LINGUIST List 14.2177

Mon Aug 18 2003

Review: Discourse Analysis: Prevignano & Thibault

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  1. chaoqun xie, Discussing Conversation Analysis: The Work of Emanuel A. Schegloff

Message 1: Discussing Conversation Analysis: The Work of Emanuel A. Schegloff

Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 08:47:20 +0800
From: chaoqun xie <>
Subject: Discussing Conversation Analysis: The Work of Emanuel A. Schegloff

Prevignano, Carlo L. and Paul J. Thibault, ed. (2003) Discussing 
Conversation Analysis: The Work of Emanuel A. Schegloff, John Benjamins 
Publishing Company. 

Announced at 

Chaoqun Xie, Fujian Normal University 


This book contains 10 chapters, including a preface, in which the
editors briefly introduce the individual chapters to follow. In Ch. 1,
''Presenting Emanuel A. Schegloff'', John Heritage outlines
Schegloff's academic accomplishments, retorting upon the criticism or
misperception that Schegloff takes little account of context in his
work. Heritage rightly argues that it is no easy matter to fully
appreciate the complicated conceptual, empirical and methodological
considerations as evidenced in Schegloff's research output, which is
confirmed by some of the misreadings or misinterpretations present in
some of the chapters that follow (Chs. 4, 5, 6, and 7).

Ch. 2 is an interview with Schegloff on CA conducted by Sv�tla
Cmejrkov� and Carlo L. Prevignano. In this long and informative
interview, Schegloff provides an excellent synthesis of various
central issues pertaining to CA, from the briefing of three current
research programs to personal academic development, from love affair
with CA to personal and intellectual interaction with Goffman,
Garfinkel and Sacks, from concerns about social cognition, formalism
in CA and interactional order to problems with Habermas's work,
interactional disorders, views on the contexts of talk and suggestions
for young researchers. In this chapter, the reader is presented with a
clear picture of the past, present and possible future of CA.

In Ch. 3, Charles Goodwin talks about ''The power of Schegloff's
work'' with reference to his research into the talk of
neurologically-impaired patients. For Goodwin, the power of CA lies in
its unstinting commitment to cutting across the rigidly solid
boundaries of various disciplines in social sciences and to exploring
how participants (re)co-construct their social meaning and their
identity within talk- in-interaction.

In. Ch. 4, 'Putting Schegloff's principles and practices in context',
Rick Iedema begins with a summary of the interview (Ch. 2), some of
which are actually misreadings, before focusing on three issues
addressed in the interview. First, Iedema asks whether conversation
analysts usually have unproblematic and transparent access to the
relevance of talk on the part of the analyst. Second, it is argued
that such notions as ''naturally occurring talk'' or ''ordinary
conversation'' are far from transparent. Third, comments are made on
two types of context (external and internal) and on CA's focus on the
so-called ''constants of talk''. Finally, Iedema draws our attention
to the dynamic and ephemeral aspects of human interaction.

In Ch. 5, ''Conversation analysis as rigorous science'', P�r Segerdahl
begins with the phenomenological architecture of Schegloff's research,
arguing in particular that the assumption that participants in
occasions of talk orient to the normative constructions of CA is an
illusion and that attempts should be made to distinguish the tools of
CA from actual conversations to solve Schegloff's problem of
truthfulness. For Segerdahl, ''the most fundamental features of
Schegloff's technical apparatus do not correspond to the actual facts
of conversation'' (96). As Schegloff argues in his response, however,
none of the assessments Segerdahl has made is warranted.

In Ch. 6, ''Users' interpretations at a computer tutorial: Detecting
(causes) of misunderstandings'', Pirkko Raudaskoski shows that CA is a
strong method for finding out how text users understand what is going
on. Through a detailed analysis of the interaction between two novice
users of Microsoft Word 5.0 and the Learning Microsoft Word program,
the author aims to demonstrate what a CA analysis can reveal about
user-readers' interpretations of electronic texts. It should be noted,
however, human-computer interaction, or human interaction with the
help of computers is not naturally occurring interaction in the usual
or real sense of CA.

In Ch. 7, ''When conversation is not normal: The role of conversation
analysis in language pathology'', Ruth Lesser applies CA to the field
of neuropsychology, discussing various issues related to in aphasic
conversations, including sequentiality and topic management,
variability between dyads and within dyads across time, and CA in
assessment and therapy (cf. Goodwin 2003).

Ch. 8 is Schegloff's response to various contributions to this volume,
where Schegloff points out that some of the criticisms made by other
contributors to this volume are merely misunderstandings or misfires.
In Ch. 9, Carlo L. Prevignano and Paul L. Thibault continue the
interview with Schegloff., addressing such topics as differences
between 'turn' and 'move', grammar in turn-taking, and the relations
between CA and interactional linguistics (cf. Ford et al. 2002 ).
Finally, Ch. 10 is ''A bibliography of Emanuel A. Schegloff'' edited
by Susan L. Eerdmans.


Over the past thirty or more years, conversation analysis (CA) has
developed into and proved to be one of the most robust research areas
attracting students of divergent academic backgrounds, pragmatics
(Levinson 1983), for instance. Adopting a sociological approach to
language and resorting to naturally occurring conversation, CA aims,
among other things, to demonstrate that human interaction can be
systematically observed and studied. And it goes without saying that,
when it comes to CA, one of the most prominent and productive figures
is undoubtedly Emanuel A. Schegloff, who, arguing in favor of treating
language behavior as situated social action and interaction, has been
making outstanding and original contributions to the growth and
development of this line of inquiry. This should become self-evident
when one takes a quick glance of ''A bibliography of Emanuel A.
Schegloff'' edited by Susan L. Eerdmans at the end of the present
volume under review. This book provides a good forum for both
supporters and critics of CA to discuss various central issues related
to CA.

To conclude, the collection of papers provides a good opportunity, for
those interested in CA and Schegloff, to obtain a deep and profound
understanding of how CA has come to its present form, to what extent
CA has been and can be explored, what Schegloff has contributed to CA
as one of its most powerful advocators and, most importantly, how CA
as an empirically-oriented research methodology can be used to better
account for human interaction and sense-making activities. And the
interested reader is referred to Eerdmans et al. (2003) to see in what
aspects Gumperz and Schegloff are both similar to and different from
each other in their approach to language in social action and
interaction. Actually, CA has greatly contributed to a new
orientation to language labeled ''interactional linguistics'' (Selting
and Couper-Kuhlen 2001). More recently, there have been more and more
endeavors to introduce CA into the study of politeness (Golato 2002;
Antonopoulou and Sifianou 2003). Of course, this is not to say that CA
is not without any problem, which can be seen from the challenges
posed by various contributions. For Gumperz (see Prevignano and di
Luzio 2003), for instance, the CA's transcription system developed by
Gail Jefferson seems to have taken little account of prosodic and
paralinguistic aspects of conversation (but cf. Schegloff
1998). Another point we need to be cautious about is that the
so-called 'cultural hegemony' might arise as a result of aiming for
universality or systematics with no or little attention to
cross-cultural variation (Sifianou 2002).


Antonopoulou, Eleni; and Sifianou, Maria. 2003. Conversational
dynamics of humour: the telephone game in Greek. Journal of Pragmatics
35: 741- 769.

Eerdmans, Susan L.; Prevignano, Carlo L.; and Thibault, Paul
J. (Eds.). 2003. Language and interaction: Discussions with John
J. Gumperz. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ford, Cecilia E.; Fox, Barbara A.; and Thompson, Sandra A. (Eds.).
2002. The language of turn and sequence. New York: Oxford University

Golato, Andrea. 2002. German compliment responses. Journal of
Pragmatics 34: 547-571.

Goodwin, Charles (Ed.). 2003. Conversation and brain damage. New York:
Oxford University Press.

Levinson, Stephen C. 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1998. Reflections on studying prosody in
talk-in- Interaction. Language and Speech 41: 235-263.

Prevignano, Carlo L.; and di Luzio, Aldo. 2003. A discussion with John
J. Gumperz. In: Eerdmans, Susan L.; Prevignano, Carlo L.; and
Thibault, Paul J. (Eds.). Language and interaction: Discussions with
John J. Gumperz. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 7-29.

Selting, Margret; and Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth (Eds.). 2001. Studies
in interactional linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sifianou, Maria. 2002. On the telephone again! Telephone conversation
openings in Greek. In: Luke, Kang Kwong; and Pavlidou,
Theodossia-Soula (Eds.), Telephone calls: Unity and diversity in
conversational structure across languages and cultures. Amsterdam:
John Benjamins, pp. 49-85.


Chaoqun Xie is a lecturer with the Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian
Normal University, China. His main areas of research interests include
interactional sociopragmatics, sociolinguistics, culture,
communication and translation and has published extensively in these
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