MLA SAMPLE III The Structure And Function Of Conversations |

MLA SAMPLE III The Structure and Function of Conversations

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The Structure and Function of Conversations
The Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English by Biber, Geoffrey, and
Susan is perhaps one of the most relevant books in the study of written and spoken English.
Besides drawing the structures of conversations, the book defines the most important elements of
conversations and the organizational structures that define everyday talk in the society. This is
one clear proof that everyday talk is not disorganized and chaotic, rather, it is structured to
comply with various linguistic rules and expectations. In her issue of conversational analysis,
confirms this by explaining that all conversations occurring in everyday dialogue have
underpinning features and structures like speech acts, which distinctively define the rules for
initiating conversations, interrupting the speeches of others, asking questions, issuing responses
and ending conversations (111). These can be classified through the structures of openings,
closings, turn taking, gaps of silence, overlaps, adjacency pairs, and repairs.
Characteristics of Everyday Talk
In their basic formats, most everyday conversations in socialization circles begin without any
form of planning. On the other hand, institutionalized conversations that guide group dialogues
in educational, religious, and social events are highly planned and structured. In all cases, the
conversations display various characteristics that remain part of everyday talk (Bourdieuand
John 38). An individual will start by greeting, ordering, or requesting another. The other(s) will
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return the greeting, raise a question, or refuse to perform whatever they have been requested
verbally. These patterns display organization trends that can be predicted.
The first characteristic of all conversations in everyday talk is the involvement of at least
two individuals for a conversation to take place. Notably, no single individual has the ability to
commence a conversation on their own without the participation of a second party. Even when
individuals make exclamations on their own, they do it in response to communications they have
heard from other sources (Patterson 1). Taking this into account, one can plan his conversation in
advance and predict some of “must” elements of each talk depending on the counterpart.
Secondly, everyday conversations involve both the exchange of ideas and the
establishment of mutual understanding. While the former established the basis for everyday talk
and origination for everyday talk, the latter remains relevant for continuation and sustenance of
conversations. In the absence of ideas, everyday conversations cannot be initiated. Similarly, the
absence of understanding among the communicators will end a conversation. Mostly
characterized by face-to-face relations, everyday talks occur in a continuous context and involve
the use of words as well as symbols.
As expressed by Perakyla
, other elements that characterize everyday talk may encompass
actions, structural organization, and inter-subjectivity with each of these features functioning to
aid the other (117). Examples of conversational actions may include openings and closings of
speech, or assessments occurring at specific points within the conversations. Inter-subjectivity
defines the intentions of the speakers in a conversation, their situational awareness, the processes
of relations they employ, and the positions they adopt in relation to the subjects of discussion.
The last element is created, maintained, negotiated, or changed depending on the direction of the
conversation (Sidnell and Tanya 229). In the end, the greatest characteristic of every
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conversation is the delivery of the expected messages. Considering the occurrences in everyday
talk, this is made possible by a number of factors. Diction, expressiveness, and opportunism also
define everyday talk where anybody seizes an opportunity and commences a discussion.
Overall, numerous other trends characterize conversations in everyday talk. Audibility
and clarity of diction enable involved parties to hear their communicating partners. Because of
wavering emotions, characters must use varied intonations to express anger, disgust, joy, and
other moderate emotions. Again, the absence of structural guidance for conversational
contributions lead to many odd forms in everyday talk. These include omissions of some words,
the use of short forms, and repetitive trends that go almost unnoticed by those involved in the
Rules Defining the Structure and Function of Talk with Examples
The basic structures of conversations are defined by order and organization of communiques in a
conversation. Although many perspectives express the idea that order in such conversations pre-
exists and is traditional, Rodina indicates otherwise by showing that the order in these settings is
produced from internalized language patterns by the speakers. To a large extent, the participants
in these conversations depend on situational and occasional elements to generate this orderliness
intrinsically (Rodina 304). The major structures of this kind of talk include openings, closings,
turn taking, gaps of silence, overlaps, adjacency pairs, and repairs.
Opening Conversations: The commencements of conversations functionally perform the
structural role of initiations. Typically, they are characterized by three part conversational
structures that include summons, answers, and the reasons for conversation initiations as shown:
Father: Son? Summons
Son: Yes, Dad. Answer
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Father: Where is John? Reason for summons
Closing Conversations: At the end of every conversation, one individual must realize the need to
terminate communication. Various trends exist for doing such with brief cases in common use as
opposed to longer structures. In everyday talk, the most common conversation terminators
include “okay, bye, alright, see you, and yes” among many others.
Turn-taking: As expressed by Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson, turn-taking guides conversations
by defining for every participant when to seize the occasion and when to let others contribute. In
sum, the rule functions through a give and take process where one speaks and then listens to
others before they speak again (697). Turn taking involves turn construction and turn allocation.
The rules defined by Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson in turn-taking involve:
a) A speaker who is currently contributing should select the next speaker by posing to
them a question or using another approach.
b) In the event that the next speaker is not selected, any potential speaker may self-select
to fulfil the role.
c) If option b) fails, the currently contributing speaker may choose to go on with the
Gaps of Silence: Gaps of silence also occur in conversations involving two or more people.
Sometimes they occur in the middle of conversations while at other times they occur at the shifts
of turns. In all the cases, they may involve the comprehension of who the next speaker will be as
well as speakers thinking about their subject matters of contribution.
Overlaps:Structurally, overlaps define instantaneous or simultaneous attempts by more than one
speaker to speak at the same time. When they occur, they are treated as speech interruptions
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because neither of the speaking individuals communicates. The first speaker normally assumes
the role of the mediator to give direction for subsequent communications.
Joe : Did you see Betty?
Willis : Yeah at the fashion show
Joe : Oh my God // she was so gorgeous
Willis : // she was so elegant
Liddicoat also indicated that overlaps can be used to portray conversational competition
among turn-taking participants (79).
Adjacency Pairs: Adjacency pairs define related but separate utterances by different speakers,
which occur in a way that the second can be tagged as an expected follow up to the first one.
They are used in the opening, continuation and closing of conversations (Paltridge 115). For
Caller : Hello
Receiver : Hi
Caller : How are you?
Receiver : I am fine
Repairs: Categorized into self-repair and other-repair, these structural features define the
individuals consciousness in relation to mistakes made while speaking. Thus, they make attempts
to correct the mistakes in varied ways. In the first repair, an individual attempts to correct a
mistake they made themselves. Contrarily, the second involves correcting speech errors for
others (Lerner 295.
William: I saw her tearing the book belonging to the teacher. I mean I saw her standing
near those who were tearing the book belonging to the teacher.
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John: Did you bring me the money? I told you I needed to visit the ATM. Sorry, I mean,
did you bring the card?
In conclusion, considerations of different authors reveal everyday talk as highly organized with
distinctive functions and structures. The use of sociolinguistics and cultural establishments
define these rules that govern individual interactions and the use of language. They initiate
conversations, prompt people to respond, define viable interruptions, draw intonational graphs,
and establish the expected or initiated ends of conversations. The structural rules responsible for
these determinations include openings, closings, turn taking, gaps of silence, overlaps, adjacency
pairs, and repairs. They enable social interactions and transactions to run smoothly by the use of
everyday talk.
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Works Cited
Biber, Douglas, Geoffrey Neil Leech, and Susan Conrad. Student Grammar of Spoken and
Written English. Harlow: Longman, 1999. Print.
Bourdieu, Pierre, and John B. Thompson. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press, 1991. Print.
Lerner, G.H. Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation. Philadelphia: John
Benjamin Publishing Company, 2004. Print.
Liddicoat, A.J. Introduction to Conversation Analysis. New York: Continuum Books. Print.
Paltridge, B. Discourse Analysis 3rd Edition. Maiden, USA: Continuum Books, 2008. Print
Patterson, Kerry. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second
Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print
, Anssi. Conversation Analysis and Psychotherapy. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2008. Print.
Rodina, Herta. "An Introduction to Conversation Analysis" by Liddicoat, Anthony.The Modern
Language Journal 93.2 (2009): 304-304. Web.
Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson. "A Simplest Systematics for the
Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation". Language 50.4 (1974): 696-735. Web.
Sidnell, Jack, and Tanya Stivers. The Handbook of Conversation Analysis. Chichester, West
Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

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