This paper intends to examine two conversations and aims to identify the principles of conversation analysis within the texts. In order to make a successful conversation with our partner(s), we have to be aware of the fact that “… conversation is a highly structured activity in which people follow a set of basic conventions.” (Kurtán, p.91) Therefore it is essential to understand that “The central question studied by conversation analysts is: how do conversations ‘work’?”(Kurtán, p.92) This analysis focuses on the following aspects concerning conversations (Kurtán, p.92): -
how people open conversations
how they take turns
how they change topics
how they end conversation
The conversations are also studied according to the criteria of cooperative principle. These rules are very important in order to have effective conversations in the English-speaking world. Paul Grice (1975), the linguistic philosopher created the cooperative principle including four maxims of conversations (Kurtán, p. 92): 1, Maxim of quantity
2, Maxim of quality
3, Maxim of relevance
4, Maxim of manner
These aspects suggest that the speaker should be truthful, brief, relevant and clear by following the four rules.
Each language has its own cultural characteristic features concerning making conversations. In Anglo-Saxon countries spoken discourse is a very important element of socialising, they tend to start having conversations almost with anybody – even strangers – anytime, anywhere. Small talk is a very popular way of getting to know with other people or just for passing time. The topics of small talk are usually about the weather (British people: ”We usually don’t have such hot weather in July.”), geographical connections with the other person’s place of origin (American people: ”Ah, so you’re from Arizona. I had an uncle living there for a couple of years.”). For a Hungarian person it can be sometimes embarrassing and pushy how easily the American people start talking to total strangers while waiting for the bus for example, or inviting someone for a cup of coffee after a couple minutes of the first time they meet each other. On the other hand most British and American people would find it uncomfortable to listen to a Hungarian while describing his/her illness or political views in details. In the following two dialogues we can observe an unsuccessful conversation between an English man and an Italian woman and a successful one between a Scottish woman and a French man. The situations take place in a summer language course and the teachers are trying to be friendly with their students during lunch break. James and Maria
James: Hello. What’s your name?
J: I’m … James. I’m a teacher. And …Where are you from? M: Rome.
J: Er … What … What do you do?
M: I’m a student.
J: Mm. And … how long have you been here in London, Maria? M: Two months.
J: Are you having a good time?
M: Mm … Yes.
J: Can I get you a coffee?
J: Are you missing your family at all?
J: Have you got any brothers or sisters?
J: Er … Oh! Er … What do they do?
M: They are students too.
J: Oh well, I’ve got a class now. Goodbye, Maria.
Sylvia and Jean -Paul
Sylvia: Hello. What’s your name?
Jean - Paul: Jean-Paul. And what’s your name?
S: Sylvia. Where are you from, Jean-Paul?
J-P: I come from Paris, the most romantic city in the whole world. And you, Sylvia, where do you come from? S: I come from Scotland. What do you do in Paris?
J-P: I’m an architect.
S: Oh, really?
J-P: Yeah. I design beautiful buildings for people with lots of money. I’m very expensive. (laughs) S: How interesting.
J-P: And how long have you been a teacher, Sylvie?
S: Actually, my name’s Sylvia.
J-P: I am so sorry. Sylvie is the French name, Sylvia, sorry. S: Don’t worry. I like it. I’ve been working here for five years. J-P: And do you enjoy it?
S: Yes, very much. You meet a lot of people from all sorts of different countries....
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