Conversation Analysis: Examining stretches of talk
In this chapter we look at the approach to the examination of conversation or stretches of talk advocated by conversation analysts, aspects of which have been highly influential in sociopragmatics. We refer here to ‘ethnomethodological’ conversation analysis or CA, as it is commonly labelled, rather than to linguistic or other approaches to the study of conversation (Markee, 2000). That is, we refer to the approach to the examination of ‘talk-in-interaction’ (Schegloff, 1982) which was developed in the 1960s by Harvey Sacks, together with Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson, and which has its roots in ethnomethodology, a branch of sociology (see 3.1). Within this approach, talk-in-interaction is regarded as ‘the primordial site of sociality’ (Schegloff, 1986) in that ‘the organization of persons dealing with one another in interaction is the vehicle through which those institutions [‘(the) society’ — the economy, the polity, the law, etc.] get their work done’ (p. 112). The object of study for conversation analysts is, therefore, how talk is used in the construction of social (inter)action. For sociopragmaticists, the examination of language as a vehicle for social interaction is also central, although not from the same perspective (see 3.4). As we will see in section 3.5, most work carried out by Hispanists where CA analytical concepts are employed cannot be labelled ethnomethodological as their work reflects a different understanding of reality (see chapter 6). The goal of most Hispanists is to go beyond the description of structures of talk-in-interaction to the explanation of their use in relation to sociocultural factors, and to achieve this goal, they may make use of experimental rather than naturally occurring data.
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