Ph. D. in Phil. Bobak M. I.*, Bobak H. R.**

* I. Horbachevsky Ternopil State Medical University, Ukraine;

** Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine




Conversation Analysis arose as a discipline that helps us to dwell deeper into the intricacies of conversation. Principally, it is to discover how participants understand and respond to one another in their turns at talk, with a central focus on how sequences of action are generated.Conversation Analysis aims to explain these ideas through the analysis of real life conversations.

The aim of CA, principally, is to discover how participants understand and respond to one another in their turns at talk, with a central focus on how sequences of action are generated. To put it another way, the objective of  CA is to uncover the often tacit reasoning procedures and sociolinguistic competencies underlying the production and interpretation of talk in organized sequences of interaction.

Conversation analysis is the dominant approach to the study of human social interaction across the discipline of linguistics, communication and sociology [1].
CA provides practical tools for analysing patterns in talk, for instance
, turn-taking and sequence organization.These practical aspects  and the fact that they can be used for a large number of purposes according to the researcher’s interests and theoretical stance make conversation analysis a rather interesting and popular research technique.

At the heart of conversation analysis is a concern with the nature of turn-taking in talk-in-interaction: how it is organized, how do participants accomplish orderly (or even apparently disorderly) turn-taking, and what are the systematic resources which are used in this accomplishment. We will refer to this as a concern with the sequential order of talk. It is evident that conversation involves people taking turns at talking. But a key notion in CA is that those turns are sequentially ordered. The aim of CA therefore is to reveal this sequential order.

CA has an important interest in what we will call the inferential order of talk: the kinds of cultural and interpretive resources participants rely on in order to understand one another in appropriate ways. CA is not only concerned with how turn-taking is accomplished but also with what participants take it they are actually doing in their talk.

One of the most noticeable things about conversation is that certain classes of utterances conventionally come in pairs. For instance, questions and answers; greetings and return greetings; invitations and acceptances/declinations. Basically, these are pairs of utterances which are ordered, so to speak there is a recognizable difference between first parts and second parts of the pair. In other words, an invitation is the first part of the ‘invitation response’ adjacency pair and we recognize that invitations should be followed by a specific range of responses: mainly acceptances or declinations. Invitations should not be followed by greetings, for instance. These sequences are called adjacency pairs because, ideally, the two parts should be produced next to each other. The basic rule for adjacency pairs is the following: given the production of a first pair part its speaker should stop and the next speaker should start and produce a second pair part.

Another aspect of adjacency pair sequences stems from the fact that certain first pair parts make alternative actions relevant in second position. Examples include offers, which can be accepted or refused; assessments, which can be agreed with or disagreed with; requests which can be granted or declined. These alternatives are non-equivalent. In other words, acceptances, agreements or grantings are produced in different ways than their negative alternatives. These differences are described in terms of ‘preference organization’. The format for agreements is labeled the ’preferred’ action turn shape and the disagreement format is called the ‘dispreferred’ action turn shape. Preference is a powerful device in talk-in-interaction. Its presence can tell us about the structure of social relationship.

Talking about the turn-taking model, it is worthy to mention that it begins from the idea that turns in conversation are resources which are distributed in systematic ways among speakers. There are three basic facts about conversation: turn-taking occurs; one speaker tends to talk at a time; turns are taken with a little gap or overlap between them. Obviously, this is not to say that there is never more than one speaker talking at a time, or that gaps or overlaps do not occur. Rather, the point is that ideal is for as much inter-speaker coordination as possible [3].

Repair is a term which is used in CA to cover a wide range of phenomena from errors in turn-taking, to any of the forms of correction – that is faults in the content of what someone has said. The area of repair has generated a large amount of work in CA. There are two main ways in which it can be done. First, the turn-taking system itself incorporates its own means of repairing faults. Second is a procedural type in which participants orients to various aspects of their ongoing talk in order to manage turn-taking problems.

As we have already mentioned, one of the most important things about conversation is that certain classes of utterances conventionally come in pairs. For instance, questions and answers in Holly’s conversation with unnamed narrator:

Holly: What do you do here all day?

Unnamed narrator: Write things.

Holly: I thought writers were quite old…by the way, is Hemingway old?

Unnamed narrator: In his forties, I should think.

Holly: That’s not bad…how old is W. Somerset Maugham?

Unnamed narrator: I’m not sure. Sixty something. 

Another examples are greetings and return greetings. But we assume that in the novella the principle of greetings and return greetings is violated. A vivid example of this is the following excerpts:

1) Joe Bell: Naturally, I wouldn’t have got you over here if it wasn’t I wanted your opinion. It’s peculiar. A very peculiar thing has happened.

Unnamed narrator:  You heard from Holly?

Joe Bell: I can’t say exactly I heard from her. I mean, I don’t know. That’s why I want your opinion.

2)  Holly: I’ve got the most terrifying man downstairs. I mean he’s sweet when he isn’t drunk, but let him start lapping up the vino, and oh God quel beast…I'm sorry if I frightened you. But when the beast got so tiresome I just went out the window…Listen, you can throw me out if you want to…But that fire escape was damned icy. And you looked so cozy. Like my brother Fred…By the way, do you mind if I call you Fred?.. Suppose you think I'm very brazen. Or très fou. Or something.

Unnamed narrator: Not at all.

Holly: Yes, you do. Everybody does. I don't mind. It's useful.

The last example of ordered pairs is invitations and acceptances / declinations. This principle is also violated in Truman Capote’s novella.  For instance:

Holly: Come on. Let’s walk a couple of horses around the park. Don’t think I’m out to lose the heir. But there’s a horse, my darling old Mabel Minerva – I can’t go without saying goodbye to Mabel Minerva.

Unnamed narrator: Goodbye?

Holly: A week from Saturday. Jose bought the tickets. We change planes in Miami. Then over the sea.

So to speak, these sequences, which are called adjacency pairs are violated for the most part, because, ideally, the two parts should be produced next to each other.  Concerning turn-taking, we should say that it can be accomplished orderly or disorderly. In ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ we observe both variants. That is usually Holly who is breaking the principle of  ordered turn-taking. Let’s examine the example:

Holly: Is that the end of your story? Of course I like dykes themselves. They don’t scare me a bit. But stories about dykes bore the bejesus out of me. I just can’t put myself in their shoes. Well really, darling…if it’s not about a couple of old bull-dykes, what the hell is it about?

But I was in no mood to compound the mistake of having read the story with the further embarrassment of explaining it. The same vanity that had led to such exposure, now forced me to mark her down as an insensitive, mindless show-off.

Holly: Incidentally, do you happen to know any nice lesbians? I’m looking for a roommate…

She was staring at an alarm clock on the table. The window was turning blue. A sunrise breeze bandied the curtains.

Holly: What is today?

Unnamed narrator: Thursday.

The aim of  novella CA was to discover how participants understand and respond to one another in their turns at talk, with a central focus on how sequences of action were generated.

Having done the conversation analysis of Truman Capote’s novella ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, we can state that the author  uses a wide range of dialogues in order to present the way characters interact.

Conversation is massively important to us as human beings. We can convey our thoughts and desires to others, influence and entertain through speech. As linguistics has evolved and become an entirely independent social science, so too has our interest into just how humans interact and what the implications of the types of conversation we use are.


The List of References:

1.             Abrams M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms / M. H. Abrams. – NY. : Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1981. – P. 42–87.

2.             Capote T. Breakfast at Tiffany’s / Truman Capote.  – Penguin Books Ltd., 2000. – 160 p.

3.             Lesley Jeffries. Stylistics / Jeffries Lesley, Daniel McIntyre. – Cambridge University Press, 2010. – 160 p.