LINGUIST List 24.2865

Mon Jul 15 2013

Review: Discourse Analysis: Sidnell & Stivers (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 05-Jun-2013
From: Beatrice Szczepek Reed <>
Subject: The Handbook of Conversation Analysis
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EDITOR: Jack SidnellEDITOR: Tanya StiversTITLE: The Handbook of Conversation AnalysisSERIES TITLE: Blackwell Handbooks in LinguisticsPUBLISHER: Wiley-BlackwellYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Beatrice Szczepek Reed, University of York

SUMMARYThe Handbook of Conversation Analysis, the first publication of its kind,provides an extensive overview of central methodological, analytical andtopical concerns by leading writers in the field. The book is divided intofive parts, which cover basic principles of analysis, core findings onconversational structures, central topics and contexts, and the relationshipof Conversation Analysis (CA) with a number of disciplines. The Handbookcontains 36 chapters.

In their INTRODUCTION (Chapter 1), editors Tanya Stivers and Jack Sidnellbriefly outline the CA perspective, and comment on the interdisciplinarynature of CA, while positioning the approach within Sociology. A brief sectionon the institutionalization process tracks the main steps CA has undergonefrom its beginnings in the late 1960s to its current presence in the academiclandscape, particularly in North America and Europe.

PART 1 covers fundamental issues and principles of CA. Douglas Maynard’schapter EVERYONE AND NO ONE TO TURN TO: INTELLECTUAL ROOTS AND CONTEXTS FORCONVERSATION ANALYSIS considers CA’s relationship with Garfinkel andEthnomethodology, Goffman, Greek Oral Culture, Philosophy of Language, andLinguistics. 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 TODATA COLLECTION, especially the practicalities of recording and theirimplications for analysis. Chapter 4, THE CONVERSATION ANALYTIC APPROACH TOTRANSCRIPTION, Alexa Hepburn and Galina Bolden survey Jeffersoniantranscription conventions, with additional thoughts on the transcription ofvideo recordings. In Chapter 5, BASIC CONVERSATION ANALYTIC METHODS, JackSidnell likens the conversation analyst’s work to that of a cartographer anddetective, starting from an initial observation, on to building a collectionof cases and describing the interactional practice.

Each chapter in PART 2 considers one of the fundamental structures ofinteraction. Stephen Levinson’s chapter ACTION FORMATION AND ASCRIPTIONprovides a brief overview of language as action in other disciplines, beforedetailing the various contributions made to action formation and ascription bysequential location and verbal and non-verbal turn design. Among a number ofimportant points made in the chapter is the suggestion that actions are bestconsidered parts of projects; another the distinction between ‘primaryactions’, i.e. the ‘main job’ an action is performing (such as responding toan assessment) and ‘less official’ business (such as indicating epistemicauthority), the ‘under-current of tit-for-tat’ (p. 107). Both points areprovided as constraints on the otherwise potentially overwhelming task ofdescribing an almost infinite number of actions.

In Chapter 7 on TURN DESIGN, Paul Drew focuses on ways in which turns aredesigned for their location in a sequence, and on the relation betweensequential position and the action being implemented by a turn. Recipientdesign is also addressed by comparing instances of enquiries by the samespeaker made to different recipients.

Steven Clayman’s Chapter 8 TURN-CONSTRUCTIONAL UNITS AND THE TRANSITIONRELEVANCE PLACE first describes how TCU endings differ syntactically andprosodically from aborted TCUs, and how they are treated differently byco-participants. He also explores ways in which TCUs project their completionvia syntax, prosody, pragmatics/action and gaze, and how these resources mayinteract as clusters. Finally, practices are described that allow participantsto avoid turn transition, including compressing TRPs phonetically viarush-throughs / abrupt joins and bridging them syntactically via pivots.

In Chapter 9 Makoto Hayashi considers TURN ALLOCATION AND TURN SHARING. Theauthor describes practices for current speakers to select next speakers,including address terms, gaze, and contextualized tying; and practices forself-selection. He then explores overlap in some depth, including differentlocations for overlap onset (turn-terminal, turn-initial and mid-turn),overlap resolution and its aftermath. The preference for overlap resolution isused to show participants’ orientation towards the one-party-at-a-timeconstraint. Turn sharing is introduced as evidence that starting up before acurrent speaker has completed their turn is not always treated as problematic.Turn sharing is shown to accomplish agreement and affiliation, and as allowingco-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 sequentiallyorganized, the author considers adjacency pairs and shows how participantsorient to them as imposing a specific normative constraint on what is to beproduced next. Subsequently practices for sequence expansion are presented,and storytelling is introduced as an extended sequence type during whichturn-taking rules are suspended in favor of the storyteller. The author alsodiscusses the normative requirements regarding next actions following actionsthat are implemented either in first or in second position. In particular,first actions, such as assessments, that are not met with a response, and arenot treated as problematic by participants are considered, and twopossibilities for analyzing these instances are presented: distinguishingbetween actions that do and do not make next actions conditionally relevant;and considering actions according to the degree to which they are implementedwith ‘response mobilizing features’ (Stivers & Rossano 2010), such asinterrogative morphology, syntax or prosody.

In their chapter on PREFERENCE, Anita Pomerantz and John Heritage first reviewwork on preference principles for descriptions and references, andconversational actions. They consider, amongst other topics, yes-no questionanswer sequences, in which both questioners and answerers orient to minimizingdisconfirmations as responding actions, and other-repair/correction.Subsequently, the authors discuss conflicting preferences, as in the case ofresponding to compliments where the preference for minimizing praising oneselfconflicts with that for minimizing disagreement (Pomerantz 1978); personreference where the preference for single reference forms may conflict withthat for using forms that a recipient can recognize (Sacks & Schegloff 1979);and providing requested information, where the preference for a selected nextspeaker to speak next may conflict with that for providing the requestedinformation (Stivers & Robinson 2006). Finally, the authors discuss twooversimplifications present in prior research on preference: the tendency togeneralize preferences across entire categories of actions, and the tendencyto consider actions only in terms of single, rather than multiple preferenceprinciples.

In Chapter 12 Celia Kitzinger provides an overview of REPAIR. Afterdistinguishing between self- and other-initiated repair, the chapter focuseson self-initiated repair in terms of its location, practices and interactionaluses. The author describes practices of self-initiated repair (‘repairoperations’), such as replacing, inserting, deleting, searching,parenthesizing and aborting; and lists as potential components of self-repairframing by reissuing sounds or words, silences and delays, apologetic terms,prefaces, repeats, multiple tries and self-talk. Interactional uses ofself-repair within same-TCU can be delaying or fine-tuning anaction-in-progress. The section on other-initiated repair considers fourformats (open class, category-specific WH-words, repeats and candidateunderstandings) and mentions displaying disaffiliation and delaying thesequentially 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 outthat in the same way that turns ‘hang together’ (Schegloff 2007: 1), sequencesare organized in groups by a ‘supra-sequential coherence’ (p. 258). Robinsonuses the concept of activity to show the overall structural organization ofsmaller and larger interactional projects. The author discusses the ‘reflexiverelationship’ between activity patterns (Garfinkel’s (1967: 78) ‘presupposedunderlying pattern’) and their production. Activity patterns and contexts arenot derived from pre-existing cognitive structures, but from locally performedactions which allow for a normative overall organization. Subsequently, theauthor takes a more in-depth look at physician-patient interactions dealingwith medical concerns, and details four components of this ‘medical project’(p. 267): problem presentation, information gathering, diagnosis andtreatment.

PART 3 covers key topics in CA, beginning with Christian Heath’s and PaulLuff’s chapter EMBODIED ACTION AND ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITY. They focus on fourareas in which they show embodied conduct to play a crucial role: theinteractional production of turns, exemplified by an analysis of an extractfrom a medical interaction; turn transition and organization in complexinstitutional settings, exemplified by an extract from an auction; expressionsof physical pain, exemplified by another extract from a medical interaction;and the accomplishment of actions through interaction with, and viatechnology.

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

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

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

In chapter 18 John Heritage considers EPISTEMICS IN CONVERSATION. Afterproviding historical and theoretical background, he presents two areas ofearly research from which current CA work on epistemics has arisen:participants’ orientation to the distribution of knowledge and information inconversation; and the role of epistemic background, such as types ofknowledge, for the understanding of utterances. Subsequently he distinguishesbetween epistemic stance and epistemic status, and presents resources formanaging epistemic domains and their boundaries, before considering actionformation and sequence organization.

Chapters 19 by Kaoru Hayano and 20 by Seung-Hee Lee cover QUESTION DESIGN INCONVERSATION and RESPONSE DESIGN IN CONVERSATION, respectively. While theformer considers, amongst other things, epistemic stance, preferenceorganization and actions accomplished through questions, the chapter onresponses focuses on types of responses to WH- and polar questions.

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

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

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

In Chapter 24 Jenny Mandelbaum introduces STORYTELLING IN CONVERSATION. Anexample of a storytelling is presented, and the structure of storytelling isillustrated with reference to it. The author covers the launch of astorytelling, recipient responses and disruptions, actions accomplishedthrough storytelling, and story endings.

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

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

Anssi Peräkylä’s chapter CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY provides abrief overview of early research. The author then introduces more recent workwhich has analyzed the main interactional practices, such as therapists’formulations of patients’ talk, therapists’ interpretations and responses tothem, and therapists’ questions. Another strand of research covers relationalaspects, such as patients’ resistance, affiliation and emotion.

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

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

CONVERSATION ANALYSIS IN THE COURTROOM is the topic of Martha Komter’s Chapter30. The framework is a perspective on participants’ orientation to the contextof the courtroom as it is created by the participants themselves. The authorconsiders the issues of courtroom talk being designed for an overhearingaudience, and in the form of common-sense reasoning, and finally looks atturn-taking and turn design, such as pre-allocation of turns and designingturns as accusing and defending.

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

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

Wayne Beach begins his chapter on CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND COMMUNICATION byproviding a historical overview of Communication research before detailing theemergence of CA in the field of Communication. He presents four research areasin which CA has been developed in Communication: analyses of the Bush-Ratherinterview and their impact on CA in Communication, studies of sequentialorganization and an ensuing debate surrounding the explication of socialactions, qualitative CA work in a quantitative Communications environment, andresearch on lay diagnosis in medical and family interactions.

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

Jonathan Potter and Derek Edwards provide insight into the relationshipbetween CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND PSYCHOLOGY in Chapter 35. They begin bylisting six areas in which the two fields are relevant to each other, beforedetailing the conversation analytic approach to psychological issues, whichavoids cognitive analysis in favor of the analysis of observable interaction.The authors also explore in depth some differences and debates betweenCognitive Psychology and CA, including for example notions of informationinput and output, and abstract processes in Psychology vs. notions ofdiscursively built and concrete information, and natural interaction in CA.Finally, the authors suggest an alternative approach to psychological areas ofinterest, such as understanding, knowledge, attitude and intention.

In Chapter 36, Barbara Fox, Sandra Thompson, Cecilia Ford and ElizabethCouper-Kuhlen consider CONVERSATION ANALYSIS AND LINGUISTICS. In theirintroduction the authors position Linguistics as an important contributor tothe CA endeavor, and detail how Interactional Linguistics has emerged in partas a response to CA. Subsequently, they present ways in which CA has informedLinguistics, regarding, for example, a perspective on language patterns aslocally accomplished practices, and concrete findings regarding linguisticstructures. Linguistics’ contributions to CA are also discussed, including acritical perspective on grammar, cross-linguistic comparisons and insightsinto the role of phonetics and prosody.

EVALUATIONThe handbook is an invaluable contribution to CA, and interaction studies moregenerally. Many of the chapters provide expert perspectives on fundamental CAissues, and the range of topics is impressive. The chapters differ to someextent in how the topics are presented. Some provide comprehensive overviewsof the topics in question (such as Kitzinger), others focus on individualcases to demonstrate relevant issues (such as Heath and Luff), while stillothers present original analysis (such as Kidwell).

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

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

REFERENCESFirth, A. & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication and (some)fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 81(3),285-300.

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

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

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

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

Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer inConversation 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 SocialInteraction 41(1), 31-57.

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

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

ABOUT THE REVIEWERBeatrice Szczepek Reed works in the area of interactional linguistics andconversation analysis with a specialism in prosody in conversation. She haspublished the textbook 'Analysing Conversation: An Introduction to Prosody'and the monograph 'Prosodic Orientation in English Conversation', along witharticles in journals such as Journal of Pragmatics, Research on Language andSocial Interaction, Applied Linguistics, Language and Speech and InternationalJournal of Applied Linguistics. She is currently Lecturer in Second LanguageEducation at the University of York, UK.

Page Updated: 15-Jul-2013