Constructing a proposal as a thought: A way to manage problems in the initiation of joint decision-making in finnish workplace interaction

Melisa Stevanovic

Abstract

Drawing on fifteen video-recorded planning meetings as data, and on conversation analysis as a method, I examine the interactional import of the common Finnish practice of constructing a proposal as a thought. As a point of departure, I consider two different types of conditional utterances in which a speaker presents a plan: (1) ‘asking conditionals’ (jos ‘what if’ prefaced declarative conditionals and interrogative conditionals) and (2) ‘stating conditionals’ (declarative conditionals). While asking conditionals mark the plan as contingent on the recipient’s approval and involve a straightforward request for the recipient to engage in joint decision-making about the proposed plan, stating conditionals are regularly treated as informings about plans in which the recipients have actually no word to say. However, when asking and stating conditionals are prefaced with references to the speakers’ thoughts (mä aattelin et ‘I was thinking that’), the projected responses and sequential trajectories are more open-ended: The participants have the opportunity to share the responsibility, not only for what is to be decided with respect to the proposed plan, but also for what is to be jointly decided upon in the first place. Constructing a proposal as a thought seems thus to be a practice with which participants may enable the symmetrical distribution of deontic rights at the very beginning of joint decision-making sequences.

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