LINGUIST List 14.275

Sat Jan 25 2003

Review: Discourse Analysis: Fetzer & Meierkord (2002)

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  1. Chaoqun Xie, Rethinking Sequentiality: Linguistics Meets Conversational Interaction

Message 1: Rethinking Sequentiality: Linguistics Meets Conversational Interaction

Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2003 13:16:39 +0000
From: Chaoqun Xie <>
Subject: Rethinking Sequentiality: Linguistics Meets Conversational Interaction

Fetzer, Anita and Christiane Meierkord, ed. (2002) Rethinking
Sequentiality: Linguistics Meets Conversational Interaction. John
Benjamins, vi+300pp, hardback ISBN 1-58811-233-0, $87.00, Pragmatics
and Beyond New Series 103.

Announced at

Chaoqun Xie, Fujian Teachers University


This collection of papers consisting of two major parts is, as
indicated by the two editors Christiane Meierkord and Anita Fetzer in
their introduction, an outgrowth of a panel discussion on
sequentiality at the 7th IPrA Conference held in Budapest in the year
2000. This volume aims to present a multidisciplinary perspective of
both theoretical and applied nature towards the concept of
sequentiality, which has received more and more enthusiastic attention
from researchers and scholars of convergent or divergent academic
backgrounds including ''functional pragmatics, dialogic theory,
narrative theory, cognitive pragmatics, relevance theory,
psycholinguistics, represented discourse and critical discourse
analysis'' (p. 1). In the introduction, the editors begin with a
discussion of the four notions of sequence, sequencing, sequential
organization and sequentiality. For them, sequence is
product-oriented, sequencing is process-oriented, and sequential
organization is both; sequencing and sequence are different from
sequential organization in that the former can apply to monadic
settings while the latter can not. And sequentiality, as a relational
concept, is the coherent structuring of sequenced utterances. A
relatively comprehensive understanding of these notions might not be
possible without the introduction of embeddedness and context. The
introduction also examines the notion of sequentiality in the research
paradigms of conversation analysis, speech act theory, Gricean
pragmatics, dialogue grammar and cognition and closes with a briefing
of the chapters that follow.

Part I is titled ''Sequences in theory and practice: Minimal and
unbounded?'' and contains five contributions. The first paper is
authored by one of the editors Anita Fetzer. In this paper, Fetzer
touches upon communicative intentions in context in a dialogue
framework based on the premises of rationality, intentionality,
cooperation and ratification. Fetzer begins with an examination of the
status of intention in Austin's and Searle's speech act theory,
pointing out that a speech act is an essential part of an exchange and
depends on the context in which it occurs and that both Austin and
Searle do not specify the way in which an interlocutor constructs an
utterance in order to perform a specific speech act. Next, Fetzer
links communicative intentions to the Gricean cooperative principle,
arguing that Fran�ois Recanati's conception of communicative
intentions should be introduced into the Gricean cooperative principle
to enhance the latter's explanatory power for both social action and
cognition. Fetzer then moves on to argue for adapting J�rgen
Habermas' Theory of Communication Action to account for the dialogue
act of a plus/minus- validity claim anchored to an interactive
tripartite system of objective, subjective and social worlds and their
presuppositions (p.57), rightly concluding that communicative
intentions are interdependent on both social antecedents and social
consequences and can no longer be interpreted in the frameworks of
single individuals and single speech acts only and that both bottom-up
and top-down approaches are needed for conversation investigations. By
the way, the first edition of Sperber and Wilson's Relevance came out
in 1986 but not in 1996, and the second edition was published in 1995
(See pp. 69, 62; and see also p. 33). And there is also a minor error
in the ordering of Levinson's three cited publications (See p. 69).

The second paper in this part is ''Cognition and narrativity in speech
act sequences'' contributed by Marina Sbis�. In this paper, Sbis�
calls for thinking once again the cognitive and interactional dynamics
underlying the production and comprehension of speech act sequences,
showing that sequentiality is a fundamental dimension of speech acts.
Specifically, Sbis� argues for two things mainly as clearly stated on
page 72:
 1. the cognitive component in speech act sequencing is secondary to 
 and dependent on action; 
 2. one cognitive factor relevant to the understanding of speech act 
 sequences is the so-called ''narrative schemes'', proposed by A. J. 
 Greimas (1983) in the framework of narrative semiotics, that analyzes 
 sequences of events in three main steps: Manipulation, Action and 

More specifically, the author first explores speech act sequencing and
the production of effects, arguing, among other things, that the
production of conventional effects makes speech act sequencing
possible only if some kind of by-default agreement has been
established between participants about the conventional effect to be
produced and that sequencing contributes to the achievement of
conventional effects on the part of an illocutionary and to the
manifestation of any illocutionary act the interlocutor has
performed. This dynamic nature of speech act sequences is then
exemplified with a discussion of a sequence from a recorded
conversation. After that, the author goes on to claim that ''the
speech act sequence as a chain of conventional effects comes into
being independently of its cognitive appreciation and that
conversational turns do not constitute sequences simply by being
produced one after in the same physical circumstances, concluding that
we make sense of what happens or is done around us, and of speech act
sequences in particular, thanks to the general form provided by the
narrative scheme.

In ''Recurrent sequences and mental processes'', Christiane Meierkord
endeavors to expound how the cognitively autonomous individual speaker
mentally processes conversational closings. After introducing
schemata, script and frame theory, Kintsch's
''construction-integration model'' and striking features attached to
conversational closings, the author presents empirical
'thinking-out-loud data' collected in an elicitation task,
investigating how these subjects process the discourse marker 'well',
prepositional contents, dispreferred utterances and adjacent formulas
respectively. Meierkord finds, among other things, that the mental
processes during processing and the utterances are both heterogeneous,
that different individuals with different experiences perceive
utterances in recurring sequences differently, and that more than one
script may be at work during the processing of interactional

In ''Boundaries and sequences in studying conversation'', Robert B.
Arundale and David Good say no to viewing boundaries between
conversational units as of vanishingly small duration. For them,
boundaries are ex post facto phenomena that emerge in the co-
constituting of conversation. Specifically, first, the authors
demonstrate that interaction is not monadic but dyadic; second, they
introduce the term ''dyadic cognizing'' to develop a model of
interactional achievement in conversation complemented with the
''Janus Principle'' which the authors claim plays a fundamental role
in our reconceptualization of boundaries and units in conversation,
among others. Third, much ink is devoted to the discussion that the
boundaries of utterances and of their components must also be co-
constituted, where evidence from turn-taking, simultaneous projecting
and retroactive assessing, and interdependence in foresight and
hindsight are examined. Finally, the authors present some implications
their views may bring to bear on conversation analysis, linguistic
pragmatics, psycholinguistics and cognition.

Sara W. Smith and Andreas H. Jucker's chapter presents evidence for
the role of intersubjectivity in interactional sequences, with
particular emphasis placed on the social and textual contexts of turns
consisting of the discourse marker 'well' and on how meaning is mapped
onto the turns in interaction. That the authors' effort in taking into
consideration the linguistic, social, and cognitive aspects revealed
by an investigation into the 'well' turns is quite impressive. For the
authors, the 'well' turn may signal the coming of ''dispreferred
seconds'', playing an important role in various kinds of interactional
sequences under examination: questions, assessments, invitations and
advice. The authors conclude that conversationalists may resort to the
use of the 'well' turns to negotiate and re-construct their beliefs
from time to time for ''keeping the ball rolling'' and that the
cognitive abilities on the part of these interlocutors are exploited
and displayed in the dynamic interaction.

Part II under the heading of ''Sequences in discourse: The micro-macro
interface'' also contain chapters. In ''Talk on TV: Sequentiality
meets intertextuality and interdiscursivity'', Roy Langer shows that
the marriage between conversation analysis and critical discourse
analysis can shed new light on how we approach sequentiality. Langer
starts with comparing and contrasting conversation analysis and
critical conversation analysis, arguing that what makes these
approaches divergent is the definition of the discourse unit to be
analysed and the degree of inclusion of context into the analytical
frame (p. 185; cf. Mey, 2001). The author then presents a detailed
analysis of two case studies to demonstrate that both intertextuality
and interdiscursivity have a decisive influence on the sequential
organization of talk on TV.

In ''Culture, genres and the problem of sequentiality: An attempt to
describe local organization and global structures in talk-in-
interaction'', Friederike Kern begins with methodological and
theoretical preliminaries as regards sequentiality in conversation
analysis and job interviews as communicative genres. Then Kern,
drawing on a large corpus of 41 authentic job interviews, finds that
job candidates under investigation usually list or narrate their
professional experience. Further, the author argues that sequential
analysis can not always account for the style a speaker adopts in
terms of discourse organization and that the participants' linguistic
performance is largely determined by genre-specific communicative
goals and cultural linguistic practices.

In ''Argumentative sequencing and its interactional variation'',
Thomas Spranz-Fogasy, viewing argumentation as an interactively
organized sequence, analyses the contextual implementation and the
internal structure of argumentation in particular, showing that the
prototypical argumentative sequence follows five steps as follows:
triggering, marking dissent or problematization, presenting new
explanatory information, acceptance and, ratification. Spranz-Fogasy
also touches upon expanded argumentation (by recourse to insertion,
serialization) and compressed argumentation, with the conclusion that
sequentiality provides for resources for the production of utterances
and for mutual reference of the partners with a lot of rhetorical

In ''Sequential positioning of represented discourse: In institutional
media interaction'', Marjut Johansson, resorting to the theoretical
framework of dialogism, a constructivist perspective on interaction,
adopts ''a multilevel approach'' (from the point of view of adjacency
pairs, topic development and cognitive-discursive activity) to examine
represented discourse in relation to sequentiality and the function it
plays in interaction. Johansson focuses on the analysis of a political
interview, in an effort to explore how the parties concerned construct
instances of represented discourse in this activity. Johansson shows
among other things that both interviewer and interviewee use
represented discourse to serve various purposes. On the one hand, both
parties use it to state the events; second, the interviewer use
represented discourse as an intertextual device which the politician
use it as a rhetorical device in counter-argumentation and in
explanation with the aim of creating a position.

Finally, in ''interactional coherence in discussion and everyday
storytelling: On considering the role of jedenfalls and auf jeden
fall'', Kristin B�hrig examines the German expressions 'auf jeden
fall' and 'jedenfalls' in everyday storytelling and academic
discourse, showing that they affect a synchronization of the
interlocutors' linguistic and mental activities that had strayed in
the different directions during the conversation. By the way, the word
'been' in ''... which can been seen as a result of sequentiality''
(p. 273) should be 'be'.


As can be seen from the above relatively detailed description, this
volume has shown that the form and function of a sequence embedded in
interaction can be variable with many factors at work such as context,
cognition and knowledge structure of interlocutors. In other words,
contextualization and dynamics of sequentiality should not be put
aside when it comes to accounting for how interlocutors act in
interaction to achieve various goals. This collection of papers has
made an admirable endeavor to provide a both varied and unified
account of the very notion of sequentiality in the sense that
different methodological considerations can contribute to our deeper
understanding of what can be revealed by investigating sequences in
interaction, making great headway in unraveling the mysteries of
sequentiality and various aspects in close connection with
talk-in-interaction, cognitive, linguistic, pragmatic and cultural,
among other things.

And I have some questions as follows. The editors claim that
sequential organization ''refers to the joint construction of one or
more sequences and is thus intrinsically linked to the turn-taking
mechanism'' (p. 4) and that it ''requires a dyadic or multi-party
setting'' (p. 4). I was wondering if it is always the case; for me,
sequential organization can also find expression in a monadic
setting. The other day I watched a Chinese entertainment program on TV
where a female comp�re presents some background information before
and during the program is going on. >From her presentation one may
track a certain kind of sequential organization, the discussion of
which goes, of course, beyond the scope of the present review. In
point of fact, as noted by Mey (2001: 614), much of present-day
conversation analysis has been focused on and limited to ''English or
another European language: German, French, Spanish, or one of the
Scandinavian languages.'' This is also true of the present volume
under review. In this sense, more research on conversation analysis in
other languages should be aimed for.

My next question is about the areas covered in this volume. As I see
it, that this volume does not touch upon the relationship between
gender and sequentiality is painfully obvious. I am interested in what
impact gender differences might have on sequential organization and
the notion of sequentiality. Actually, what contributions conversation
analysis can make to gender studies has not received enough attention.
Recently, Weatherall (2002), for instance, adopts a conversation-
analytic approach to account for ''the interactional mechanisms
underling the omnirelevance of gender in daily life''. Another area
awaiting much more concern is the investigation of the impact of power
on sequential organization. Recent studies (e. g. Itakura 2001;
Thornborrow 2002) show that power is not pre-patterned or static but,
more often than not, measurable and contextually sensitive, which
would greatly affect the sequences in interactions. Further efforts
should be oriented to this exploration.

To sum up, given the interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary nature of
sequentiality in talk-in-interaction, this volume should be of much
value and great interest to many people, those doing conversation
analysis and discourse analysis in particular.


Itakura, Hiroko. 2001. Describing conversational dominance. Journal of
Pragmatics 33: 1859-1880.

Mey, Inger. 2001. The CA/CDA controversy. Journal of Pragmatics 33:

Sperber, Dan, Wilson, Deirdre. 1986/1995. Relevance: Communication and
cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Thornborrow, Joanna. 2002. Power talk: Language and interaction in
institutional discourse. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Weatherall, Ann. 2002. Towards understanding gender and talk-in-
interaction. Discourse & Society 13(6):767-781.


Chaoqun Xie is a lecturer with the Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian
Teachers University in Fuzhou, China. His main areas of research
interests include pragmatics, sociolinguistics, culture, communication
and translation.
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