Using a category to accomplish resistance in the context of an emergency call: Michael Jackson’s doctor

Israel Berger, Celia Kitzinger and Sonja J. Ellis


We report a single case analysis of a recorded emergency call with particular reference to the use of the non-recognitional categorical person reference ‘a personal doctor’ in the sequential context created by the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) protocol routinely used by the emergency services. We describe both the position and the composition of the turn in which this categorical person reference is deployed in order to analyse the action accomplished by its selection. We show how this category reference is selected to support the action in which the speaker is otherwise engaged, which is to resist the sequential trajectory proposed by his interlocutor (giving instructions for cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Our analysis makes two key contributions: 1) it provides a concrete detailed exemplar of how analysts can ground claims about category-bound inferences in the empirical practices of talk in interaction and 2) it extends existing work on emergency calls by relating their sequential structure to the MPDS protocol.

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