Coding categories relevant to interaction

Ogden, Richard and Cantarutti, Marina (2021). Coding categories relevant to interaction. In: Yaeger-Dror, Malcah; Cieri, Christopher and Drager, Katie eds. Dimensions of Linguistic Variation. Oxford University Press (In Press).


Language in use shapes, and is shaped by, interaction. Interaction self-evidently occurs in real time – it is dynamic, and this poses problems for linguists, because our categories are typically ones that describe a finished product, rather than looking at the process by which the product is accomplished. This chapter incorporates the findings of recent work which combines coding of form/linguistic design alongside sequential analysis using the methods of Conversation Analysis (CA; Sacks et al., 1974; Schegloff, 2007a) and Interactional Linguistics (Couper-Kuhlen & Selting, 2001). This combination has been somewhat controversial in CA circles (Macbeth, 2020; Schegloff, 1993, 2009; Steensig & Heinemann, 2015; Stivers, 2015), but has obvious merits for the study of the details of everyday talk: aside from making quantification possible, it allows for the coding scheme to reflect the structures of interaction, and grounds the coding in categories that reflect the dynamics of turn-taking and sequence organisation from an “internalist emic” (Schegloff, 2009) perspective, one that shows how the participants themselves make sense of their language in use through their own interactional behaviour. This chapter will demonstrate the coding procedures of a conversational practice: clicks as found in a corpus in American English phone calls. Even though they are not part of the linguistic system of English, clicks are rather common sound objects (Reber, 2012) whose functions are specific to spoken interaction: they are implicated in turn-taking, sequence organisation, word searches, and displays of affect (Ogden, 2013, 2020; Wright, 2011a, 2011b, 2007). A scheme is presented that codes for aspects of phonetic production, sequential location, and the social action of the turn in which the click is embedded. Clicks are commonly used in displays of affect; but such displays are socially regulated (cf. Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 2006) by the structural and relational concerns of the local situation of interaction. Using a case study, we will show how such displays are made relevant and implemented in conversation, and how these details of interaction can be coded. This will allow the reader to see the advantages and disadvantages of freezing interactionally generated moments into a coding scheme. The chapter concludes with a consideration of what interactionally grounded coding practices can offer more widely.

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