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LINGUIST List 24.2865

Mon Jul 15 2013

Review: Discourse Analysis: Sidnell & Stivers (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 05-Jun-2013
From: Beatrice Szczepek Reed <beatrice.szczepek.reedyork.ac.uk>
Subject: The Handbook of Conversation Analysis
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-249.html

EDITOR: Jack Sidnell
EDITOR: Tanya Stivers
TITLE: The Handbook of Conversation Analysis
SERIES TITLE: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Wiley-Blackwell
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Beatrice Szczepek Reed, University of York

The Handbook of Conversation Analysis, the first publication of its kind,
provides an extensive overview of central methodological, analytical and
topical concerns by leading writers in the field. The book is divided into
five parts, which cover basic principles of analysis, core findings on
conversational structures, central topics and contexts, and the relationship
of Conversation Analysis (CA) with a number of disciplines. The Handbook
contains 36 chapters.

In their INTRODUCTION (Chapter 1), editors Tanya Stivers and Jack Sidnell
briefly outline the CA perspective, and comment on the interdisciplinary
nature of CA, while positioning the approach within Sociology. A brief section
on the institutionalization process tracks the main steps CA has undergone
from its beginnings in the late 1960s to its current presence in the academic
landscape, particularly in North America and Europe.

PART 1 covers fundamental issues and principles of CA. Douglas Maynard’s
CONVERSATION ANALYSIS considers CA’s relationship with Garfinkel and
Ethnomethodology, Goffman, Greek Oral Culture, Philosophy of Language, and
Linguistics. While some of these influences are widely known (Garfinkel,
Goffman), Noam Chomsky’s influence on Harvey Sacks may come as a surprise,
particularly to linguists.

In Chapter 3 Lorenza Mondada considers THE CONVERSATION ANALYTIC APPROACH TO
DATA COLLECTION, especially the practicalities of recording and their
implications for analysis. Chapter 4, THE CONVERSATION ANALYTIC APPROACH TO
TRANSCRIPTION, Alexa Hepburn and Galina Bolden survey Jeffersonian
transcription conventions, with additional thoughts on the transcription of
video recordings. In Chapter 5, BASIC CONVERSATION ANALYTIC METHODS, Jack
Sidnell likens the conversation analyst’s work to that of a cartographer and
detective, starting from an initial observation, on to building a collection
of cases and describing the interactional practice.

Each chapter in PART 2 considers one of the fundamental structures of
interaction. Stephen Levinson’s chapter ACTION FORMATION AND ASCRIPTION
provides a brief overview of language as action in other disciplines, before
detailing the various contributions made to action formation and ascription by
sequential location and verbal and non-verbal turn design. Among a number of
important points made in the chapter is the suggestion that actions are best
considered parts of projects; another the distinction between ‘primary
actions’, i.e. the ‘main job’ an action is performing (such as responding to
an assessment) and ‘less official’ business (such as indicating epistemic
authority), the ‘under-current of tit-for-tat’ (p. 107). Both points are
provided as constraints on the otherwise potentially overwhelming task of
describing an almost infinite number of actions.

In Chapter 7 on TURN DESIGN, Paul Drew focuses on ways in which turns are
designed for their location in a sequence, and on the relation between
sequential position and the action being implemented by a turn. Recipient
design is also addressed by comparing instances of enquiries by the same
speaker made to different recipients.

RELEVANCE PLACE first describes how TCU endings differ syntactically and
prosodically from aborted TCUs, and how they are treated differently by
co-participants. He also explores ways in which TCUs project their completion
via syntax, prosody, pragmatics/action and gaze, and how these resources may
interact as clusters. Finally, practices are described that allow participants
to avoid turn transition, including compressing TRPs phonetically via
rush-throughs / abrupt joins and bridging them syntactically via pivots.

In Chapter 9 Makoto Hayashi considers TURN ALLOCATION AND TURN SHARING. The
author describes practices for current speakers to select next speakers,
including address terms, gaze, and contextualized tying; and practices for
self-selection. He then explores overlap in some depth, including different
locations for overlap onset (turn-terminal, turn-initial and mid-turn),
overlap resolution and its aftermath. The preference for overlap resolution is
used to show participants’ orientation towards the one-party-at-a-time
constraint. Turn sharing is introduced as evidence that starting up before a
current speaker has completed their turn is not always treated as problematic.
Turn sharing is shown to accomplish agreement and affiliation, and as allowing
co-participants to position themselves as co-turn-holders.

Tanya Stivers provides an overview of SEQUENCE ORGANIZATION in Chapter 10.
After introducing CA’s overall conceptualization of talk as sequentially
organized, the author considers adjacency pairs and shows how participants
orient to them as imposing a specific normative constraint on what is to be
produced next. Subsequently practices for sequence expansion are presented,
and storytelling is introduced as an extended sequence type during which
turn-taking rules are suspended in favor of the storyteller. The author also
discusses the normative requirements regarding next actions following actions
that are implemented either in first or in second position. In particular,
first actions, such as assessments, that are not met with a response, and are
not treated as problematic by participants are considered, and two
possibilities for analyzing these instances are presented: distinguishing
between actions that do and do not make next actions conditionally relevant;
and considering actions according to the degree to which they are implemented
with ‘response mobilizing features’ (Stivers & Rossano 2010), such as
interrogative morphology, syntax or prosody.

In their chapter on PREFERENCE, Anita Pomerantz and John Heritage first review
work on preference principles for descriptions and references, and
conversational actions. They consider, amongst other topics, yes-no question
answer sequences, in which both questioners and answerers orient to minimizing
disconfirmations as responding actions, and other-repair/correction.
Subsequently, the authors discuss conflicting preferences, as in the case of
responding to compliments where the preference for minimizing praising oneself
conflicts with that for minimizing disagreement (Pomerantz 1978); person
reference where the preference for single reference forms may conflict with
that for using forms that a recipient can recognize (Sacks & Schegloff 1979);
and providing requested information, where the preference for a selected next
speaker to speak next may conflict with that for providing the requested
information (Stivers & Robinson 2006). Finally, the authors discuss two
oversimplifications present in prior research on preference: the tendency to
generalize preferences across entire categories of actions, and the tendency
to consider actions only in terms of single, rather than multiple preference

In Chapter 12 Celia Kitzinger provides an overview of REPAIR. After
distinguishing between self- and other-initiated repair, the chapter focuses
on self-initiated repair in terms of its location, practices and interactional
uses. The author describes practices of self-initiated repair (‘repair
operations’), such as replacing, inserting, deleting, searching,
parenthesizing and aborting; and lists as potential components of self-repair
framing by reissuing sounds or words, silences and delays, apologetic terms,
prefaces, repeats, multiple tries and self-talk. Interactional uses of
self-repair within same-TCU can be delaying or fine-tuning an
action-in-progress. The section on other-initiated repair considers four
formats (open class, category-specific WH-words, repeats and candidate
understandings) and mentions displaying disaffiliation and delaying the
sequentially next action as additional interactional uses.

In Chapter 13 Jeffrey D. Robinson considers OVERALL STRUCTURAL ORGANIZATION,
an area that has not yet been explored in depth, but has, as Robinson shows,
been an integral part of the CA endeavor from the beginning. He points out
that in the same way that turns ‘hang together’ (Schegloff 2007: 1), sequences
are organized in groups by a ‘supra-sequential coherence’ (p. 258). Robinson
uses the concept of activity to show the overall structural organization of
smaller and larger interactional projects. The author discusses the ‘reflexive
relationship’ between activity patterns (Garfinkel’s (1967: 78) ‘presupposed
underlying pattern’) and their production. Activity patterns and contexts are
not derived from pre-existing cognitive structures, but from locally performed
actions which allow for a normative overall organization. Subsequently, the
author takes a more in-depth look at physician-patient interactions dealing
with medical concerns, and details four components of this ‘medical project’
(p. 267): problem presentation, information gathering, diagnosis and

PART 3 covers key topics in CA, beginning with Christian Heath’s and Paul
areas in which they show embodied conduct to play a crucial role: the
interactional production of turns, exemplified by an analysis of an extract
from a medical interaction; turn transition and organization in complex
institutional settings, exemplified by an extract from an auction; expressions
of physical pain, exemplified by another extract from a medical interaction;
and the accomplishment of actions through interaction with, and via

In Chapter 15, Frederico Rossano surveys research on GAZE IN CONVERSATION.
After considering the importance of the human ability to follow the gaze of
others and of general gaze direction during conversation the author discusses
the relationship between gaze and participant role (speaker, listener), which
is more complex and locally determined than previously claimed. Turn-taking
and turn allocation are also discussed, and gaze is described as one of the
resources by which participants mobilize responses (Stivers & Rossano 2010).
The role of gaze for sequence closing is described in some depth. The Appendix
for the chapter contains a list of symbols for representing gaze direction in

In her chapter EMOTION, AFFECT AND CONVERSATION Johanna Ruusuvuori introduces
the two concepts as they are used in different disciplines before considering
a number of published case studies, which show emotion as consequential for
interaction, as a co-constructed resource, and as a vehicle for performing
actions in institutional encounters. Finally, she explores how the display of
certain emotions is accomplished through the interplay of talk and facial

Anna Lindström’s and Marja-Leena Sorjonen’s chapter AFFILIATION IN
CONVERSATION begins by introducing affiliation and its relation to preference,
and alignment (Stivers 2008). They then present resources for displaying
affiliation, such as laughter in response to a joke, verbal responses, and
prosodic resources, before describing troubles-telling and complaining as two
activities for which displaying affiliation is a central participant concern.
The chapter ends with sections on affiliation in institutional settings and
with respect to epistemic stance.

In chapter 18 John Heritage considers EPISTEMICS IN CONVERSATION. After
providing historical and theoretical background, he presents two areas of
early research from which current CA work on epistemics has arisen:
participants’ orientation to the distribution of knowledge and information in
conversation; and the role of epistemic background, such as types of
knowledge, for the understanding of utterances. Subsequently he distinguishes
between epistemic stance and epistemic status, and presents resources for
managing epistemic domains and their boundaries, before considering action
formation and sequence organization.

Chapters 19 by Kaoru Hayano and 20 by Seung-Hee Lee cover QUESTION DESIGN IN
former considers, amongst other things, epistemic stance, preference
organization and actions accomplished through questions, the chapter on
responses focuses on types of responses to WH- and polar questions.

Nick Enfield’s chapter REFERENCE IN CONVERSATION begins by considering
references to time as locally fitted selections from a number of options.
Subsequently person reference is explored in terms of the preferences for
recognition and minimization as described by Sacks and Schegloff (1979), and
other preferences identified since then. Following sections consider marked
reference forms, repair, and initial vs subsequent references.

In Chapter 22, Gareth Walker introduces the analysis of PHONETICS AND PROSODY
IN CONVERSATION. After explaining the difference between auditory and acoustic
analysis he shows how both can be applied to an extract from conversation.
Subsequently some of the main findings concerning the role of prosody and
phonetics for interaction are presented, including turn-taking and the
relationship between turns and TCUs. In the final part, Walker discusses the
advantages and disadvantages of different transcription systems.

Harrie Mazeland considers GRAMMAR IN CONVERSATION in Chapter 23, showing how
grammar can be approached from a conversation analytic perspective as a
resource for organizing social interaction that produces different practices
across languages. Mazeland then discusses Schegloff’s (1996) notion of
‘positionally sensitive grammars’, before considering clausal and nonclausal
TCUs as initiating and responsive actions.

In Chapter 24 Jenny Mandelbaum introduces STORYTELLING IN CONVERSATION. An
example of a storytelling is presented, and the structure of storytelling is
illustrated with reference to it. The author covers the launch of a
storytelling, recipient responses and disruptions, actions accomplished
through storytelling, and story endings.

PART 4 concerns CA in different populations and settings. Mardi Kidwell’s
chapter INTERACTION AMONG CHILDREN begins with a look at Sacks’ interest in
children’s interaction and conversation analytic work in this area since. The
author then presents an original analysis of a sequence during which three
children interact with a fourth child who is crying, and whom they try to
console by offering him objects.

In Chapter 26 Charles Antaki and Ray Wilkinson consider CONVERSATION ANALYSIS
AND THE STUDY OF ATYPICAL POPULATIONS, focusing on three groups: interaction
by and with speakers with communication disorders affecting language, speech
and hearing (such as aphasia, dysarthria and deafness), cognitive impairments
(such as autism and intellectual impairments) and atypical beliefs (such as

Anssi Peräkylä’s chapter CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY provides a
brief overview of early research. The author then introduces more recent work
which has analyzed the main interactional practices, such as therapists’
formulations of patients’ talk, therapists’ interpretations and responses to
them, and therapists’ questions. Another strand of research covers relational
aspects, such as patients’ resistance, affiliation and emotion.

In Chapter 28, CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN MEDICINE, Virginia Teas Gill and
Felicia Roberts discuss the extensive body of CA work on medical interaction.
The authors present three research areas, physician-patient interaction, other
medical professionals’ interaction with patients and clients, and interaction
among medical professionals. They also explore the main issues in research to
date, including problem presentations by patients, diagnosing as collaborative
sense-making, and treatment recommendations and the related actions of
formulating, justifying and resisting.

Rod Gardner considers CA work on classroom interaction in Chapter 29,
CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN THE CLASSROOM. The chapter discusses specific
classroom features of turn-taking, sequence organization, turn design and
repair, before exploring language learning in the classroom. Firth and
Wagner’s (1997) paper on a CA contribution to Second Language Acquisition
research and responses to it are presented as part of a wider exploration of
CA and the study of learning.

CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN THE COURTROOM is the topic of Martha Komter’s Chapter
30. The framework is a perspective on participants’ orientation to the context
of the courtroom as it is created by the participants themselves. The author
considers the issues of courtroom talk being designed for an overhearing
audience, and in the form of common-sense reasoning, and finally looks at
turn-taking and turn design, such as pre-allocation of turns and designing
turns as accusing and defending.

In Chapter 31 Steven Clayman considers CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN THE NEWS
INTERVIEW. The chapter examines turn-taking in news interviews, before moving
on to cover participants’ orientation to the audience. Subsequently, question
design (neutral and adversarial) and answer design (overtly or covertly
resistant) are covered in some detail. The chapter ends with shorter sections
on openings and closings, genres, and changes in interviewers’ question design
during the second half of the 20th century.

PART 5 contains five chapters connecting CA to a number of academic
disciplines. In Chapter 32, John Heritage and Tanya Stivers explore
CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND SOCIOLOGY, tracing the historical emergence of CA
against the background of a positivist sociology in the 1950s, and the
dissenting voices of Garfinkel and Goffman. The formation of CA is shown to
rest on four ‘pillars’ (p. 663): an assumption of orderliness, an
understanding that social actions are produced for their immediate context, a
belief in a normative structure of interaction, and a focus on participants’
own understanding. The authors also provide an overview of CA’s contributions
to Sociology in terms of institutional interaction and social status.

Wayne Beach begins his chapter on CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND COMMUNICATION by
providing a historical overview of Communication research before detailing the
emergence of CA in the field of Communication. He presents four research areas
in which CA has been developed in Communication: analyses of the Bush-Rather
interview and their impact on CA in Communication, studies of sequential
organization and an ensuing debate surrounding the explication of social
actions, qualitative CA work in a quantitative Communications environment, and
research on lay diagnosis in medical and family interactions.

In Chapter 34 Ignasi Clemente considers the relationship between CONVERSATION
ANALYSIS AND ANTHROPOLOGY. The author provides a brief introduction to
Anthropology and its sub-fields, before identifying three periods in the
CA-Anthropology relationship: a period of shared interests and publications, a
period of differentiation and debate, and a period of re-convergence,
including the present time. Clemente goes on to detail the influence of
Anthropology on CA, particularly on Sacks’ work; and the influence of CA on
Anthropology, regarding both its impact on the field of Linguistic
Anthropology as a whole, and individual anthropological studies that adopt the
CA approach.

Jonathan Potter and Derek Edwards provide insight into the relationship
between CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND PSYCHOLOGY in Chapter 35. They begin by
listing six areas in which the two fields are relevant to each other, before
detailing the conversation analytic approach to psychological issues, which
avoids cognitive analysis in favor of the analysis of observable interaction.
The authors also explore in depth some differences and debates between
Cognitive Psychology and CA, including for example notions of information
input and output, and abstract processes in Psychology vs. notions of
discursively built and concrete information, and natural interaction in CA.
Finally, the authors suggest an alternative approach to psychological areas of
interest, such as understanding, knowledge, attitude and intention.

In Chapter 36, Barbara Fox, Sandra Thompson, Cecilia Ford and Elizabeth
introduction the authors position Linguistics as an important contributor to
the CA endeavor, and detail how Interactional Linguistics has emerged in part
as a response to CA. Subsequently, they present ways in which CA has informed
Linguistics, regarding, for example, a perspective on language patterns as
locally accomplished practices, and concrete findings regarding linguistic
structures. Linguistics’ contributions to CA are also discussed, including a
critical perspective on grammar, cross-linguistic comparisons and insights
into the role of phonetics and prosody.

The handbook is an invaluable contribution to CA, and interaction studies more
generally. Many of the chapters provide expert perspectives on fundamental CA
issues, and the range of topics is impressive. The chapters differ to some
extent in how the topics are presented. Some provide comprehensive overviews
of the topics in question (such as Kitzinger), others focus on individual
cases to demonstrate relevant issues (such as Heath and Luff), while still
others present original analysis (such as Kidwell).

Unsurprisingly with a volume of this kind there are topics that could have
been added, some of the more obvious being cross-cultural comparisons,
learning outside the classroom, and interaction and technology. Methodological
aspects could also have been explored in more detail; given that this is not a
favorite pursuit in CA research, the handbook might have provided an
opportunity to detail and explore some of the theoretical implications of CA
methods and even address criticisms. Finally, in its aim to showcase the best
the approach has to offer, most chapters do not concern themselves explicitly
with debates within the field; among the exceptions are Levinson, Pomerantz
and Heritage, Beach, and Fox et al.

However, these minor criticisms aside, the book is a must-have resource for
learning, teaching and conducting research in CA, and as such essential
reading for both students and academics.

Firth, A. & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication and (some)
fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 81(3),

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

Pomerantz, A. M. (1978). Compliment responses: Notes on the co-operation of
multiple constraints. In J. Schenkein (Ed.), Studies in the Organization of
Conversational Interaction (pp. 79-112). New York: Academic Press.

Sacks, H. and Schegloff, E. A. (1979). Two preferences in the organization of
reference to persons and their interaction. In G. Psathas (Ed.) Everyday
Language: Studies in Ethnomethodology (pp. 15-21). New York: Irvington

Schegloff, E. A. (1996). Turn organization: One intersection of grammar and
interaction. In E. Ochs, E. A. Schegloff & S. A. Thompson (Eds.), Interaction
and Grammar (pp. 52-133). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in
Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stivers, T. (2008). Stance, alignment, and affiliation during storytelling:
When nodding is a token of affiliation. Research on Language and Social
Interaction 41(1), 31-57.

Stivers, T. & Robinson, J. D. (2006). A preference for progressivity in
interaction. Language in Society, 35(3), 367-392.

Stivers, T. & Rossano, F. (2010). Mobilizing response. Research on Language
and Social Interaction, 43(1), 3-31.

Beatrice Szczepek Reed works in the area of interactional linguistics and
conversation analysis with a specialism in prosody in conversation. She has
published the textbook 'Analysing Conversation: An Introduction to Prosody'
and the monograph 'Prosodic Orientation in English Conversation', along with
articles in journals such as Journal of Pragmatics, Research on Language and
Social Interaction, Applied Linguistics, Language and Speech and International
Journal of Applied Linguistics. She is currently Lecturer in Second Language
Education at the University of York, UK.
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