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On Talk and Social Structure


Chiara Fenech

on 6 April 2013

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Transcript of On Talk and Social Structure

Professor Lydia Sciriha Discourse of English Reflections on Talk
and Social Structure Emanuel A. Schegloff Inspired by Harold Garfinkel's ethnomethodology and Erving Goffman's conception of the interaction order

Conversational interaction is about interactional rights and obligations which are linked not only to personal face and identity but also to macro-social institutions (Goffman, 1955;1983)

Garfinkel adds up to the above by recognizing the importance of understanding and subjectivity Conversation Analysis Developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the sociologist Harvey Sacks and his associates Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson

Various disciplines have over the past decades shown interest in the study of talk-in-interaction which is a broader term for conversation analysis. (Hutchby, 1988) defines conversation analysis as ‘’the study of talk… the systematic analysis of the talk produced in everyday situations of human interaction – talk-in interaction.’’

(Psathas, 1995) defines talk-in interaction as ‘’[taking] up the problem of studying social life in situ, in the most ordinary of settings, examining the most routine, everyday, naturally occurring activities in their concrete details.’’ Basic &
Institutional CA Basic CA:
- Epitomized by Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson
- Investigates conversation as an institution
- Focuses on social action and their organization into systems through which participants manage turn-taking, repair, among others
- Concerned with the relationship between self and other

Institutional CA:
- Adds up to basic CA – uses basic CA to understand the work of social institutions i.e. the police, law and education amongst others- Examines the operation of social institutions in talk
- Is less permanent than basic CA because of on-going changes in society Conversation analysts started dealing with talk with properties
which were seemingly related to its production by participants in particular contexts

Interest in talk and social structure emerged from -
- A concern with the analysis of different forms of talk
- A desire to come to an understanding with the concerns of sociology.
In order to do so, one has to relate talk-in interaction
to social structures

Schegloff takes the latter as hi initial starting point Emanuel A. Schegloff • Born in 1937 in New York, USA

• A Distinguished Professor of Sociology at University of California, Los Angeles

• Along with Harvey Sacks and Gail Jefferson, Schegloff was one of the principal creators of the field of Conversation Analysis (CA) - a mode of inquiry and research methodology

• His work in interactional linguistics is similarly foundational Schegloff Focuses
on 3 Issues: 1. The Problem of Relevance

2. The Issue of Procedural Consequentiality

3. Conversational Structures and ''social structure''
in the analysis of talk-in interaction The Problem of Relevance Schegloff recalls a work by Sacks which focused on the way in which persons who engaged in talk-in interactions did their talk specifically with respect to how they referred to other persons

Sacks noted that members refer to one another by various category terms e.g. man/woman, black/white/Chicano

What he pointed out was that these terms of references came in categories/collections/groups

What Harvey Sacks noted was that any member of society can be categorised in multiple ways. He came up with two main categories. Pn Adequate and Not Pn Adequate Pn Adequate - e.g. male/female

Not Pn Adequate - e.g. first baseman/second baseman/ shortstop The Problem of Relevance Conversation Analysis An approach to the study of casual and natural conversations

• Aims at determining:
- Participants' method of turn-taking
- The construction of a sequence of utterances across turns

• However, its methods were adapted to embrace more task and institution-centered interactions, therefore analysing how conversation works in different conventional settings as in interviews, court hearings as in (Atkinson and Drew, 1979) and telephone conversations as in (Zimmerman, 1984; Zimmerman and Whalen, 1987). Ethnomethodology
It represents ‘’a foundational respecification of the human sciences.’’ (Graham Button, 1991)

It is interested in the study of the everyday methods that people use for the production of social order (Garfinkel, 2002)

Conversation analysis emerged out of the ethnomethodological challenge to mainstream sociology AIMS By the end of this presentation you will be able to - 1. Outline the theoretical underpinnings of
conversation analysis and talk-in interaction

2. Identify and comprehend what Ethnomethodology is

3. Critically evaluate Schegloff's thesis on the relation between talk and social structure By Marla Mercieca, Georgianne Mifsud & Chiara Fenech Not just the description of terms used to characterize the objects being referred to but the relevance that one has to provide. Therefore, a person can be referred to in multiple ways

Whoever can be categorized as ‘’female’’ or as ‘’Jew’’ or whatever can be categerized in other ways as well Solutions to the Problem of Relevance There are two types of solution to this problem:
Positivist stance: (Talcott Parsons)
What makes the solution positivist is the fact that it does not matter whether the terms that are used to characterize the participants are oriented to or not by the participants being described.
Professional characterizations of participants are to be grounded in what is relevant to the participants.

Therefore, the terms being used e.g. president/assistant, chicano/black are relevant for producing behaviour in interaction. The point is not that the persons are somehow not male or female,
upper or lower class, they may be on some occasions,
members of one or another of those categories.

Therefore you can be male, protestant and higher
class but one can be categorized through
several reference forms as well.

Depending on which reference forms are
used, the bond between the parties in action is established. Procedural Consequentiality The second problem or issue is that of procedural consequentiality.

Schegloff asserts that an examination of talk in a setting or context must show how its occurrence in that place is procedurally consequential, that is - Schegloff asks:

How does the fact that the talk is being conducted in some setting
(e.g. “the hospital” and not ‘’a school’’) issue in any consequences for the
shape, form, trajectory, content, or character of the interaction
that the parties conduct? And what is the mechanism by which
the context-so-understood has determinate consequences for the talk? (1992, p. 53). Atkinson and Drew, 1979 The case of courtroom session (Atkinson and Drew 1979)

It focused on turn-taking organization

The ‘’courtroom-ness’’ of courtrooms in session organizes the way in which the talk
is distributed among the persons present in the particular setting.

Therefore, onlookers, in this case members of the audience - are not potential next

Potential next speakers include the judge and the attorneys. Willem Levelt, 1983 Schegloff also brings up a reference to what he calls an ‘’experiment’’
or ‘’in a laboratory context.’’

Study of 'repair' by Levelt – Dutch psycholinguist

Study on ‘’Linearization problem’’ - The setting was an experiment
designed to studyspeaker’s linearization strategies,
i.e., the ways in which speakers order complex information for expression. Experiment by Levelt ’Linearization problem’’ – about linear talk. He asked a number of people to look at a screen which projected different shapes – circles, triangles etc. These were connected by lines. The job was to describe these figures so that someone who was not present could figure out what was on the screen.

What Levelt notices was that people often times misspoke, they started saying one thing and cut themselves off often times resorting to fixing it. He recognized these as self-repairs (Schegloff, Jefferson and Sacks 1977)

For Schegloff this experiment was not void of problems – the talk was produced in an experimental context – artificial – Only the experimental subject could talk. (see p. 55 3rd para.) Turn-taking What is turn-taking?

The transition between one speaker and the next

‘’Individuals, in a nontrivial sense, "take turns" at
producing units of structure.’’ (Stephen J. Cowley, 1998)

As a result of this one couldn’t analyse what we normally understand by
turn-taking. Rather, what comes into practice is a subtype of natural
conversational repair – same-turn repair Same-turn-repair When an utterance is stopped by the current and is then aborted, recast,
continued, or redone by the speaker within the same turn.
(Armik Mirzayan, 2008)
Until someone comes up with another study on talk from ordinary
interaction and analyse whether the findings about same-turn repair
are the same or not, we will not understand the value of Levelt’s study
about the organization of same-turn repair same-turn self-repair as
outlined by Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks (1977) and
Jasperson (1998, 2002). What is Social Structure? What is Conversational Structure? The way conversation works in practice

- We move beyond the workings of the brain and beyond the specifics of understanding and production of single messages to what happens when two or more people are talking to one another. - Blau (1997) uses the term to refer to the distribution of population on various parameters applicable to interaction
- Others have in mind a structure of roles (as opposed to Blau)
- Others refer to it as a structured distribution of sparse resources such as property, wealth, knowledge and power
- Others regard it as a patterned set of social relations/networks Various explanations are given: Social Structure or Conversational
Structure? Schegloff offers some illustrations on this tension and gives an example from Zimmermann’s paper ‘’Talk and Its Occasion’’ (1984)
whose object of interest is ‘’calls to the police’’ which Schegloff
had also analysed way back in 1967.

The paper’s focus is directed to attending both to the concerns of social structure and the concerns of conversational structure. Zimmerman – in many of these calls a fair amount of talk intervenes between the request and its remedy. This usually takes the form of question-answer sequences which according to Zimmerman are ‘’interrogative sequence’’ (Schegloff 1972)

There are many occurrences where non-organisational request/complaint calls also go through a similar insertion sequence before responding

One example is a telephone call involving a 15 year old boy being asked by his 14 year old girlfriend to borrow his ‘’gun.’’ He takes her through an interrogative sequence of considerations – asking her questions. The sequence is discussed in Schegloff, 1990
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