Conversation and preference structure

BASIC CONCEPTS I
Conversation is clearly the prototypical kind of language usage, the form in which we are all first exposed to language All major aspects of pragmatic organization are connected to usage in conversation + + deixis: encoding of temporal, spatial, social, discourse parameters organized around the assumption of co-present conversational participants presupposition: involving constraints on the way in which information has to be presented if it is to be introduced to particular participants with specific shared knowledge and assumptions about the world implicatures: deriving from specific assumptions about conversational context speech acts: building on the assumption of a conversational matrix (e.g., betting requires an uptake to be effective)

+ +

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
BASIC CONCEPTS II
A: I have a 14-year-old son B: Well, that’s alright A: I also have a dog B: Oh, I’m sorry This dialog seems bizarre in isolation, its meaning becoming clear only when embedded in a full conversation/situation (discussion with landlord about apartment rental) no independent, general rules for the sequencing of conversation structure, but particular phenomena can be described
- the term 'interaction' could apply to a very large number of different social - typical structure of conversation: I speak - you speak - I speak - you speak ... encounters

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
CONVERSATION ANALYSIS
Terminology in analogy with market economy floor the right to speak turn having control of the right to speak turn-taking attempt to take control of the right to speak local management system set of conventions for getting, keeping and giving away turns transition relevance place (TRP) possible change-of-turn point speakers having a conversation = taking turns at holding the floor - speakers may cooperate and share the floor equally - speakers may compete for keeping the floor, preventing others from getting it CAUTION: systems of conversationational interaction vary greatly between social/cultural groups

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
PAUSES AND OVERLAPS I
Conversations typically consist of two or more participants taking turns, and only one participant speaking at any time. Smooth transitions from one speaker to the next are valued.
- transitions with a long silence between turns - transition with overlap (both speakers speaking at the same time) are perceived as awkward

Situation: Student and his girlfriend's father during their first meeting
Mr. Strait: What's your major, Dave? Dave: English - well I haven't really decided yet. (3 seconds silence) Mr. Strait: So - you want to be a teacher? Dave: No - not really - well not if I can help it. (2 seconds silence) Mr. Strait: Wha-//Where do you-- //go ahead Dave: I mean it's a--oh sorry //I em-

- = short pauses, hesitations // = beginning of overlap (both speakers attempt to initiate talk) silences are not attributable to either speaker because each has completed a turn no rhythm to transitions (no flow) conveys sense of distance, absence of familiarity/ease
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Conversation and preference structure
PAUSES AND OVERLAPS II
If one speaker explicitly turns over the floor to another and the other does not speak, then the silence is attributable to the second speaker and becomes significant
Jan: Jan: Jan: Dave: Jan: Dave, I'm going to the store. (2 seconds) Dave? (2 seconds) Dave - is something wrong? What? What's wrong? Nevermind.

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
PAUSES AND OVERLAPS III
Other types of overlap (apart from initial type): - for many (younger) speakers overlapped talk appears to function like an expression of solidarity or closeness in expressing similar opinions
Deb: Wendy: Deb: Wendy Deb: Wendy: Joe: Jerry: Did you see him in the video? Yeah - the part on the beach Oh my God // he was so sexy // he was just being so cool And all the waves // crashing around him! // yeah that was really wild. When they were in // power las-wait CAN I FINISH? // that's my point I said --

- overlap can also communicate competition

speaker are competing for the floor
The point of overlap is treated as an interruption and the first speaker actually has to make a comment about procedure, i.e., appeals to an unstated rule of conversation structure, namely that each potential speaker is expected to wait until the current speaker reaches a TRP markers of TRPs: - end of a structural unit (phrase/clause) - pause
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Conversation and preference structure
PAUSES AND OVERLAPS IV
A speaker who wants to keep holding the floor will avoid providing TRPs, i.e. avoiding open pauses at the end of syntactic units and places fillers/breaths in the middle, not at the end of those units.
I wasn't talking about - um his first book that was - uh really just like a start and so - uh isn't doesn't count really.

Another floor holding device is to indicate that there is a larger structure to your turn
a. There are three points I'd like to make -- first ... b. There's more than one way to do this -- one example would be ... c. Didn't you know about Melvin? - Oh, it was last October ... d. Did you hear about Cindy's new car? - She got it in ...

a/b technical information about coming structure c/d preludes to storytelling suspend regular exchange of turn process, speaker allowed to have extended turn

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
BACKCHANNELS
speakers expect their conversational partners to indicate that they are listening - nodding, smiling, other facial expressions, gestures - vocal indications are called backchannel signals
Caller: If you use your long distance service a lot then you'll … Mary: // uh-huh Caller: be interested in the discount I'm talking about because … Mary: // yeah Caller: it can only save you money to switch to a cheaper service // mmm

• backchannel signals provide feedback to the speaker that the message is being received, they indicate that the listener is following and not objecting • the absence of backchannels is interpreted as significant (in telephone conversations the speaker is prompted to ask whether the speaker is still there). • in face-to-face conversations the absence of backchannels may be interpreted as a way of withholding agreement.

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
CONVERSATIONAL STYLE
There are individual and cultural differences in conversational style/turn taking • some individuals expect that participation in a conversation will be very active, that speaking rate will be relatively fast, with almost no pausing between turns, and with some overlap or even competition between turns high involvement style • other speakers use a slower rate, expect longer pauses between turns, do not overlap and avoid interruption or completion of the other's turn high considerateness style style clashes lead a conversation to be one-sided - the faster speaker may think the slower one doesn't have much to say, is shy, perhaps boring or stupid - the slower speaker may view the faster one as noisy, pushy, domineering, selfish and tiresome features of conversational style are often interpreted as personality traits

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Conversation and preference structure
ADJACENCY PAIRS I
Almost automatic patterns in the structure of conversation, e.g., in greetings and good-byes
Anna: Hello! Anna: How are you? Anna: See ya! Bill: Hi! Bill: Fine. Bill: Bye!

These automatic sequences are called adjacency pairs They always consist of a first and second part produced by different speakers. The utterance of the first part immediately creates an expectation of the utterance of a second part of the pair. Failure to produce the second part will be treated as a significant and hence meaningful. A lot of internal variation is possible: Example: opening sequences of a conversation First Part Second Part
A: What's up? A: How's it goin'? A: How are things? A: How ya doin'
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B: Nothin' much B: Jus' hangin' in there B: The usual B: Can't complain
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Conversation and preference structure
ADJACENCY PAIRS II
Example: question - answer sequence Example: thanking - response sequence Example: request - accept sequence A: What time is it? B: About eight-thirty A: Thanks. B: You're welcome A: Could you help me with this? B: Sure

Insertion sequences can intervene between adjacency pairs Form Q1 - Q2 - A2 - A1 (one adjacency pair within another)
Agent: Do you want the early flight? Client:What time does it arrive? Agent: Nine forty-five Client: Yeah - that's great (= Q1) (= Q2) (= A2) (= A1) (Req. 1) (Q2) (A2) (Acc. 1) (Q1) (HOLD) (ACCEPT) (A1) Delay in response marks potential unavailability of the expected answer. It represents the distance between what is expected and what is provided and is always interpreted as meaningful.

Mix of different sequences possible
Jean: Could you mail this letter for me? Fred: Does it have a stamp on? Jean: Yeah. Fred: Okay

also with temporary interactional exit
A: Uhm, what’s the price now with VAT? B: Er, I’ll just work that out for you A: Thanks (10.0 s) B: Three Dollars nineteen a tube, Sir

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
ADJACENCY PAIRS III
Opening Sections (Summons-Answer Sequences) First utterance is a summons, the second utterance an answer to the summons, establishing an open channel for talk (three part structure).
Child: Mommy? Mum: Yes, dear. Child: Can I have chocolate? summons answer reason for summons

In telephone conversations the ringing of the telephone acts as the summons. Additional potential problems are identification/recognition
A: (causes telephone to ring at B’s location) B: Hello A: Hi B: Oh hi! summons answer + display for recognition greeting 1 + claim that A has recognized B + claim that B can recognize A greeting 2 + claim that B has recognized A

Speakers tend to use a signatured prosody/voice quality in identity turns After the opening sequence the caller announces the reason for the call (first topic slot)
B: (causes telephone to ring) A: Hello B: Hello Rob. This is Laurie. How’s everything? A: Pretty good. How ‘bout you? B: Just fine. The reason I called was to ask …
Hauptseminar Introduction to Pragmatics
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Conversation and preference structure
ADJACENCY PAIRS IV
Closing Sections
The closure of any topic after the first one makes the introduction of a closing section imminent (some phone calls have an expectable overall organization that admits just one topic (‘monotopical’)) - closings placed in such a way that no party is forced to exit while still having compelling things to say - hasty or slow terminations carry unwelcome inferences about the relationships between the speakers A: Why don’t we all have lunch? B: Okay, so that would be in St. Jude’s wouldn’t it? A: Yes B: Okay so … A: One o’clock in the bar closing implicative topic (arrangement) B: Okay A: Okay? one or more pairs of passing turns with B: Okay then thanks very much indeed George – pre-closing items (okay, alright, so …) A: - Alright B: //See you there A: //See you there B: Okay A: Okay // bye terminal elements B: // bye Often closings reference back to aspects of the opening section, include summaries, or ask about the recipient’s state of health
Hauptseminar Introduction to Pragmatics
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Conversation and preference structure
PREFERENCE STRUCTURE I
adjacency pairs represent social actions, and not all social actions are equal when they occur as second parts of some pairs, e.g., a first part request expects an acceptance acceptance is structurally more likely than refusal Structural likelihood is called preference Preference structure divides second parts into preferred and dispreferred social acts
First part Second part Preferred Isn't that really great? Why not join us tonight? Want some coffee? Maybe we could go for a walk Can you help me? agree accept accept agree accept Yes, it is I’d love to Yes, please That'd be great Sure

Dispreferred disagree refuse decline disagree refuse

assessment Invitation offer proposal request

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
PREFERENCE STRUCTURE II
Silence is also always a dispreferred response, often leading to a revision of the first part. (Non-response communicates that the speaker is not in a position to provide the preferred response)
Sandy: But I'm sure they'll have good food there (1.6 seconds) Sandy: Hmm - I guess the food isn't great Jack: Nah - people mostly go for the music

Silence is risky as it may give the impression of non-participation in the conversational structure Speakers often signal that they are producing the marked, dispreferred structure

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
PREFERENCE STRUCTURE III
assessment
Cindy: So chiropodists do hands I guess Julie: Em - well - out there - they they mostly work on people's feet - initial hesitation: delay (em + pause) - preface: well - appeal to the views of others: out there - stumbling repetition: they they - relativizing statement/mitigation: mostly

invitation
Becky: Come over for some coffee later Wally: Oh - eh - I'd love to - but you see - I - I'm supposed to get this finished - you know - hesitation: oh - eh - preface: I'd love to (token acceptance) - stumbling repetition: I - I'm - account: I'm supposed to get this finished - invocation of understanding: but you see, you know

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
PREFERENCE STRUCTURE IV
How to do a dispreferred second part.
delay/hesitate preface express doubt token acceptance apology mention obligation appeal for understanding make it non-personal give an account use mitigators hedge the negative pause; er; em; ah well; oh I'm not sure; I don't know that's great; I'd love to I'm sorry; what a pity I must do X; I'm expected in Y you see; you know everbody else; out there too much work; no time left really; mostly; sort of; kinda I guess not; not possible

• • • •

dispreferreds take more time/language/effort more language creates more distance between first and second part preferred represents closeness and quick connection participants try to avoid creating contexts for dispreferreds e.g., by using pre-sequences

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Introduction to Pragmatics

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Conversation and preference structure
EXERCISE
Identify the adjacency pairs in the given dialogs 1 A: May I have a bottle of beer? B: Are you 21? A: No B: No B: I ordered some paint from you a couple of weeks ago A: Yuh B: And I wanted to order some more – the name’s Boyd A: Yes // how many tubes would you like, Sir? B: // AnB: Uhm, what’s the price now, eh, with VAT, do you know? A: er, I’ll just work that out for you B: Thanks (10.0 s) A: Three Dollars nineteen a tube, Sir B: Three nineteen is it? A: Yeah B: Eh, yes uhm, jus- justa think, that’s what thre nineteen, that’s for the large tube, isn’t it? A: Well yeah it’s the thirty-seven CCS B: Er, Hmm, I tell you what – I’ll just uh call you back – I have to work out how many I’ll need. Sorry I did- wasn’t sure of the price, you see A: Okay
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Q1 Q2 A2 A1

2

R1 Q1 Q2 HOLD ACCEPT A2 Q3 A3 Q4 A4 ACCOUNT FOR NO A1

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