Conversational Theory

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Conversational Theory. An introduction to how people talk to each other. What is conversation?. Analysing conversation is part of what linguists call ‘discourse analysis.’ Can you explain the (obvious) difference between a monologue and a dialogue? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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  • Conversational TheoryAn introduction to how people talk to each other.

  • What is conversation?Analysing conversation is part of what linguists call discourse analysis. Can you explain the (obvious) difference between a monologue and a dialogue?Make a list of all the features you expect to see in a conversation.

  • Simple definitionConversation is:Any interactive spoken exchange between two or more people.Face to face interactions (private or public (in the classroom or Prime Ministers QT)Non-face to face interactions eg: PhoneBroadcasts such as radio phone-ins/tv chat shows.

  • Ingredients of a conversationYou came up with a list of what conversation includes but what do linguists call these things and how do they work in practice?

  • Key ideas about conversationConversation is (usually) spontaneousSpeech is temporary (unlike writing)Conversation is about more than words (unlike writing usually is):Prosody: Communication through facets other than words such as intonation, speed, stress, volume, laughter or even silence.

  • Features: 1. Turn-takingBasic rule of conversation people take it in turns.Levison: Less than 5% of speech stream is delivered in overlap.There are conversational rules that mean there are appropriate behaviours when to talk, when not to.The expected pairing of utterance and then response is known as adjacency pairs.

  • Politeness and NegotiationConversation is a subtle process and is about cooperation. Getting somebody to do something for you can be done via an IMPERATIVE (telling somebody what to do) or via an INTERROGATIVE (asking somebody to do something).There might be a half way house for this via the use of please. Which indicates forethought and encourages smooth conversation. We use politeness so we are not attacked.

  • Content and Conditioning

    There are certain topics in conversation that are acceptable as much as there are certain words that are acceptable/unacceptable.

  • Purpose and ContextA speech act refers to the idea that there is always a purpose to speech. Speech act theory refers to what is being done when something is said. It might not always be obvious just from the words chosen.Consider I do at a wedding or Can you pass me the ketchup?GO through your day and chose 5 conversations you have had. Outline what they were about, what was their purpose?

  • Hallidays 7 functions of language.

    Instrumental Expresses needsRegulatory Language used to tell others what to doInteractional language used to form and maintain relationshipsPersonal language used to express feelings, opinions and identityHeuristic language used to gain knowledge about worldImaginative language used to tell stories and jokes and to create an imaginary environment. Representational to convey facts and information.

  • What else is happening:Conversational structure & analysisWhat are adjacency pairs?Brown and Yule (1983) state language is either: Interactional or TransactionalInteractional: expresses social relations & personal attitudesTransactional: conveys factual information & is message oriented

  • Discourse MarkersConversation is also dependent on discourse markers. These are the words and phrases that open, close and make links between and across utterances.Discourse markers (aka utterance indicator) are like signposts in the conversation.Discourse markers show that conversations are analysable into chunks larger than sentences.

  • Discourse markers

    'the little words like 'well', 'oh', right' and OK' that break our speech up into parts and can show the relation between parts. Their meanings can be quite variable, and sometimes people have quite idiosyncratic discourse markers (think of your teachers), but there are some tendencies in discourse marker use:'Oh' can prepare the hearer for a surprising or just remembered itemRight can indicate the beginning of a new stretch of discourse, or that a discourse topic has been completed and a new one is about to start

  • What do you call it whenSomebody starts talking?This is known as taking the floor.Somebody lets somebody else talk?This is known as yielding the floorSomebody continues to talk? This is known as holding the floor.This term the floor has its origins in debating

  • What else is going on in conversation?BACK-CHANNELING:If the hearer doesnt want to speak he/she signals that the speaker can continue. This is done through sounds and gestures as well as words.These sounds might be things like uh-huh, mmmm, yeh,Or gestures such as head nodding They are an important way the listener shows interest in the speaker.They show the involvement of both parties.Back channel feedback is very important in phone conversations. Why?

  • What else is going on?PRE-SEQUENCING:Used when a turn in TURN TAKING is really problematic for example due to a difficult subject matter.A speaker prepares for the difficulty with a pre-sequence. E.g:A: I have something terrible to tell youB: How bad can it be?A: As bad as you can imagine.B: Yeah?A: Bennie just got run over.

  • What else is going on?PHATIC TALK:A usual pre-sequence is phatic talk; utterances that have no real purpose.Phatic talk is often used to open a conversation a good example is the British obsession with the weather!? Are we really interested or is it to serve a purely interactional/social function?Sp phatic talk will often open the ground.Very important social tool small talk.

  • What else is going on?REPAIRS:The speaker can correct himself/herselfThe hearer can correct the speakerThe Hearer can prompt the speaker, perhaps by repeating back the last utteranceThe hearer doesnt respond indicating a mistake

  • What else is going on?NON-FLUENCY FEATURES:These are normal characteristics of speech that interrupt the flow of talk.Hesitations: Fill a gap to prevent a turn/allow thoughtFalse starts Speaker begins and then againRepetitions Natural though can be used for emphasisInterruptions or Insertions when the adjacency pair is disruptedOverlaps A kind of interruption; can be co-operative or an attempt to take the floor.Fillers are also non-fluency features butI think they come

  • RepairsThere is a preference in speech to allow the speaker to repair their mistake.If a speaker is not allowed to repair a mistake it is seen as not a normative response and can cause conversational trouble or conflict.Repair is very frequent talk is a spontaneous, noisy medium

  • What else is going on?(here) FILLERS, HEDGES & TAG QUESTONS:Fillers: Sounds that fill up speech such as urm ,um, er.Allow thinking time and prevent interruption. Linked to ideas of voiced pauses (noises used to keep the turn in the conversation)Hedge: A means of being non-commital, not sounding too directSort of kind ofTag Questions:(Unnecessary) questions at the end of utterances less confrontational or confident. Prompt back channel feedback, but can be aggressive. You know what I mean, dont you?Vague Language:Softens the impact of an utteranceE.g She said you smelt or something OR Whenever it was you said whatever it was you said

  • What else is going on?PARALINGUISTIC FEATURES:Related to body language (whereas prosody is about the non-verbal aspects of speech!)Gestures, facial expressions.Laughter or smiling might come under this category (poss prosody depending on context)Paralinguistic features help add meaning in addition to the meaning of the words used.

  • Anything else?! Surely thats it?!Not quite there are certain ways we can say thingsElision: When you slur one of more sounds or syllables (like in gonna (Going to). This is very very common! Ellipsis: When part of a grammatical construction is missing You out tonight?Accent: We all know about this one!! The distinctive way words are pronounced (like my oooo sounds as opposed to your oow sounds in words like home)Dialect: The grammar and lexis of a regional area (Thall end up like a boolie = Cumbrian for You will get a bad back!!)Idiolect: How an individual speaks; a distinctive style.Sociolect: How a social group talk eg upper or working class.

  • PRACTICE: Expected responses adjacency pairs in practice. What might be the response to the following:

    Your tea is readyThats a nice jacketI heard it might snowHello there!Are you coming later?Notice that they are not all questions! However the most often used adjacency pairs are in a Question/Answer format.

  • PRACTICE: Consider the following:Sit down and shut upPlease can I have some of those over therePlease quieten downGive me thatWho do you think is speaking?Why?What is the context of the utterance?

  • Practice Can you think of a topic that are seen as taboo? Are there certain people/contexts that change what you consider to be taboo? Explain you answer.

  • PRACTICE: Test each otherWrite down some examples of the speech acts you have participated in today. Pass them to somebody else in the class. That person must then decide what was happening in that conversation which of Hallidays functions were being used?

  • PRACTICE: When adjacency pairs are (apparently) brokenThe following examples break expectations. Can you suggest a context in which this might happen:

    A: HelloB: Goodbye

    A: What do you think of this?B: Is that the time? I must go

    A: Did you go out with Jon last night?B: Why are you asking?A: Why do you think?

  • PRACTICE Give specific examples of paralinguistic features through a short skit. The audience is to interpret the meaning of these features.

  • PRACTICEGive specific examples of

    Elision Ellipsis Accent Dialect IdiolectSociolect

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