Vol. 13:2 (2020) ► pp.132–157
What dialog is absent from constructed dialog?
This paper is concerned with constructed dialog in conversational storytelling. Based on Clark & Gerrig’s (1990) demonstration theory, its focus is on what is absent from constructed dialog. To determine what is absent, a comparison is made between constructed dialog tokens and utterances in conversation. The inquiry uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. It is based on the Narrative Corpus (NC; Rühlemann & O’Donnell 2012), a corpus of conversational narratives extracted from the conversational component of the British National Corpus (BNC), and its systematic annotation of constructed dialog (that is, direct speech introduced by a quotative and free direct speech without any introducer). The quantitative comparison of verbalizations used in constructed dialog as opposed to verbalizations used in conversational utterances demonstrates that a particular utterance type is significantly missing from constructed dialog: the continuer utterance, whose basic function is to exhibit an understanding that a form of ‘telling’ by another speaker is going on. The qualitative analysis, based on a subset of storytellings from the NC that were re-analyzed acoustically and re-transcribed using Jeffersonian conventions based on the Audio BNC (Coleman et al. 2012), reveals a stark mismatch between the commonness of tellings in talk-in-interaction and their uncommonness in constructed dialog. The absence of continuers from constructed dialog is discussed against the backdrop of indexicality. I argue that continuers share the key properties of indexicals – semantic vacuity and an existential relationship with the ‘thing’ indicated – and can therefore be seen as indexicals themselves. As indexicals, intrinsically connected to the speech situation of their utterance, continuers cannot be included in constructed dialog, which typically occurs in a different speech situation with different interactional parameters. Finally, I offer initial thoughts on the underrepresentation of telling sequences in constructed dialog.
- 2.Data and methods
- 5.Concluding remarks