Conversation analysis as a method of sociolinguistic research

Science 2023

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Conversation analysis as a method of sociolinguistic research
Conversation analysis as a method of sociolinguistic research

Conversation analysis (AB) is an approach to the study of social interaction. It covers verbal and non-verbal behavior in everyday life situations. Its methods are adapted to cover targeted and institutional interactions that occur in doctors' offices, courts, law enforcement, helplines, educational institutions, and the media.


Conversational analysis emerged from the collaborative research of Harvey Sachs, Emanuel Sheglov, Gail Jefferson, and their students in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1974, a landmark article was published in the journal "Language", en titled "The simplest systematics for organizing a turn to conversation." She provided a detailed example of the analytical method of talking to each other while articulating linguistic problems. The article remains the most cited and downloaded ever published in the journal's history.

Conversation mechanism

Ideaand goals

The central goal of the analytical study of conversation is the description and explication of the competencies that ordinary speakers use and rely on when participating in understandable, socially organized interaction. It consists in describing the procedures by which interlocutors develop their own behavior, understand the behavior of other people and have interaction with them.

The idea is that the conversations are streamlined not only for the observing analysts, but also for those being examined. Sociolinguistic research methods have a twofold characteristic. On the one hand, they are quite general, and on the other hand, they allow fine adaptation to local conditions (context-free and context-sensitive).

Topic of conversation

The birthplace of the language

The underlying, guiding research assumption in conversational analysis is that the home environment of language is a collaborative interaction. Its structure is somehow adapted to this environment. This distinguishes AB from many linguistic sciences, which usually understand language as having its home in the human mind and reflecting its organization in its structure. For the most part, they can be seen as complementary rather than opposing points of view. Language is both a cognitive and interactive phenomenon. His organization should reflect this fact.

Conversation Analysis

Interaction aspects

Goffman described interaction as a normally organized structure of attention. It starts with talking to each other.AB seeks to discover and describe the underlying norms and practices that make it orderly. For example, one of the fundamental aspects is related to the distribution of opportunities to participate in the conversation. That is, how the participant determines when it is their turn to speak or listen. Another aspect concerns an apparatus for solving problems of hearing, speech or understanding. The third aspect has to do with how speakers produce and perceive the essence of the conversation. They should represent actions that can help you achieve your goals.


Analysis of the conversation begins with the formulation of a problem associated with a preliminary hypothesis. The data used in it are video recordings or audio recordings of conversations. They are assembled with or without the participation of researchers. A detailed transcription is built from the recording. The researchers then perform an inductive analysis of the data to look for recurring interaction patterns. Based on it, rules are developed to explain the occurrence of amplification, modification or replacement of the original hypothesis.

Analytical study of the conversation


There are various ways in which a conversation turn can be arranged. For example, the queue could be pre-arranged so that each potential participant has the right to speak for two minutes, and the order of speaking can be determined in advance (debate).

There is also a basic conversation model. It lies in the fact that the participants in the conversation must express their statements (phrases, sentences or parts thereof)during your turn. The simplest forms occur in conversations between two people, where the completion of a sentence or a pause may be enough to justify the next turn to the other person.


An important area of ​​study in conversational analysis concerns a systematically organized set of "repair" or "repair" practices. Participants use it to solve speech, hearing, and comprehension problems. The beginning of the recovery means a possible divergence from the previous conversation. The result of the repair leads to either a solution or a rejection of the problem. The specific segment of the conversation to which recovery relates is referred to as the "problem source" or "repairable".

Repair can be initiated by either the speaker or another participant.

Talking to each other

Turn mechanism

Conversation turns are used to evenly distribute who is given the floor during a conversation. They include the use of repetitions, the selection of lexical forms (words), the use of temporal regulators and speech particles. The pivot system consists of two different components:

  • distribution mechanism;
  • lexical components used to fill gaps.

In this regard, the rules of a business conversation have been developed:

  • The current speaker chooses the next one. This can be done by using addressing terms (names) or initiating actions with eye contact.
  • Nextspeaker chooses. When there is no obvious addressee and potential respondents. This can be done by overlapping using turn input devices such as "okay" or "you know".
  • The current speaker continues. If no one picks up the conversation, they can speak up again to add to the conversation.
business conversation

Organizing preferences

Analytical conversation can reveal structural preferences in conversation for certain types of activities over others. For example, response actions that are aligned with the positions occupied by the first action are more straightforward and faster than actions that are not aligned. This is called an unmarked form of turning that is not preceded by silence. A form that describes a turn with opposite characteristics is called marked.

Research practice model

The following steps are used to build an idealized conversation analysis model:

  1. The production of analyzed materials is delegated to technology that records everything that its receptors can hear or see. As long as the recording sounds natural, it provides useful data. It can be made more accessible through transcription.
  2. The episodes to be analyzed are selected from the transcripts based on various considerations. It may be a set of circumstances, such as the opening of consultations. Or discovering the purpose of the conversation.
  3. The researcher is trying to figure out this episode using his common sense.
  4. A reasoning is being built thatleads to typifications by defining its analytical resources. The researcher uses both the details of the interaction and his own knowledge.
  5. The current episode and its analysis are compared with other examples. Comparison with similar or dissimilar cases is an important resource for the so-called "single case analysis", which focuses on the explication of a particular episode.
The essence of the conversation

Limited database

Conversation analysis tends to use a very limited database. These are records of naturally occurring interactions. Criticism on this issue can take many forms. Data is mentioned that is not based on the topic of the conversation or the identity of the participants. Questions are asked why sources such as interviews with the participants, their comments on the recordings, or interpretations of the recorded materials by "judge" teams are not used. This criticism is unacceptable to AB until local procedural relevance has been demonstrated.


From a phenomenological point of view, conversation analysis is about to become another form of constructive analysis. It aims to analyze devices and competencies at a fairly general level. From this point of view, many studies are not limited to extensive discussion of one or a few fragments of conversation, but take on the systematic study of larger collections of examples. Case discussion takes on a broader meaning as an exemplary approach to what is typicalor atypical. Quantitative information remains relatively vague. The focus remains on the quoted passages themselves.

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