Conversation Analysis

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Conversation Analysis

Conversation is absolutely instilled throughout every corner of every day for the totality of our lives. Whether it is on your favorite morning talk show, a casual encounter with a roommate, or admitting an undying love to your significant other, our lives, along with our realities, are entirely shaped by the conversations we allow ourselves to become continually engulfed in. With so much of our daily lives revolving around the conversations in which we are a part of it becomes clear that the underlining meanings, or messages, of these conversations could very well be the motor that keeps our realities in a state of progress. Conversation is interactional, philosophical, emotional, and entirely necessary in order to fulfill and express any type of accomplishment. When these conversations, these parts of our lives, are put under a trained mental microscope with the motive of finding a better understanding of the interaction taking place, it is referred to as Conversation Analysis (CA). Conversation Analysis’ method is aimed at determining the methods and resources that the interactional participants use and rely on to produce interactional contributions while also making sense of the contributions of others (Schegloff, 2007). What follows in this essay is an in-depth look at the practices and methods of Conversation Analysis showing that a better understanding of one’s conversation(s) will ultimately lead to a better understanding of one’s reality; while also showing that every utterance fulfilling some kind of act, or task, and is entirely motive driven toward the accomplishment of one of these tasks.

Conversation Analysis is the study of social interaction, embracing both verbal and non-verbal cues and conduct. As a field of study, Conversation Analysis was developed in the late 1960’s by Sociologist Harvey Sacks with the help of his associates Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson. Harvey Sacks is commonly regarded to as the ‘father’ of the particular study. Conversation Analysis is frequently embodied into the works of sociology, anthropology, linguistics, speech communication, and psychology just to name a few. Although similar, Conversation Analysis differs from Discourse Analysis because its focus is squarely on the processes involved in social interaction, and does not include the work of written texts (Sidnell, 2010). To create an accurate analysis of conversation the interaction should not be viewed from a far or from a perspective that is external to the participants own reasoning and understanding of their circumstances and communication (Sidnell & Stivers, 2012). The analysis in which we are going to use as an example for the remainder of the essay focuses primarily on the functions of turn taking, adjacency pairs, repair, and speech acts; all common perspectives in the field of Conversation Analysis.

The format of a conversation can be relatively easy to understand; one party communicates, the remaining parties respond in somewhat of a positive feedback loop; meaning that the feedback loop of the conversational system is continually going around with the addition of new information and new utterances, thus a positive feedback loop. This way of conversation is simply called ‘turn-taking’ implying that it is not a lecture style of communication with primarily one party conducting the conversation, rather an interaction where one party’s conversation is influenced and working together with a separate party’s. After establishing the turn taking method of conversation we are able to take it one step deeper and analyze the chosen utterances. While turn taking the two parties will be exchanging what are called ‘adjacency pairs;’ adjacency pairs are composed of two utterances, one after the other. The first pair provokes a response from the second party, such as: ‘Hello, how are you?” could provoke a response such as: “Fine, how are you?” That is an adjacency pair....
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