Analysing two speaking activities.

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Discourse analysis is defined as (a) concerned with language use beyond the boundaries of a sentence/utterance, (b) concerned with the interrelationships between language and society and (c) as concerned with the interactive or dialogic properties of everyday communication. This is a quotation from M. Stubbs' textbook (Stubbs 1983:1).

Conversation analysis (CA) offers an approach to discourse that has been extensively articulated by sociologists, beginning with Harold Garfinkel who developed the approach known as ethnomethodology , and then applied specifically to conversation. CA differs from other branches of sociology because rather than analyzing social order, it seeks to discover the methods by which members of a society produce a sense of social order. CA is like interactional sociolinguistics in its concern with the problem of social order, and how language both creates and is created by social context. CA provides its own assumptions, its own methodology, including its own terminology, and its own way of theorizing. CA is a structural methodology for the analysis of talk.

General remarks:

In the first conversation (C1), Mrs Smith is being open and frank with the doctor by explaining the condition of her son. She said that initially she thought that her son was pretending to be sick so that he does not go to school. But when she saw him vomiting and having diarrhea, she realized that he is really sick. Then she took the opportunity to explain her condition as well while she was there. It seems that she did not make a prior appointment for herself.

I think in some cases some doctors may refuse to examine her because they may be pressed for time and they would ask her to make another appointment, this is part of the Australian culture, i.e. the necessity of making appointments to meet other professionals. However, in other cultures, for example in the Arab culture, there is more 'flexibility' with regard to time management and adherence to appointments. The other important cultural/religious issue in an Arab society is the selection of a female doctor to see a female patient and vice versa, as much as possible.

The second conversation (C2) is a telephone interaction between two men (probably Australians). Mr Ross, the client and friend, is ringing Andrew to make another appointment for his visit and signing the contract. It seems that the Andrew and Ross are good friends as Ross is invited to Andrew's place to have lunch and sign the contract. The interaction is a variation on what would normally be expected of an appointment-making interaction. Because of their personal relationship, Andrew is very understanding of Ross's personal circumstances.

D2 is primarily a pragmatically motivated interaction but it has a strong interpersonal dimension because of the relationship between the two men. The transactional purpose of making the appointment is mixed with some extra given information. This type of mixed personal and pragmatic interaction is more common when speakers share long friendship or in small communities where people are likely to meet socially as well as professionally.

Speaking Turns:

One central concept within conversation analysis is the speaking turn. According to Sacks et al. (1974 ), it takes two turns to have a conversation. Clearly, C1 uses natural turn taking; and the study of its patterns allows one to describe contextual variation, for example, the structural organisation of turns is laid out, starting with the doctor going straight into the subject, also, the speakers manage sequences as well as the internal design of turns. It is worth stating at the same time, that the principle of taking turns in speech is claimed to be general enough to be universal to talk and it is something that speakers normally attend to in interaction.

Adjacency Pair:

A second central concept that is apparent in the conversation is that of the adjacency pair. The basic idea is...
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