Conversation analysis

Rebecca Clift, Paul DrewIan Hutchby

Table of contents

Conversation analysis (CA) has come to be the recognised term for what is in fact the study of talk-in-interaction (henceforth ‘talk’) in general; while it is not restricted to the study of conversation, it recognises that ordinary conversation is the basic environment for language use. In studying conversation and its adaptations, CA contributes to the development of a naturalistic, observation-based empirical science of actual verbal behavior alongside work in related fields within pragmatics (e.g., sociolinguistics and discourse analysis). What makes this approach distinctive is both its analytical focus and its treatment of interactional data. The focus of CA research is talk as a vehicle for action and its concern with how participants collaborate in constructing recognisable and coherent courses of action. To that end, recordings of naturally-occurring interaction are transcribed in such a way as to capture the temporal production of utterances in turns-at-talk and thus make available for analysis how participants understand and respond to one another. We shall see in due course a sample of data transcribed according to conversation analytic conventions and establish what this transcription makes possible, but we first turn to its emergence as a distinct field of inquiry.

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