Analysis of conversation: politeness, sequence and topic with special reference to troubles-talk in Turkish

Bayraktaroğlu, Arin (1989). Analysis of conversation: politeness, sequence and topic with special reference to troubles-talk in Turkish. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is concerned with the investigation of politeness in stretches of talk. and covers conversational components like adjacency pairs, sequences, topic, as well as turn internal features such as dispreference markers, and to some extent, mitigation techniques. Troubles-talk in naturally occurring Turkish conversations provides the necessary data.

Politeness has so far been studied methodically in single utterances, but its presence in longer stretches of talk has not received a similar interest, nor, to the best of our knowledge, has any methodical work in this area been carried out. To provide a systematic approach to lengthy pieces of conversation, a new framework is developed in Chapter 1 from the well-known notions of politeness like 'face' (Goffman, 1971, 1972) and 'Face Threatening Acts' (FFAs - Brown and Levinson, 1978, 1987), while a combination of extracts from the literature of Conversational Analysis is used to flesh out the discussion. 'With the inclusion of Face Boosting Acts, which are thought to be the opposite of FTAs, the framework shows that in situations where 'positive face' is threatened or boosted, the change in the face values creates Interactional Imbalance, always to the disadvantage of one speaker, and the subsequent turn is commonly designed to put the balance right. Where imbalance is created unwillingly to the disadvantage of the recipient, or has to be ignored, speech is marked with dispreferred turn markers.

Before looking for evidence of these points in responses to troubles-telling - a considerable threat to the teller's face - procedures of collection, selection and presentation of data are discussed in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3 starts with the topic initiating characteristics of troubles-telling and goes on to explore the acknowledgement types that it gets, differentiated in terms of their capacity to encourage or discourage further talk. Despite different consequences for topic, all acknowledgements are found to be face boosters, and preferred turns.

In comparison, Advice is explored in Chapter 4 as a dispreferred turn with further face damage for the teller. It is also found to extend the sequence on the one hand, but minimize the chances of having a proper closure for the talk, on the other.

Troubles-telling responses, incorporating a varying degree of' disagreement, are examined in Chapter 5, where it is decided that disagreement is a face booster as long as it follows the recognizable patterns in the culture.

The summary of these points in the Conclusion opens up the way to further theoretical issues like the relation of Interactional Imbalance to sequence types, Conditional Relevance, and topic, apart from pinpointing the predominance of face considerations in conversational practice in general.

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