Language as social action : Grammar, prosody, and interaction in Swedish conversation : grammatik, prosodi och interaktion i svenska samtal

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This study contributes to a larger research programme that links grammar and prosody on the one hand with talk-in-interaction on the other. An underlying assumption of this study is that language is key to the organization of social action. Language is shaped by the fact that it is used by inter-actants to engage in a range of social activities whilst at the same time it also shapes these activities. Grammar and prosody are important resources for both the production and understanding of social action.The data consists of recordings of naturally occurring mundane Swedish conversation. Using conversation analysis (CA), the author describes and analyzes the interactants' orientations as displayed through their turns-at-talk. Three phenomena are introduced that can be identified by and are constituted through aspects of grammar or prosody. The first of these is the or-inquiry. This is a yes/no-question that ends with the Swedish conjunction eller 'or'. It is argued that this syntactic construction marks the action the turn otherwise engages in as problematic. Second, the sequential environment of deferred action requests, invitations, and proposals is examined. A deferred action is one that cannot be immediately satisfied. The study demonstrates that an affirmative response token is insufficient to agree with or accept a deferred action request, invitation, or proposal. An additional unit of talk is required where the recipient makes a commitment to satisfy the deferred action in the future. Third, the study focusses on a prosodic variant of the Swedish affirmative response token ja. The analysis suggests that ja projects non-alignment when it is produced with a stretch and rising pitch contour in the turn-initial position of a responsive action. This provides a resource for the interactional negotiation of alignment or agreement. The three phenomena that the study introduces may be of relevance for languages other than Swedish.

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