Talk in life and literature


Turn Taking and Exchanges

Turn Taking

Linked with power and status. (who takes the most turns or speaks for the longest amount of time) Context should be considered here, as taking the most turns does not necessarily mean that the speaker is in control. (e.g. Interview)
Short monosyllabic responses to lengthy questions may mean that the speaker is withholding information and therefore maintains control of the conversation.


A sequence of turns and each turn within this is termed a move. Some exchanges take place in two moves or adjacency pair.
A common exchange or adjacency pair is the question and answer. Adjacency pairs tells us something about how cooperative a conversation is. If adjacency pairs are broken it can suggest an uncooperative conversation.

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Initiating and Allocating Turns

Initiating Turns

In a sequence it is valid to look at who initiates a turn.

  • Interrogative: What did you do last night?
  • Declarative: It is so cold today.
  • Imperative: Well, say something.
  • Exclamation: What a fantastic rainbow!

It is important to look for patterns in the text as well as commenting on how turns are initiated. (e.g. A succession of interrogatives which may reveal how eager they are to find out information from the other participant.)

Allocating Turns

Look at the way turns are passed from one to another. This links with power and status and should be examined. This can mean that a conversation is more or less cooperative and differences in gender can be seen here.

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Back-Channel Behaviour and Topic Changes

Back-Channel Behaviour

A listener can indicate that they want they speaker to continue by uttering sounds or words.

  • Continuers: Mh, uh, huh- hand speech back to last speaker.
  • Acknowledgements: express agreement or understanding of the previous turn.
  • Assessments: take account of what has just been said (how awful.)
  • News Markers: mark the utterances as being new information or news.
  • Questions: create interest by asking for further details or seek to correct some misunderstanding.
  • Collaborative Completions: finished another's utterance
  • Non-Verbal Vocalisations: (laughter, sighs, frowns)

Topic Changes

Conversations often change from one topic to another. Who establishes the topic of conversation - AGENDA SETTING. This may vary according to situation/ context. Tells you a lot about who is in control of the conversation.

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Representation of phonological features and Conver


Idiolect: distinctive features of an individuals language use.


Where a speaker takes on some of the ideolectal aspects of another speaker. This could be replicating accent or repeating particular words (playwright's use this for specific dramatic effects.

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Every speaker has an accent, although this will not be made apparent within the transcripts.

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Grice's Maxims

Grice claims that his maxims can account for the way that meanings are created and conveyed in conversations between two people. When Maxims are not adheard to it is known as 'flouting'.

Give the right amount of information

  • Make your contribution as informative as is appropriate
  • Do not make your contribution more informative that is appropriate

Try to make your contribution one that is true

  • Do not say what you believe to be false
  • Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence

Be relevant

Be clear

  • Avoid obscurity of expression and avoid ambiguity
  • Bee brief and be orderly
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Dramatic Dialogue

For dialogue to be dramatic we expect it to reveal conflict and tension, rather than co-operation. Constructed dialogue often implies rather than states, explicitly relying on the audience's knowledge of characters, plot etc.

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Politeness Principles

Leech proposed the tact maxim or approbation maxim which states " minimum dispraise of other, maximum praise of other."

If we need to say something bad about the other person we should choose an indirect way of saying it.

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The Concept of "Face."

Brown and Levinson developed a framework around the concept of FACE which refers to our public self image.

  • Positive face: refers to our need to be liked and accepted.
  • Negative face: refers to our right not to be imposed on.

Speakers use positive politeness strategies with friends to emphasise solidarity:

  • shared dialect
  • informal lexis
  • informal grammar
  • more direct requests
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Negative Politeness

Strategies that emphasize when there is a social distance between speakers so more indirect requests and a more formal lexis and grammar are used.

  • Don't impose (Principle of Distance)
  • Give options (Principle of Deference)
  • Be friendly (Principle of Camaraderie)
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Lexical features of conversation

The choice of these lexical features can determine the relationship between participants in a conversation through

  • Modes of address
  • Technical words (jargon)
  • Taboo words
  • Slang
  • Any other relevant features
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Modes of Address, Taboo Language and Tag Questions

Modes of address

indicate something about the relationship between the speakers and also social context
(. e.g. "Mrs O' Connor" "Our Bert" "Honey" "Hot stuff")

  • should be referred to in every essay. Focused on in one section of your essay.

Taboo Language

Swearing has different effects from offence to amusing and friendly. Age, gender and social class are important factors here.

Tag Questions

Questions that are tagged on to the end of a declarative. A feature of everyday conversation that is replicated in literature.

E.g. the weather is great, isn't it?

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Hedging and Anacoluthon


A stalling technique to make an utterance more tentative. Sometimes used to give the speaker more time to think, when they are unsure of a reaction to an utterance, to make a statement less direct or to soften in some way.

  • WELL, it could be done.
  • Could you POSSIBLY buy this magazine for me?
  • MAYBE you could try this out.


A feature of conversation used on a daily basis where the speaker topic shifts mid-sentence. Often shows a lost train of thought or an important point or idea coming to the forefront.


  • So she said look at that rain!
  • I think you could... did I tell you about Brian?
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Fillers, Interjections and Repitition


Words such as 'erm' that fill in time or show hesitation or lack of clarity


Words of no grammatical value, such as 'oh' and 'hmm'. 'Oh' Is the most common in the set texts as it can be replicating a sigh or surprise.

Consider here how the line would be delivered to make a phonological point.


Shows the importance of a particular aspect of the conversation of a character or speaker.

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  • Playscript: stage directions (pause) or ellipses (...)
  • Transcripts: a number of seconds (1).

Comment on this must be specifically linked to context and the content of the conversation. Is the character or speaker nervous or stalling or is there anther reason for the hesitation.

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Overlaps and Interruptions

An overlap or interruption is certainly telling you something about the relationship and status of the two characters or speakers. Is the speaker excited or rude or trying to re-gain control of the conversation?

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Self repairs : This is where a speaker makes an error and repairs their utterance by changing their language to utter the correct words.

  • Pass me the sp...tea spoon.
  • Today is the third- fourth.

Other repair: This is when another speaker repairs your error for you.

  • Adam has got a new car.

Alec has got a new car.

Other initiated self repair: Where another participant in the conversation prompts the self repair.

  • Pass me the spoon

The tea spoon?

Yes, the tea spoon.

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Gender and Storytelling

Women's talk-

  • Telling stories or anecdotes
  • Gossiping expressing opinions
  • Telling jokes
  • Chatting

Woman engage in gossip more than men. Gossip may be defined as idle chat or conversations based on rumours about others - "asserting social unity"

Storytelling- Eggins and Slade

  • Women don't tell naughty stories
  • Stories in which speakers show themselves in fearful, embarrassing or humiliating situations are far more likely to be told by women than men.
  • Male speakers seem to prefer to feature as heroes in stories which are about danger, violence, heroic deeds. In our culture men don't often tell stories about their own fears and failures.
  • Women present a mundane world where problems can be shared and usually where something is being 'done' to the protagonist rather than by the protagonist.
  • Woman relate incidents in which they violate social norms and are scared and embarrassed as a result.
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The emphasis is not on what the sentences mean but what the speaker's mean when they utter them.

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Purposes of conversations

Literary texts

  • Moving plot on
  • Creating an atmosphere or mood
  • To reveal more about a character
  • To reveal more about the relationship between characters
  • To create tension or drama
  • To create irony
  • To reveal more about the attitude of a particular character
  • To introduce character
  • To help to convey time or setting
  • To develop a particular theme


  • TRANSACTIONAL- exchanges where the speaker is getting something done (asking for directions)
  • REFERENTIAL- providing information (telling someone the times and dates of a meeting)
  • PHATIC- small talk ( talking about the weather or asking how someone is in a telephone conversation)
  • INTERACTIONAL- main purpose is social. This has links with phatic conversations ( talking about a shared night out)
  • PERFORMATIVE- carrying out the purpose of the talk ( an introduction)
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The purposes of talk 2


  • Plot
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Relationships
  • Audience
  • Mood
    How does the talk display or contribute to this?


  • Transactional
  • Referential
  • Interactional
  • Phatic
  • Expressive
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Locution, Illocution, Perlocution

locution- the literal sense of the utterance (I'm in the bath)
Illocution- the intended meaning ( you get the phone)
Perlocution- The perceived meaning (I'll have to get the phone)

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But not quite carling.

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