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Review of  The Language of Turn and Sequence

Reviewer: Lisa Kristine DeWaard
Book Title: The Language of Turn and Sequence
Book Author: Cecilia E. Ford Barbara A. Fox Sandra A. Thompson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 13.3112

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This edited volume examines the building of interactional turns and sequences in terms of the temporal, spatial and interactional characteristics of naturally occurring talk. Written in the Conversation Analytic tradition, the chapters discuss turns and sequences within a wide range of social situations, from the cultivation of prayer to the strategies employed by a man with severe aphasia. The volume is highly readable, and is easily accessible by graduate students as well as established scholars.


In the introduction, the editors lay out the theoretical groundwork for the book and then provide a short description of each of the contributions. Social order is viewed as ''practice, an order created by participants in talk-in-interaction ... jointly, contingently, and always locally'' (p. 4). Having grown out of the ethnomethodological research tradition, Conversation
Analysis (CA) seeks to inform conceptions of social categories by contributing empirical data of the study of human interactions. Of the major theoretical contributions of CA, turn taking, sequence organization and the intersection of turn and sequence in the organization of affiliative and nonaffiliative talk have been the most heavily documented.

Chapter Two
Constituency and the Grammar of Turn Increments
by Cecilia E. Ford, Barbara A. Fox, and Sandra A. Thompson

In this chapter, the authors examine the use of classic constituents as a turn-taking strategy, particularly how they are used as an interactional resource in American English. They propose that classic constituents are used as increments in turn taking; that is, they are added to just possibly complete actions in a turn sequence, with varying pragmatic effects.
Increments can take to forms. The first are extensions, which are designed to elicit uptake of a just completed utterance at a transition-relevance place. Unattached NPs, the second form, differ from extensions in that they are not derived from the just-completed turn, but differ from it syntactically. Pragmatically, the unattached NP differs from the extension as well. Rather than continue the action of the previous turn, it contains an evaluative
slant, often associated with ''stance displays'' (p. 33).

Chapter Three
Cultivating Prayer
by Lisa Capps and Elinor Ochs

This chapter is an examination of the socialization of children into public prayer rituals, which differ from other types of public speaking in terms of prosody, posture and interaction with others. Pulling from a variety of data, the authors describe in detail how adults cultivate in children a prayerful attitude. Adults not only teach the proper gestures, posture, voice and
attitude associated with prayer, they teach linguistic formulae as well.

Chapter Four
Producing Sense with Nonsense Syllables
by Charles Goodwin, Marjorie H. Goodwin, and David Olsher

This chapter addresses the question of how Chil, a man with severe nonfluent aphasia, is able to initiate conversational turns with his. Although he is able to produce only such sounds as yes, no, and, deh, duh, oh, ah, and yih, the subject is nonetheless a skillful conversationalist. Analysis of videotapes of Chil interacting with his family members shows that what for others can be accomplished in a single conversation turn takes several steps
for him. Chil displays a remarkable repertoire of resources, including the use of prosody and body language. The authors conclude that Chil acts as the principal and author of an utterance, while others provide a gloss for him through words and actions.

Chapter Five
Contingent Achievement of Co-Tellership in a Japanese Conversation:
An Analysis of Talk, Gaze and Gesture
by Makoto Hayashi, Junko Mori, and Tomoyo Takagi

A videotaped conversation of four Japanese women is analyzed in this study to (a) demonstrate the interconnection between social actions and linguistic structures, (b) highlight the need for examination of gestures in face-to-face interactions, and (c) examine the phenomenon of co-tellership within the activity of telling a story. The authors analyzed the linguistic structures used by the women, their gestures and cooperation in creating meaning
together. Results include a description of the heavily interdependent nature of linguistic structure, gestures and gaze in telling a story.

Chapter Six
Saying What Wasn't Said: Negative Observation as a Linguistic Resource for the
Interactional Achievement of Performance Feedback
by Sally Jacoby and Patrick Gonzales

In this study, physicists giving practice conference presentations were critiqued by a senior professor. The act of 'saying what wasn't said' is examined. After each run-through, the senior professor communicated to the presenter what had been left out. According to the authors, saying what wasn't said differs from negative observations and complaints (p. 128). Comments about what wasn't said can be of two types: (a) discursive within the rehearsal, and (b) discursive within the comment sequences. Each type can set off a different series of relevant next actions. These comments also carry certain implications about the competence of the interlocutors.

Chapter Seven
Recipient Activities: The Particle 'No' as a Go-Ahead Response in Finnish
by Marja-Leena Sorjonen

In this paper, Sorjonen examines how the particle 'no' in Finnish, which can have several different meanings depending on the context of the sentence, can stand alone as a turn of its own. In conversations, 'no' is used as a response to an utterance that is a 'pre,' or an utterance building up to something else. 'No' used as a go-ahead response signals to the speaker to finish his or her utterance. 'No' can also function as a response to a change in a joint plan. The author goes on to discuss the usage of another particle, 'nii,' which functions as a response to incomplete talk. A complete discussion of the possible overlap between the two is found on pp. 188-190.

Chapter Eight
Oh-Prefaced Responses to Assessments: A Method of Modifying Agreement/Disagreement
by John Heritage

Prefacing a statement with the word 'oh' can have various conversational implications. Heritage argues that use of 'oh' can help the speaker identify herself as a person with ''epistemic independence'' (p. 198) or with knowledge about the topic at hand that the others do not possess, or that others do not know as much about as the speaker. 'Oh' can also communicate ''equivalent but independent access'' (p. 201) to a piece of knowledge. Other uses of 'oh' are also discussed, including the way it is used when agreeing/disagreeing, and
how it can be used to hold a position on a topic.

Chapter Nine
Turn-Sharing: The Choral Co-Production of Talk-in-Interaction
by Gene. H. Lerner

This chapter discusses the phenomenon of choral speech. Often, choral speech is seen as a 'turn-taking problem in need of repair' (p. 225), but in this study it is the object of examination in its own right. Lerner demonstrates how speakers lead up to a point in conversation in which all of the participants can anticipate the coming word or phrase, and they will join in saying it together. The author cites examples of this phenomenon, including
ways in which interlocutors can use choral speech to reminisce.

Chapter Ten
Some Linguistic Aspects of Closure Cut-off
by Robert Jasperson

In this chapter, Jasperson examines the phonological aspects of closure. The methodology includes the use of SoundEdit, a Macintosh program used in phonetic analysis. A corpus of naturally occurring videotaped data was used to see how different types of articulatory closure provide for opportunities for same-turn repair. A detailed phonetic analysis is given of a variety of phonemes. The author concludes that ''a design feature of closure cut-off is that it allows soonest possible resumptions of speech and therewith soonest possible repair'' (p. 280).

This volume provides a useful overview of the mechanisms involved in the structuring of turns and sequences in talk-in-interaction. It is both narrow and broad in scope: narrow in that all of the papers focus on turns and sequences, and broad in that the editors have selected a variety of approaches to the issue. The richness of this volume lies in the variety of ways and contexts in which turns and sequences are examined. It is a readable work and
an important contribution to the growing field of Conversation Analysis.
Lisa DeWaard Dykstra is a doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition at the University of Iowa. Her research interests include the acquisition of pragmatic competence by American learners of Russian, second language writing, and speech act theory.