‘Pivotage’ in French talk-in-interaction: On the emergent nature of [clause-np-clause] pivots

Anne-Sylvie Horlacher and Simona Pekarek Doehler


French talk-in-interaction shows a recurrent patterning of utterances that can schematically be presented as [clause-NP-clause], as in ellei va s’effacer l’imagei ellei va s’effacer (‘iti is going to fade away the image,i iti is going to fade away)’, where i signals co-indexicality. In this pattern, the NP represents a pivot element which together with the preceding clause can be heard as forming a right dislocation ([clause-NP]), and together with the subsequent clause can be heard as forming a left dislocation ([NP-clause]). One interactionally consequential feature of the [clause-NP-clause] pattern is that it organizes specific types of units in specific ways during the temporal unfolding of talk: It allows speakers to proffer two subsequent predications about the same referent, typically within one TCU, whereby the temporally second predication may be either identical (mirror image-like pivot patterns) or different from the first. We demonstrate that speakers use the [clause-NP-clause] pivot pattern to accomplish a set of interactional jobs related to the management of repair, to stance taking, to the progressivity of talk, and to issues of recipiency. We also show that, recurrently, the pattern is configured on-line, following an emergent trajectory which is adapted to local interactional contingencies; this is what we refer to as pivotage (‘pivoting’), i.e. the grammatical shaping of pivot patterns ‘in the making’. Based on these findings, we argue that the [clause-NP-clause] pivot pattern testifies to the adaptive, emergent and thoroughly temporal nature of grammar.

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