Interactional closeness in service calls to Montevidean carer service company

Márquez Reiter, Rosina (2006). Interactional closeness in service calls to Montevidean carer service company. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 39(1) 7 - 39.



In this article, I explore aspects of the interactional behavior of Uruguayans in nonemergency service calls to a "carer service company," an institutional context characteristic of contemporary Uruguay. I do so by presenting an overview of the recurrent features found in the openings of calls where a client's next of kin phones a carer service company to a request a carer on behalf of the client. In the first part of the article, I examine the structure of the openings in the light of previous research carried out in this area on English service calls and on an analysis of a small sample of Uruguayan ordinary calls. The findings reveal that they unfold in distinguishable sequences, namely, summons-answer, identification-recognition, and the reason for the call. In this respect, they show a similar pattern to that identified in English service calls. However, unlike English service calls and the Uruguayan ordinary calls examined here, the service calls of this study exhibit a high incidence of greetings and self-identification by the call taker during the initial sequences. In the second part of the article, I investigate the pragmatic function(s) of these verbal elements within the turns of the openings. Specifically, I provide an analysis of greetings and self-identification given that, strictly speaking, they are unnecessary for the transaction to be achieved. The results indicate that their presence shows an orientation toward interactional closeness in transactional calls between conversational participants who are not familiar with each other. The observed interactional closeness in otherwise neutral/formal institutional talk is explained by the participants' orientation toward association or interdependence and by the callers' strategic aim of ensuring a good service given the general quality of services offered by the company and the level of consumer rights in Uruguay.

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