Intonation units in spoken interaction: Developing transcription skills

Stelma, Juurd H. and Cameron, Lynne J. (2007). Intonation units in spoken interaction: Developing transcription skills. Text and Talk, 27(3) pp. 361–393.



This paper describes the transcription process and the development of transcription skills in a research project using recorded spoken interaction as its main data. The spoken data was transcribed using intonation units, and the paper traces the development of the first author's skills in identifying such intonation units. Intertranscriber checks of transcription, involving three researchers, were used to highlight ways in which the identification of intonation units could be improved. Subsequent re-transcription of the data highlighted stretches of talk that included many hesitations, false starts, and speech used to regulate ongoing spoken interaction. These features were linked to low levels of intertranscriber agreement. It is argued that the existing literature on intonation units does not address how to best deal with this quality of spontaneous spoken interaction. The paper concludes with an agenda that may be used to improve the quality of transcription in similar research projects, and to develop the transcription skills of the researchers that are responsible for transcription.

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