Oh I was just calling on ly makes sense if more than greetings are going on in T2 arid T] (sec
to see ij you were open) even though the presencc of a Tz was sufficient I1eritage, in press).

310 311
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

performing return greetings, also claims to have recognized the caller. The first topic slot immediately after the opening section is a
The overlapping organizations here are thus: (a) telephone (and other privileged one: it is the only one that is likely to be almost entirely
related) conversations begin with summons=answer pairs; (b) free from topical constraints arising from prior turns. The main body
reciprocal greetings are relevant at the very beginning of calls; (c) also of a call is thus structured by topical constraints: the content of the
at the very beginning of calls, recognition (or identification) is a prime first slot is likely to be understood as the main reason for the call
cancern. Note that Tz is the slot for recognitions to be begun, (whether or not, of course, from the point of view of the caller, it
recipient clearly not being able to do this in TI in the absence of any 'really' iS),13 and after that topics should by preference be 'fitted '
evidence of who the caller might be. And despite the total absence to prior ones ~ topics therefore often being withheld until such a
in (Z9) of any ouert recognitional devices (e.g. Hi, Sam), the 'natural' location for their mention turns up (Schegloff & Sacks,
expectation, based on overall organization, of the recognitional 1973: 300ft'). Evidence for this preference for linked transitions from
relevance of Tz is strong enough invariably to impose on Hi, Hello, topic to topic can be found in the common experience of having things
and other minimal greeting components in Tz, a claim that recognition to say that one never manages to get in, and more demonstrably in
of the recipient by the caller has been achieved (see discussion of (45), the marked nature of the other main kind of transition, unlinked topic
(46), and (81)~(85) below, and Schegloff, 1979a). We may summarize 'jumps'. Thus, for example, in the arrowed utterance in (3Z), a topic
this as follows: jump is signalled in a typical way by the features of increased
amplitude, raised pitch, markers of self-editing and hesitancy (see
Schegloff, 1979b) and a marker of discontinuity, Hey.
(3°) C: «rings» «SUMMONS»
TI R: Hello «ANSWER» + «DISPLAY FOR (3Z) 163
RECOGNITION» R: Its 0 - it's okay we'll pop down tomorrow Gertrude
'I'z C: Hi «GREETINGS 1ST PART» C: You sure you don 't, it is an awful lot of it, you want to
«CLAIM THAT C HAS RECOGNIZED R» quickly nip down now for it
«CLAIM THAT R CAN RECOG NIZE C» ---> R: Okay I will. Er HE Y you hmm that is have you been
T3 R: Oh hi:: «GREETINGS 2ND PART)) lighting a fire down there?
«CLAIM THAT R HAS RECOGNIZED C»
Sacks remarks (197 I, April 5) that the relative frequency of marked
topic shifts of this sort is a measure of a 'lousy' conversation. Instead,
We are introduced here to the richness of the communicational what seems to be preferred is that, if A has been talking about X, B
content that is mapped onto minimal utterances by virtue of should find a way to talk about Z (if Z is the subject he wants to
sequentiallocation ~ here a location whose specificity is due to the introduce) such that X and Z can be found to be 'natural' fellow
structure of opening sections of the overall organization of telephone members of some category Y. However it should not be thought from
calls. this that such co-class membership is somehow antecedently given;
The opening section of a telephone call is usually followed in wh at rather it is something that is actually achieved in conversation.
may be called first topic slot by an announcement by the caller of This last point needs a !ittle elaboration. It has been suggested, very
the reason for the call: plausibly, that topic can be characterized in terms of reference: A
and Bare talking about the same topic if they are talking about the
same things or sets of referents (see Putnam, 1958; but see Keenan
(3 I) ScheglojJ, I979a,' 47
R: Hello. ,,' In some cultures there secrns to be a preference for displacing the business
C: Hello Rob. This is Laurie. How's everything. of a conversation to Iater on however, one needs to distinguish here an
R: «sniff) Pretty good. How 'bout you. elaboration of openings to include conventional inquiries about health, family
---> C: Jus' fine. The reason I called was ta ask ... and so on , from a true difference in the use of the first free topic slot.

31z 313
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

& Schieffelin, 1976). Alternatively, we can say that A and Bare preserved. For exarnple, C's utterance below is topically tied to prior
talking about the same topic if they are talking about the same or utterances:
:![

linked concepts (de Beaugrande & Dressler, 1981: 104). However (34) Sacks, 1968, April 17
it is easy to show that co-referentiality, or a set of shared concepts, A: If yer gonna be a politician, you better learn how to smoke
is neither sufficient nor necessary to establish topical coherence. cigars
B: Yeah that's an idea Rog
Consider, for example:
C: I heard a very astounding thing about pipes last night
"
\.;
(33) Sachs, 1968, April 17: 16 :~ but pipes and cigars are distinct concepts, and are terms with no
A: Gocl any more hair on muh ehest an' I'd be a fuzz boy. ,.-~;
overlapping sets of referents. Of course we can retreat and say: two
B: 'd be a what.
utterances share the same topic or are at least topically tied only if
C: All fuzz boy.
A: Fuzz boy. there is some superordinate set which includes referents or concepts
B: What's that. from both utterances (here, say, the set of' smokables '). But then any
A: Fuzz mop. two utterances share a topic (or at least are topically tied) because for
C: Then you'd have t'start shaving.
any two sets of referents or concepts one can invent a superordinate
11 (1.0)
'};
-> B: Hey I shaved this morni- I mean last night for you. set that includes them both - nor is this conversationally absurd (see
e.g. (7) above where the shared dass was 'apartment ren tal
Here the last two utterances both mention shaving, and share that disqualifiers', hardly some 'natural' dass).
concept, and also on the logical analysis of predicates (see Allwood, The point is simply that topical coherence cannot be thought of
~<;:
Andersson & Dahl, 1977: 72ft) would share some of their referents.P as residing in some independently calculable procedure for
But, as Sacks (1968, April 17) points out, B's utterance is produced ascertaining (for example) shared reference ac ross utterances. Rather,
in such a way as to indicate that it is not topically tied to what has topical coherence is something constructed across turns by the colla-
gone before. Rather the Hey marks (as it can be shown to do generally) boration of participants. What needs then to be studied is how
the introduction of a new topic 'touched off' by the prior utterance, potential topics are introduced and collaboratively ratified, how they
which is just evoked from memory by some chance association to the are marked as 'new', 'touched off', 'misplaced' and so on, how they
content of the prior turn. are avoided or competed over and how they are collaboratively closed
But if shared reference, or a set of shared concepts, across turns down.!"
is not sufficient to ensure shared topic, neither is it necessary for two Now such collaborative procedures for opening, changing and
turns to share some referents, or concepts, in order for topic to be closing down topics are not strictly part of the overall organization
of telephone calls: they are local procedures that can operate
•.• I t mav be objected that the example indicates only that use of the same words, '-~. throughout a call. But they interact in complex ways with matters of
e.g. sliaring . does not entail identity of reference. However, it is easy to show
that identical referents may be picked out by terms either side of a topie break,
overall organization, hence their treatment here. For example, as we
here marked by By tlze way and inereased amplitude following a pause: noted, later topical constraints give the first topic slot after the
Ouien 8b opening section a special importance, reinforced by the expectation
H: Probably is beeause of that I should think, ycs, mm
that, after a summons and its answer, a reason for the summons will
A: :YIm
(1.2) be presented. Further, the elaboration of Hoto are yous provides a
A: ((Iouder)) By the way , do you want any lettuces route into topical talk that can displace the reason for the call and its
Here of course land YOli both refer to the same entity, namely B, but neither
ropic is in any ordinarv sense' about B'. So the argument can be generalized: 15 Relarivelv lirtle work has heen done here, but see Sacks, 1967-72 passim arid
neither identical reference, nor the use of identical terms or concepts (with sumrnary in Coulthard, 1977: 78ff; Button & Casey, in press; Jefferson, in
same or different reference) is sufticient to engender topical continuity. press; Owen, 1982.

314 315
Conuersational structure 6.2 Conuersation analysis

first topic slot to later in the call, thereby providing a powerful motive R: One o'clock in the bar
for escaping from such elaborations (see Sacks, 1975). And techniques C: Okay
R: Okay?
for topic closing are intimately connected to the introduction of the
C: Okay then thanks very much indeed George =
closing section shutting down the conversation: the closure of any R: =All right
topic after the privileged first one makes the introduction of the C: / /See you there
closing section potentially imminent, matters dealt with below. R: See you there
i~_i Finally, some k inds of telephone calls have an expectable overall C: Okay
;;;;

organization that admits just one topic - such monotopical caJls R: Okay / / bye
rfl H: Bye
being typical of routine business calls or service inquiries.
~i I nterestingly, such calls are monotopical not in the sense that no more The typical features here are the arrangements
a sequence of Okays elosing down the arrangements
for a next meeting,
(or other topic),
than one topic is ever addressed within them, but in the sense that
'!lI
the caJler orients to the expectation of a single topie in the very a Thank you produced by the caller, and a further sequence of Okays
introduction of further topics. Thus one finds, not only initial just prior to a final exchange of Good-byes. One very general schema
announcements in first topic slot that the ealler has in fact more than for elosing sections, of which (36) is merely one instantiation, might
one thing to say, but also eareful traeking of the progress through the be represented thus:
list of topics:
"~l.'
(37) (a) a closing down of some topic, typically a closing
(35) Birmingliam Discourse Project TD.CI.2 (After initial inquiry) implicative topic :where closingimplicative topics include
,~'
B: Yeah er two other things firstly do you know the eventual the making of arrangements, the first topic in monotopical
street number of plot 36 ~~~ calls, the giving of regards to the others family members,
«several turns later) ~; etc.
~r-.
Erm the other thing is erm «ahem» presumably be okay for (b) one or more pairs of passing turns with pre-c1osing
i~ '~~
somebody to have access to it before we move in to put carpets ~;
items, like Okay, All right., So,',', etc.
down and that (c) if appropriate, a typing ofthe call as e.g. a favour requested
So matters of overall organization and of topical organization can be and done (hence Thank you), or as a checking up on
closely interlinked. recipient's state of health (Welt I just wanted to know hoto
\Ve eome finally to the closing sections of the overall organization you were), etc., followed by a further exchange of pre-closing
items
of telephone calls or similar kinds of conversation. Closings are a
(d) a final exchange ofterminal elements: Bye, Righteo, Cheers,
delicate matter both technically, in the sense that they must be so etc.
placed that no party is forced to exit while still having compelling I].

~': The crucial elements here (after (a) has been achieved) are (h) and
things to say , and soeially in the sense that both over-hasty and
(d), Essentially what the two components jointly achieve is a co-
over-slow terminations ean carry unwelcome inferences about the h·~

ordinated exit from the eonversation: they do this by providing, in
soeial relationships between the participants. The devices that organize
the form of the topic-less passing turns in (b), a mutual agreement
closings are closely attuned to these problems. We find typically that
to talk no more, this being aprelude to the exchange of the terminal
conversations elose in the following sort of manner:
adjacency pair in (d) that closes down the conversation. The mutual
(36) 172B(7) agreement is seeured by one party producing a topic-less passing turn,
R: Why don't we all have lunch
indicating that he has no more to say, whereupon the other party - if
C: Okay so that would be in St J ude's would it?
R: Yes he too has no more to say - may produce another such turn. The
(0·7) tcchnical and social problems that closings raise are thus initially dealt
C: Okay so: : : with by providing that the closing section as a whole is placed in a

316 317
Conversational structure 6.2 Conuersation analysis

location that is interactively achieved: a pre-closing offer to close is actually is so conceived by the participants producing it. That is, wh at
issued in the form of Okay, Right, etc., and only if taken up da conversation analysts are trying to model are the procedures and
closings proceed. Further motivation for this pattern in closing expectations actually employed by participants in producing and
sections will be provided below (but see Schegloff & Sacks, 1973). understanding conversation. In addition, for each conversational
A final point about closing sections that is of interest here is that device we should like, by way of explanation, to elucidate the
components of the sort in (37)(c) indicate that the placement and interactional problems that it is specifically designed to resolve - that
content of closing sections is attuned to other aspects of overall is, to provide [unctional explanations, or expositions of rational
organization. Thus, for example, the Thanks in (36) is oriented to the design, for the existence of the device in question. There are, then,
specific content of the first topic slot of that call, namely arequest two basic methods to be employed in CA-style investigation:
for a favour. Similarly one finds in closings reference to aspects of
(a) We should attempt to locate some particular conversational
opening sections, as in Sorry to haue woken you up referring back to
organization, and isolate its systematic features, by
I hope I'm not calling too early, or Well I hope you feel better soon demonstrating participants' orientation to it
referring back to responses to How are yous, and so on. Each aspect (b) We should ask, (i) what problems does this organization
of overall organization, then, can be oriented to other aspects, as is solve, and (ii) what problems does this organization raise -
11
exemplified in the attention paid in the opening sections of expectably and therefore what implications does it have for the
··1
monotopical calls to the imminence of closing immediately after the existence of further solutions to further problems?
first topic is closed down (the attention revealed in theJust two things These methods are important because they offer us a way of avoiding
kind of bid for more than one topic). the indefinitely extendable and unverifiable categorization and
We are now in a position to give a more technical characterization speculation about actors' intents so typical of DA-style analysis. Let
of what a conversation is. We must first distinguish the unit a us therefore look at some illustrations of how the methods may be
conversation from conversational activity. The latter is something applied to yield and then confirm results of the kind we have
characterizable in terms of local organizations, and especially the reviewed.
operation of the turn-taking system in (10); there are many kinds of We may start with the problem of demonstrating that some
talk - e.g. sermons, lectures, etc. - that do not have these properties conversational organization is actually oriented to (i.e. implicitly
and wh ich we would not want to consider conversational. Yet there recognized) by participants, rather than being an artefact of analysis.
are also many kinds of talk - e.g. courtroom or classroom One key source of verification here is what happens when some
interrogation - which exhibit features of conversational activity like 'hitch' occurs - i.e. when the hypothesized organization does not
turn-taking, but which are clearly not conversations. Conversation as operate in the predicted way - since then participants (like the
a unit, on the other hand, is characterizable in terms of overall analyst) should address themselves to the problem thus produced.
organizations of the sort sketched here in addition to the use of Specifically, we may expect them either to try to repair the hitch, or
conversational activities like turn-taking (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: alternatively, to draw strong inferences of a quite specific kind from
325; Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson, 1974: 730-7). the absence of the expected behaviour, and to act accordingly.
Where hitches of these sorts are a recurrent possibility, there is
6.2.2 Some remarks on methodology likely to be a regularized repair procedure. Such occurs, we noted,
The basic findings in the prior section have been presented (for the in association with the turn-taking system, where a special set of
sake of brevity) in a way that CA workers would in fact be careful procedures operates to reduce and resolve overlap, should this arise
to avoid. The reason is that, for each substantial claim, the method- despite the rules assigning turns. But there are overlaps allowed (and
ology employed in CA requires evidence not only that some aspect thus their location and nature predicted) by the rules, and overlaps
of conversation can be viewed in the way suggested, but that it that contravene the rules tmterruptionsi, When the latter occur, they

318 319
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

are subject not only to the standard resolution procedures, but also sequential context it is c1ear that C's question is aprelude to arequest
to overt reprimands and sanctions - and such overt attention to for an appointment, and for such questions it turns out that negative
interruptions again indicates participants' orientation to the basic answers (answers that block the request) are dispreferred (see 6.3 and
expectations provided by the rules: 6-4 below). Hence C draws the inference from R's silence that he
makes explicit in T3. (That he got it wrang, as indicated by R in T 4,
(38) DCD: 28
Collins: Now / / the be :lt is meh " does not affect the point - such inferences are made, often correctly,
Fagan: is the sa :me mater*ial as / / thi:s though sometimes not.) Note here the remarkable power of the
.....• Smythe: Wait moment

'.
a turn-taking system to assign the absence of any verbal activity to some
Miss Fagan particular participant as his turn: such a mechanism can then quite
Similarly, the conditional relevance of a second part of an adjacency "
literally make something out of nothing, assigning to a silence or
pair given a first part is easily shown to be more than just an analyst's !',; pause, itself devoid of interesting praperties, the property of being
fancy. Consider for example wh at happens when, employing Rule ! A's, or B's, or neither A's nor B's, and further, through additional
,. ~
) (a) of the turn-taking system, a speaker addresses a recipient with :i~-'(
;,r: mechanisms, the kind of specific significance illustrated in (39) (a
the first part of a pair and receives no immediate response. Strang point taken up belowj.!"
Il"t' inferences are immediately drawn, either of the sort 'no response A fundamental methodological point can be made with respect to
means no channel contact', or, if that is clearly not the case, then 'no (39), and indeed most examples of conversation. Conversation, as
".,":

response means there's a problem'. So, in the case of a failure to ,~
opposed to monologue, offers the analyst an invaluable analytical
respond to a summons, the absence of a second part can, in the case resource: as each turn is responded to by a second, we find displayed
i
of the telephone, be understood as "recipient is not at horne ', or in , in that second an analysis of the first by its recipient. Such an analysis
face-to-face interaction as 'recipient is sulking or giving the cold ~~
is thus provided by participants not only for each other but for
shoulder' (Schegloff, I 972a: 368ff). Or, consider: analysts too. Thus in (39) the turn in T3 displays how the pause in
(39) 172B(7) T2 was interpreted. Hence "the turn-taking system has, as a
TI C: So I was wondering would you be in your office on Monday by-product of its design, a praof procedure for the analysis of turns "
(.) by any chance? (Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson, 1978: 44). A good case can therefore
T2 (2.0)
be made for the methodological priority of the study of conversation
T3 C: Probably not
over the study of other kinds of talk or other kinds of text.
T4 R: Hmm yes=
T5 C: =You would? Having shown that participants themselves orient to the conditional
T6 R: Ya relevance of, für example, an answer after a question, let us now
1'7 C: So if we came by could you give us ten minutes of your time? briefly consider the kind of evidence that could be used to show that
Here a two-second pause after the question in TI is actually taken
16 Exarnples of this sort provide a clue to the nature of conversational
by C to indicate a (negative) answer to the question. How can this constraints. Participants are constrained to ur il ize the expected procedures
come about? Note first that (by Rule I (a) of the turn-taking system) not (or not onlv) because failure to do so would yield 'incoherent discourses' •
C has selected R to speak (a feature of address not being necessary but because if they don 'I. they find themselves accountable for specific
inferences that their behaviour will have generated. Thus defendants in
as there are only two participants here). Therefore the two-second political trials may hope that silence will count as rejection of the proceedings,
pause is not just anyone's pause or nobody's pause (i.e. a lapse): only to find it read as admission of guilt. Or, in (39), R's disregard of the
rather it is assigned by the system to R as R's silence. Then recollect expecration that preferred responses will be immediate not only produces an
unintended inference that has to be corrected, but, if sustained, rnay produce
that adjacency pairs can have dispreferred seconds, these in general
an inference of general reluctance to co-operate. Conversationalisrs are thus
being marked by delay (amongst other features). Therefore the pause not so much constrained by rules or sanctions, as caught in a web of
can be heard as apreface to a dispreferred response. Now in full inferences.

320 321
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

the overall organizations we have claimed to be operative in achieve: A-B, finish. So we need an opening section that has at least
conversation are actually oriented to by participants. As already a three-turn structure, wherein the first requests attendance from the
noted, closing sections may refer back to opening sections and vice other party, the second provides a slot for that other party to commit
versa, indicating that "the unit 'a single conversation' is one to himself to an initiation of interaction, and the third turn is the slot
which participants orient throughout its course " (Schegloff & Sacks, for the initiating party to provide some initial business for the
1973: 310). Further, if closing sections have the character suggested interaction. We then have the familiar structure, summons-answer-
above, then a co-ordinated determination to close is mutually accepted first topic, which establishes a co-ordinated co-participation, assigns
by an exchange of pre-closings like Okay, and we expect thereupon speaking and receiving roles to the two parties for the first three turns,
the immediate exchange of terminal elements like Bye. But every now and thus cranks up the turn-taking machinery as minimally required.
and then closings are in fact re-opened, and if these re-openings occur Small details of the design of such sequences reflect their adaptation
after the exchange of pre-closings, then they are typically marked as to this task - e.g. the tendency (in face-to-face interaction) for the
grossly misplaced, as in the extract below: second turn to be an open question requiring by adjacency pair format
(40) Schegloff& Sacks, 1973,' 320 the third turn necessary for the proper initiation of talk (as already
C: Okay, thank you. noted). There is thus nothing ad hoc or arbitrary about the design of
R: Okay dear. conversational sequences like summons sequences: they are rational
-> C: 01-1 BY TI-IE WAY. I'djust like to say ... solutions to particular organizational problems.
Such misplacement markers demonstrate an orientation to the closing We now have the turn-taking machinery started up. But then the
section as a unit not properly taking such interpolations, and thus question arises: how do we suspend it? Consider: A and Bare talking
once embarked on, properly final. and A now wants, in response to B's remark, to tell an apposite story.
Let now consider the other basic methodological procedure, But how is A to get such a substantial section of talk, when by the
namely the search for the raison d' etre of particular conversational rules of the turn-taking system B is allowed at the very first TRP to
organizations, and then the implications that the existence of one compete by first start for the floor? Clearly obtaining such an
device has for the necessity for others. We may show in this way how extended turn at talk (by other than sheer listener apathy) requires
a11the structural facts we have reviewed (and indeed others too) are special techniques. One such special device is a story announcement
in fact closely integrated; and in doing so we may i11ustrate how in sequence of the stereotypical sort i11ustrated below:
discovering one such organization the analyst is provided with alever (4 I) A: I-Iave you heard the one about the pink Martian?
for prying up further levels of organization. So the assumption of B: No
functional inter-connection actually yields a powerful discovery A: «Story»
technique. where a bid is specifically made for an extended space for the telling
Suppose we take the turn-taking system as the fundamental device, of a story, the telling being conditional on the acceptance of the bid.
our initial discovery. What we then have is a system primarily Or, from a recording:
designed to (a) organize the change of speakers and (b) keep only one
(42) Sacks, 1974,' 3]8
speaker speaking at a time. But then we may ask: how is such a device
'cranked up', how is the machinery to be got rolling? Clearly we need TI K: You wanna hear muh- eh my sister told me a story last night.
some device that will establish (for the case of two parties) the '1'2 R: I don't wanna hear it. But if you must,
(1.0 )
A-B-A-B pattern of turns, while launehing us into the business of
'1'3 A: What's purple an' an island. Grape-Britain. That's wh at
the interaction. An adjacency pair, it would seem, would nicely do
iz sisj jter -
thejob, settingup an initialA-B sequence. However, as the turn-taking T4 K: No. To stun me she says uh there was these three
rules permit a conversation to lapse, that is all such a pair might girls ... «Story follows)
322 323
(1
1

, ·:1
li.• COl1versatiol1al structure 6.2 Conuersation analysis
i; !
I!',{

Here, in T2, R gives a reluctant go-ahead, while in T3 the other might have said a11he wants to say , and therefore have issued a Bye,
imended recipient produces a 'guess' at what kind of a story it is as whereupon B, despite perhaps having important things to say (things
a potential dismissal (T3), itself dismissed by the story teller in T 4· perhaps that must be said in this conversation - see Sacks, J 975),
Such sequences contain (minima11y) in TI an offer to tell, in T2 a would be constrained by the adjacency pair format to produce a
'go-ahead' or rejection, and then contingent on the 'go-ahead' the second Bye that terminated the interaction. Therefore there needs to
telling of the story in T3 (see 6.{ below). What such a structure be some pre-terminal section where undelivered news and the like can
achieves is the collaborative suspension of the turn-taking machinery, ;
'.j
be fitted in. This need is strongly reinforced by the topical organization
by joint agreement, for the duration of the story (there are of course ~ we reviewed, since (a) one is constrained not to mention in first topic
.~:
other teehniques for doing this - see Terasaki, 1976; J efferson, 1978; 'i slot anything that one doesn't want to be taken as the main reason
cl
Ryave, 1978). for engaging in interaction, and is therefore forced to hang on to these
]
But if we have achieved a suspension of speaker transition relevance , other 'mentionables', and (b) after first topic slot, mentionables
~;:~
over an extended period of talk, we now have yet another problem, ';.'
should by preference be fitted to prior topics, requiring that one waits
" ~
namely how to start up the turn-taking machinery once again (or more for a suitable slot for such deferred mentionables. However, such a
1
strictl y, since co-participation is still assured, re-invoke the relevance slot may never come up, and there is therefore a need for some slot
111;
11

11. of TRPs). A solution here had better provide for the recognizability towards the end of a conversation specifically set aside as the place
11'11
of story endings - for ifthey are recognizable then on such a completion where such deferred mentionables can be unburdened.
the normal turn-taking machinery can once again automatically Wh at is needed for effective closings is therefore a device which
resume. So stories must be recognizable units if turn-taking is to be (a) offers each party a turn for such deferred mentionables, (b) if such
adjusted around them; and of course they are: stories, if of the a turn is taken up, recyeles the opportunity in (a), and (c), consequent
'funny' variety, typically have punchIines,
listeners is immediately
whereupon laughter by
relevant (Sacks, 1974: 347ff); or if they are
i1t
t ,~~
upan no party taking up the opportunity
exchange immediately
in (a), makes the terminal
relevant. And it is this that motivates the
topically tied to the sequentiallocus in wh ich they occur then endings familiar four-turn closing section:
are reeognizable in part because they return participants to that
(43) A: Okay
'i particular topic (J efferson, 1978); or other recognizable ending B: Okay
i:! formats are used (Labov & Waletsky, 1966; Sacks, 1972). A: Bye
Once again, then, we have the turn-taking machinery operating B: Bye
norrnally. But now let us suppose we want not merely to suspend it, },31'.. t',; where the first Okay yields the floor to the other party for any deferred
.'.
but to elose it down, i.e. to finish the conversation. Again some special s mentionables that he may have, the second indicates that no such
device is needed which will provide a solution to the following iterns have been withheld and thus the exchange of topic-Iess passing
problem: "how to organize the simultaneous arrival of co- turns may be taken as a mutual agreement that termination should
conversationalists at a.point where one speaker's completion will not now commence. The exchange of Okays can thus be called pre-
occasion another speakers talk and that will not be heard as so me closings - producing the forewarning and collaborative co-ordination
speaker's silence" (Schegloff & Sacks, J 973: 294-5). Again one basic of closure, which the turn-taking system and topieal organization
ingredient suggests itself: an adjacency pair such that the first part independently but jointly require.
announces imminent closure and the second part secures it. And we So in the way thus informally sketched, from one kind of
do indeed have the terminal exchange generally realized as A: Bye; eonversational organization one can foresee the need for other kinds
B: e». of organizations with specific properties, providing simultaneously
However there would be substantial problerns for the use of the both a search procedure for conversational organizations and explana-
terminal exchange alone as a solution to the elosing problem. For A tions for their existence and design.

324 325
i
'I

II
i.
Conoersational structure 6.2 Conuersation analysis

One further methodological preference is a growing tendency in .~~~ discriminate between gaps (delays in the application of Rules I(b) or
CA to work with increasing numbers of instances of some ',~~' I(C», lapses (non-application of the rules) and next speaker silence
j~
(after application of Rule 1(aj), as illustrated in (14) and (15) above.
i

phenomenon. Until one knows how, for example, certain kinds of
1 1 sequencc normally unfold, the analysis of individual complex cases
will not yield up the rich texture they almest invariably conceal (see
Where these rules assign a pause to some speaker as a silence,
additional factors systematically playa role in its interpretation. For
_!~~
e.g. the analysis of (49) and (104) below). ',~~ example, we have seen in (39) how a silence after a question of a
<';~
;<1 In summary, then, CA methodology is based on three basic special sort (a prelude to arequest - a pre-request - see section 6.4

b.
1:lli procedures: (a) collecting recurrent patterns in the data, and hypo- below) can be read, by virtue of preference organization, as indicating
r:~ thesizing sequential expectations based on these; (b) showing that a negative answer. Or, consider the three-second silence in (44):
i,:
,i

~
;'l. such sequential expectations actually are oriented to by participants;
.~: y
~i (44) Dreui, T981 : 249

.:
and (c) showing that, as a consequence of such expectations, while
:~~,
':.'
J. M: What's the time- by the clock?
some organizational problems are resolved, others are actually created,
1 11
R: Uh
for which further organizations will be required. ._~.
M: What 's the time?
-> (3,0)
J..' M: (Now) wh at nurnbers that?
6.2.3 Some applieations
In this section we illustrate how the observations ahove
f" R: Number two
M: No it's not
may be applied to yield insight into particular instances of talk. We
What is it?
will start by considering what is apparently just one phenomenon-
R: lt's a one and a nought
,~
silence, or aperiod of non-speech - and show how such pauses can
!l! be discriminated into many different kinds with quite different Here, in the turn prior to the pause, a mother asks her child to try
1 significances on the basis of their structural locations. Then we will and tell the time. So, by Rule I(a) in (10), the pause is a silence,
~1i'
f~' summarize an analysis by Schegloff of an opaque little sequence rich attributable to the child R. But just because the question is an 'exam
in structural detail, showing that detailed analysis of individual question ' (and not, say , a pre-request), the silence he re can be
segments of talk is made possible by the use of the general findings understood as 'answer unknown '. Such an analysis is made clear by
and techniques al ready reviewed. These examples should suffice to the mother's next turn, where an easier quest ion is asked that, if
indicate how much organization there is to be discovered in the answered, might provide a partial solution to the first question.
smallest extract of talk, and how powerful sequential location can bc Now in (45) we have a small pause after the second turn in the
in the assignment of multiple functions to individual utterances. opening of a telephone call:
There have been many theories about the significance of pauses and
(45) Schegloff , 1979a: 37
hesitations in conversation: some analysts, for example, have seen C: (Ir ings))
pauses as evidence of verbal planning, i.e. 'time out' for psychological '1'1 R: Hello?
processing either in the routine preparation of the ftuent phases that Tz C: Hello Charles.
often follow (Butterworth, 1975) or in the production of complex -> (o.z)
syntax (Goldman-Eisler, 1968; Bernstein, 1973). But the following T3 C: This is Yolk.
observations show that any unitary account of pauses, and any As noted earlier, for a caller to provide a greeting in T2 (his first verbal
account that does not take into consideration their role as potentially turn) is to claim that the recipient should be able to recognize the
symbolic devices, will be fundamentally misguided. caller on the basis of this sampIe of voice-quality alone. The second
The turn-taking system itself assigns different values to pauses turn, we noted, is in fact the first part of an adjacency greeting pair;
wirhin conversation. We have already described how the rules in (10) a second is therefore due. Onee again, then, the delay (short though

3z6 3z7
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

it is) is R's delay and can be taken by C to indicate a problem for of the recipients (A) laugh, and then it has the careful syllabicity of
R. That the problem is here a problem in identification is shown by mock laughter. The pauses here are assignable to story recipients as
the repair C offers, after a significant pause has developed, namely their silenees, and the withholding of appreciation signals 'failed
an overt self-identification (This is Yolk). That the problem indicated joke' (see Sacks, 1974).
to C by this sm all delay is not imaginary is shown by examples like (48) Sacks, I974: 339
the following, where in T3 R has to invite C to repair wh at C had K: ((teils dirty joke, ending thus:)) Third girl, walks up
taken to be an adequate self-identification (the Hello in Tz): t'her - Why didn ' ya say anything last night; W' you told
me it was always impolite t'talk with my mouth full,
(46) Schegloff, I979a:
C: ((rings))
39
'.'
,:,.
-> (2.0)
K: hh hyok hyok,
TI
1'2

1'3
-+
R: Hello?
C: Hello.
( I.S)
R: Who's this.
,. -+

-+
(I.O)
K: hyok,
(3.0)
A: HA-HA-HA-HA
Here a momentary pause is heard immediately as a problem with what Many further kinds of significant absences of speech can be found - see
f is always underway in the first few turns of telephone conversations, e.g. (66), (67), (76) and (77) below - and each kind draws the analyst's
namely the business of mutual identification. Therefore the signi- attention to the strong kinds of expectations that different conversa-
ficance of a pause here is determined by that set of overlapping tional organizations, whether local, overall or intermediate in scope,
organizations that converge on the first few turns of telephone calls, impose on particular sequential slots. The demonstration is the more
as indicated in (30) above; that set determines, via adjacency pair remarkable in that silence has no features of its own: all the different
organization and the structure of opening sections, just how a pause significances attributed to it must have their sources in the structural
in this location will be interpreted. expectations engendered by the surrounding talk. So sequential
In (47) a pause, which can be analysed as somewhat similar to that expectations are not only capable of making something out of
in (45), occurs after an invitation. Once again, an invitation is a first nothing, but also of constructing many different kinds of significance
part of an adjacency pair, and this assigns next turn to the other party: out of the sheer absence of talk. If conversational organization can
(47) Dauidson;in press map 'meaning' onto silence, it can also map situated significance onto
A: C'mon down he:re, =it's oka:y, utterances - and in fact can be shown to regularly do so.
-> (0.2) Let us now turn to one short extract of conversation and show how
A: I got lotta stuff, = I got be :er en stuff the various findings and techniques we have reviewed can be applied
And, as in (45), a short pause occurs, hearable as the other party's to good effect. The argument is abrief resume of Schegloff, 1976. The
silence, and clearly analysed in this (and many related examples) as extract comes from a radio call-in programme broadcast in the United
some problem with A's invitation, which A consequently upgrades - States, and in it B, who is a High School pupil, is reporting to the
i.e. an attempt is made to make the invitation more attractive (see cornpcre of the show, A, an argument that he has been having with
Davidson, in press on the systematicity of this pattern). his history teacher about American foreign policy. The teacher (T)
Finally, the following example features the punchline of a dirty joke holds that foreign policy should be based on morality, but B thinks
and the ensuing laughter. As we pointed out, after a story an it should be based on expediency - 'what is good for America'. It
appreciation is immediately relevant, and the temporary suspension runs as folIows:
of the turn-transition relevance is lifted. But here we have a two-second (49) Schegloff, I976 " D9
delay, and then instead of recipient laughter we have teller's laughter TI B: An' s- an' ( ) we were discussing, it tur- , it comes down,
(with a further four-second delay interspersed). Only then does one he ((1')) s- he says, I-I-you've talked with thi- si- i- about

328 329
~i

ii!
l1~:
;'
j~
Ij-i
Conuersational structure ;t 6.2 Conoersation analysis
i]~ this many times. 1 «B» said, it came down t ' this: = .:s; correcting misunderstandings, narnely reformulation that makes
= our main difference: 1feel that a governrnent, i- the rnain ..~;: the same point in different words. In the following turn, B then
thing, is- th-the purpose of the goverment is, what is best
for the country. displays understanding of the alternative reading, by acknowledging
T2 A: Mmhmm A's agreement with hirn, that's exactly what I mean. We can thus
T3 B: He ((T» says, governments, an' you know he keeps- he show that the ambiguity is a participant's (and not merely an
talks about governrnents, they sh- the thing that they sh'd analyst's) ambiguity: each party deals with each reading once - A by
do is whar's right or wrong. correcting B's interpretation, and then reforrnulating his own intended
T4 --> A: Forwhom.
reading, and B by first beginning to respond to the non-intended
'1'5 B: Weil he says-/ /he-
T6 A: By what standard. reading, and then showing understanding of the second reading as
T7 B: That's what- that's exactly what I mean. He s- but he says an agreement with hirn against his teacher, by acknowledging A's
agreement.
But how does the arnbiguity arise? Since it is clearly not a matter
The particular interest of this extract is a crucial arnbiguity associated of the grammatical or lexical ambiguity of For whom, the source of
with the utterance For whom. It is not, however, an arnbiguity that the ambiguity must lie outside the utterance itself in its sequential
lies in the linguistic structure of the utterance, nor has it to do with location in the conversation. We need now to show that the structural
any lexical arnbiguities of the words for and whom; and unlike location itself predisposes us to both of the relevant interpretations.
linguistic ambiguities, which scarcely ever cause difficulties in context, Stories, we noted, require the suspension of the normal turn-taking
this one dernonstrably is (or becornes) ambiguous for the participants. system, wh ich then requires resumption. This could be provided for,
"':::
The ambiguity is this: on one reading (R I) A, in uttering For uihom, it wasargued, if storyendings areeasily recognizable. One recognizable
asks a question that we might paraphrase as 'What exactly did your and recurrent story ending format is a summing up of the story , and
teacher say - governments should do what's right for whmn? Whorn that is what we find occurring in our extract - B says It came down
did he have in rnind?' On the other reading (Rz ), A, in asking For to this : our main difference is ... and the summary folIows. So the slot
tohom, is actually trying to show that he agrees with B against B's in which A says For tohom is the first slot after a story ending. Such
teacher (T), and he is trying to show this by offering a potential piece a slot is one where story recipients can be expected to do one of two
of B's argument against T. To see this consider that B is reporting things: they may ask for further details or clarifications of the
T as saying that foreign policy should be based on what is morally story - and this is the sequential basis for the simple question
right - to wh ich B might have retorted by saying Yes, but right for interpretation, R I ; or they may show understanding and appreciation
whom?, pointing out that ethical judgements of good or bad depend of the story (as e.g. in the expectable laughter after a joke: see
upon different parties ' points of view. So on this reading, or discussion of (48) above), and it is this possibility that forms the basis
interpretation, A in saying For tohom is providing an utterance that of the second, more complex, interpretation, Rz. For one way of
B might have used against his teacher, thus showing agreement with showing understanding is to express agreement in such a way that
B. prior understanding must have taken place, and For tohom does just
That both readings of the utterance become available to B is clear. this, by showing agreement through displaying understanding of the
First, in T5, he starts off responding to RI, the straightforward argument that B was having with his teacher.
question interpretation, by beginning on a further specification of But there's another element here: this agreement reading is
what the teacher says. But then A interrupts with a correction; we reinforced by consideration of the kind of story that B's story is,
know this in part because only corrections of such sorts are priority namely an 'opposition story' or a reported argument. Such stor ies
-~
items licensing violations of the turn-taking rules. But we also know Ti have as features not only an alternation of reported speakers, or an
that T6 is a correction because it utilizes a standard device for A-B-A-B structure of reported turns, but also, mapped onto the

33°
331

Related Interests

~
;'l. such sequential expectations actually are oriented to by participants;
.~: y
~i (44) Dreui, T981 : 249

.:
and (c) showing that, as a consequence of such expectations, while
:~~,
':.'
J. M: What's the time- by the clock?
some organizational problems are resolved, others are actually created,
1 11
R: Uh
for which further organizations will be required. ._~.
M: What 's the time?
-> (3,0)
J..' M: (Now) wh at nurnbers that?
6.2.3 Some applieations
In this section we illustrate how the observations ahove
f" R: Number two
M: No it's not
may be applied to yield insight into particular instances of talk. We
What is it?
will start by considering what is apparently just one phenomenon-
R: lt's a one and a nought
,~
silence, or aperiod of non-speech - and show how such pauses can
!l! be discriminated into many different kinds with quite different Here, in the turn prior to the pause, a mother asks her child to try
1 significances on the basis of their structural locations. Then we will and tell the time. So, by Rule I(a) in (10), the pause is a silence,
~1i'
f~' summarize an analysis by Schegloff of an opaque little sequence rich attributable to the child R. But just because the question is an 'exam
in structural detail, showing that detailed analysis of individual question ' (and not, say , a pre-request), the silence he re can be
segments of talk is made possible by the use of the general findings understood as 'answer unknown '. Such an analysis is made clear by
and techniques al ready reviewed. These examples should suffice to the mother's next turn, where an easier quest ion is asked that, if
indicate how much organization there is to be discovered in the answered, might provide a partial solution to the first question.
smallest extract of talk, and how powerful sequential location can bc Now in (45) we have a small pause after the second turn in the
in the assignment of multiple functions to individual utterances. opening of a telephone call:
There have been many theories about the significance of pauses and
(45) Schegloff , 1979a: 37
hesitations in conversation: some analysts, for example, have seen C: (Ir ings))
pauses as evidence of verbal planning, i.e. 'time out' for psychological '1'1 R: Hello?
processing either in the routine preparation of the ftuent phases that Tz C: Hello Charles.
often follow (Butterworth, 1975) or in the production of complex -> (o.z)
syntax (Goldman-Eisler, 1968; Bernstein, 1973). But the following T3 C: This is Yolk.
observations show that any unitary account of pauses, and any As noted earlier, for a caller to provide a greeting in T2 (his first verbal
account that does not take into consideration their role as potentially turn) is to claim that the recipient should be able to recognize the
symbolic devices, will be fundamentally misguided. caller on the basis of this sampIe of voice-quality alone. The second
The turn-taking system itself assigns different values to pauses turn, we noted, is in fact the first part of an adjacency greeting pair;
wirhin conversation. We have already described how the rules in (10) a second is therefore due. Onee again, then, the delay (short though

3z6 3z7
Conversational structure 6.2 Conversation analysis

it is) is R's delay and can be taken by C to indicate a problem for of the recipients (A) laugh, and then it has the careful syllabicity of
R. That the problem is here a problem in identification is shown by mock laughter. The pauses here are assignable to story recipients as
the repair C offers, after a significant pause has developed, namely their silenees, and the withholding of appreciation signals 'failed
an overt self-identification (This is Yolk). That the problem indicated joke' (see Sacks, 1974).
to C by this sm all delay is not imaginary is shown by examples like (48) Sacks, I974: 339
the following, where in T3 R has to invite C to repair wh at C had K: ((teils dirty joke, ending thus:)) Third girl, walks up
taken to be an adequate self-identification (the Hello in Tz): t'her - Why didn ' ya say anything last night; W' you told
me it was always impolite t'talk with my mouth full,
(46) Schegloff, I979a:
C: ((rings))
39
'.'
,:,.
-> (2.0)
K: hh hyok hyok,
TI
1'2

1'3
-+
R: Hello?
C: Hello.
( I.S)
R: Who's this.
,. -+

-+
(I.O)
K: hyok,
(3.0)
A: HA-HA-HA-HA
Here a momentary pause is heard immediately as a problem with what Many further kinds of significant absences of speech can be found - see
f is always underway in the first few turns of telephone conversations, e.g. (66), (67), (76) and (77) below - and each kind draws the analyst's
namely the business of mutual identification. Therefore the signi- attention to the strong kinds of expectations that different conversa-
ficance of a pause here is determined by that set of overlapping tional organizations, whether local, overall or intermediate in scope,
organizations that converge on the first few turns of telephone calls, impose on particular sequential slots. The demonstration is the more
as indicated in (30) above; that set determines, via adjacency pair remarkable in that silence has no features of its own: all the different
organization and the structure of opening sections, just how a pause significances attributed to it must have their sources in the structural
in this location will be interpreted. expectations engendered by the surrounding talk. So sequential
In (47) a pause, which can be analysed as somewhat similar to that expectations are not only capable of making something out of
in (45), occurs after an invitation. Once again, an invitation is a first nothing, but also of constructing many different kinds of significance
part of an adjacency pair, and this assigns next turn to the other party: out of the sheer absence of talk. If conversational organization can
(47) Dauidson;in press map 'meaning' onto silence, it can also map situated significance onto
A: C'mon down he:re, =it's oka:y, utterances - and in fact can be shown to regularly do so.
-> (0.2) Let us now turn to one short extract of conversation and show how
A: I got lotta stuff, = I got be :er en stuff the various findings and techniques we have reviewed can be applied
And, as in (45), a short pause occurs, hearable as the other party's to good effect. The argument is abrief resume of Schegloff, 1976. The
silence, and clearly analysed in this (and many related examples) as extract comes from a radio call-in programme broadcast in the United
some problem with A's invitation, which A consequently upgrades - States, and in it B, who is a High School pupil, is reporting to the
i.e. an attempt is made to make the invitation more attractive (see cornpcre of the show, A, an argument that he has been having with
Davidson, in press on the systematicity of this pattern). his history teacher about American foreign policy. The teacher (T)
Finally, the following example features the punchline of a dirty joke holds that foreign policy should be based on morality, but B thinks
and the ensuing laughter. As we pointed out, after a story an it should be based on expediency - 'what is good for America'. It
appreciation is immediately relevant, and the temporary suspension runs as folIows:
of the turn-transition relevance is lifted. But here we have a two-second (49) Schegloff, I976 " D9
delay, and then instead of recipient laughter we have teller's laughter TI B: An' s- an' ( ) we were discussing, it tur- , it comes down,
(with a further four-second delay interspersed). Only then does one he ((1')) s- he says, I-I-you've talked with thi- si- i- about

328 329
~i

ii!
l1~:
;'
j~
Ij-i
Conuersational structure ;t 6.2 Conoersation analysis
i]~ this many times. 1 «B» said, it came down t ' this: = .:s; correcting misunderstandings, narnely reformulation that makes
= our main difference: 1feel that a governrnent, i- the rnain ..~;: the same point in different words. In the following turn, B then
thing, is- th-the purpose of the goverment is, what is best
for the country. displays understanding of the alternative reading, by acknowledging
T2 A: Mmhmm A's agreement with hirn, that's exactly what I mean. We can thus
T3 B: He ((T» says, governments, an' you know he keeps- he show that the ambiguity is a participant's (and not merely an
talks about governrnents, they sh- the thing that they sh'd analyst's) ambiguity: each party deals with each reading once - A by
do is whar's right or wrong. correcting B's interpretation, and then reforrnulating his own intended
T4 --> A: Forwhom.
reading, and B by first beginning to respond to the non-intended
'1'5 B: Weil he says-/ /he-
T6 A: By what standard. reading, and then showing understanding of the second reading as
T7 B: That's what- that's exactly what I mean. He s- but he says an agreement with hirn against his teacher, by acknowledging A's
agreement.
But how does the arnbiguity arise? Since it is clearly not a matter
The particular interest of this extract is a crucial arnbiguity associated of the grammatical or lexical ambiguity of For whom, the source of
with the utterance For whom. It is not, however, an arnbiguity that the ambiguity must lie outside the utterance itself in its sequential
lies in the linguistic structure of the utterance, nor has it to do with location in the conversation. We need now to show that the structural
any lexical arnbiguities of the words for and whom; and unlike location itself predisposes us to both of the relevant interpretations.
linguistic ambiguities, which scarcely ever cause difficulties in context, Stories, we noted, require the suspension of the normal turn-taking
this one dernonstrably is (or becornes) ambiguous for the participants. system, wh ich then requires resumption. This could be provided for,
"':::
The ambiguity is this: on one reading (R I) A, in uttering For uihom, it wasargued, if storyendings areeasily recognizable. One recognizable
asks a question that we might paraphrase as 'What exactly did your and recurrent story ending format is a summing up of the story , and
teacher say - governments should do what's right for whmn? Whorn that is what we find occurring in our extract - B says It came down
did he have in rnind?' On the other reading (Rz ), A, in asking For to this : our main difference is ... and the summary folIows. So the slot
tohom, is actually trying to show that he agrees with B against B's in which A says For tohom is the first slot after a story ending. Such
teacher (T), and he is trying to show this by offering a potential piece a slot is one where story recipients can be expected to do one of two
of B's argument against T. To see this consider that B is reporting things: they may ask for further details or clarifications of the
T as saying that foreign policy should be based on what is morally story - and this is the sequential basis for the simple question
right - to wh ich B might have retorted by saying Yes, but right for interpretation, R I ; or they may show understanding and appreciation
whom?, pointing out that ethical judgements of good or bad depend of the story (as e.g. in the expectable laughter after a joke: see
upon different parties ' points of view. So on this reading, or discussion of (48) above), and it is this possibility that forms the basis
interpretation, A in saying For tohom is providing an utterance that of the second, more complex, interpretation, Rz. For one way of
B might have used against his teacher, thus showing agreement with showing understanding is to express agreement in such a way that
B. prior understanding must have taken place, and For tohom does just
That both readings of the utterance become available to B is clear. this, by showing agreement through displaying understanding of the
First, in T5, he starts off responding to RI, the straightforward argument that B was having with his teacher.
question interpretation, by beginning on a further specification of But there's another element here: this agreement reading is
what the teacher says. But then A interrupts with a correction; we reinforced by consideration of the kind of story that B's story is,
know this in part because only corrections of such sorts are priority namely an 'opposition story' or a reported argument. Such stor ies
-~
items licensing violations of the turn-taking rules. But we also know Ti have as features not only an alternation of reported speakers, or an
that T6 is a correction because it utilizes a standard device for A-B-A-B structure of reported turns, but also, mapped onto the

33°
331

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