Conversation Analysis

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Published: 23rd April 2013
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The conversation occurs between four students who are on their way to school. These are Henry, Howard, Penny, and Mia. Henry is 25-years old male. Howard is 21-years old male. Penny is 22-years old female. While, Mia is 20-years old female. They take the ethnomusicology class together and they are on their way to the school to take the evening class, in Henry's car. They have known each other through the Chinese Student Association. Henry and Howard have known each other for about 6 months since they first met. They have known Penny and Mia since the last 3 months when they started taking this class. Mia and Penny have also known each other since the past 3 months. No one else is present in the car.
Context
The conversation occurs on their way to school. Henry is driving the car. He first picks up Mia. Then, they pick up Penny. Then, they pick up Howard. Then, the conversation continues until they reach the school for attending the ethnomusicology class. Howard is a singer and a musician. He had had his performance last night. Mia was present in that show as was Henry. He is going to have another concert tomorrow night. Unfortunately, Penny will not be able to attend again as she will be going to the airport to see off her parents who will be leaving the United States after having come here to meet her.
Conversation Analysis
Speech Errors
Errors of speech do occur. However, these are mostly spontaneous errors. These represent anticipation, preservation, and transposition. Anticipation errors occur when the word or phoneme is missed due to anticipation of a forthcoming program of speech. Preservation errors are influenced by a part of speech that has already been delivered. Transposition is when the two parts of speech are interlinked mutually to cause an error. As a result of these, the speech errors result in addition of one or more phoneme, omission of one or more phoneme, or replacement of one or more phonemes (Cohen 88-89).
There are many omissions that occur during the conversation. For example, in line 31 Mia says: "you don't want us go with them." Here, she does away with 'to'. Then, in line 32 Penny adds a 'to' and says that she does not want 'to' let the guys know. In line 34, Henry also includes a 'to' and says that he did not want to those guys to see him cry. Then, in line 36 Mia replaces 'anytime' with 'anything'. In line 40, Mia also does away with 'of' when telling that Howard has many girl fans. She also replaces 'at' with 'in' in the same line. In line 43, Mia again adds 'have a' without its any use there. Then, in line 55 Henry errs deliberately to be euphemistic and hide the inappropriate word. In line 56, Mia skips with a phoneme and says 'argue' rather than 'arguing'. In line 57, Penny eats away 'to' and says that she really wants be there.
Discourse
People manage their conversational interactions through discourses. This discourse has an organization and develops as the people interact. This discourse has many forms which occur when people develop a sequence of discourse, they have preference for certain speech, provide feedback, have beginnings and endings in conversation, give out response tokens, take turns, repair the discourse, and use discourse markers (Paltridge 106).
In this conversation, the discourse starts between Henry and Mia. Then, it becomes structured and they talk about the people that they are going to pick up during their journey. The subject then shifts to those people. First, they talk about Penny. Then, when Penny is in the car, they start discussing Howard who is next to be picked up. Then, when Howard comes the discourse shifts to that occurring between Mia and Howard. There is occasional interference by Henry and Penny. However, it is Mia and Howard who take up the discourse in the final lap of the conversation.
There are clear turning points of the discourse. The discourse develops through the starting sentences that are said by the conversation participants. The discourse is started by Henry by inquiring Mia about her. Mia replies and the discourse takes form. Then, the discourse turns to Penny. Later they pick Penny and Penny starts the discourse herself. Then, there are three participants in the discourse. Later on they have to pick up Howard. They pick up Howard and Howard starts the discourse himself by inquiring about them and posing a question to Penny. Then, this question becomes the subject of conversation and Mia keeps talking about the intentions of Howard. This discourse is not healthy and is accordingly discouraged by Henry. However, this discourse only ends when they all reach the school.
The sequence of the discourse is also easily comprehensible. The discourse develops between and among people. When there are two people in the car, the discourse is between them. Then when they anticipate picking up another rider, the subject of discourse becomes this very person. The same way discourse develops and takes turn toward the person who is to be picked next. Then, when the car is full a comprehensive and forceful discourse starts between the two most powerful and emote persons in the discourse. This discourse occurs between Mia and Howard and is punctuated by the other members contributing to the discourse. Mia starts this final discourse but only gives hints rather than explaining anything in detail or talking explicitly. Then, in this way she starts a charade which is there yet is not there. They keep asking her to tell the real concern but she does not make it clear.
It is also clear that the speakers are interested in talking about themselves rather than starting any special subject of discourse. They are just chatting and talking about themselves. They are not interested in talking about the class or for that matter anything else. They are concerned with themselves and their immediate happenings. The topic of the discourse is the members themselves. They talk about the people who have to join them and then talk about themselves when they finally meet.
They also provide feedback, but it is clear that Mia is not good in giving her feedback. Initially, the talk of Henry is responded to by Mia. Henry inquires about Mia. Then, Mia also inquires him as to how he spends his day in the library. Mia also inquires him and asks: "So...You don't have dinner yet?" Henry responds and there is a continuous loop of feedback. Henry then also initiates a feedback loop with Penny and asks her if she wants him to go with her to the airport. She replies that she is not fine with it, rather she will take a taxi.
Similarly, there are also beginnings and endings in conversations. The conversation is started by Henry when he asks about Mia. This conversation lap ends when Penny comes in. Then, all three of them talk. This conversation lap continues until Howard comes in. Then, Howard starts the conversation and it occurs between Howard, Penny, and Mia. Then, Henry becomes quiet and his conversation ends. Then, Henry comes back in when he finds that Mia is not doing correct conversation and is including Howard in the conversation incessantly. Then, all four of them converse.
Yet, it is also clear that they give out response tokens and take turns. There is mostly a series of questions and answers. Otherwise, there is a suggestion and there is a corresponding support or refuting of that suggestion. For example, when they say 'yeah' or 'no' they are engaging in giving out response tokens. They also take turns and talk with repose. There is no single occurrence of someone speaking over another person and not letting them talk.
There are also instances where one or more speakers repairs the discourse. In line 9, Mia says: "Well..." and repairs the discourse. Then, Mia also repairs the conversation in line 24 and says: "I hate wait either." Likewise, the conversation is also repaired when someone new joins the discourse. Then, in line 66 Henry repairs the conversation by saying that they will not fight on that matter. Then, Henry again repairs the conversation as well as the relations in line 81 by telling Mia and Howard to stop their altercation. This is because altercation is not conversation, rather it is counterproductive to it. Finally, in line 90 Henry repairs the conversation by telling his opinion regarding the matter.
There are also discourse markers that show that it is a discourse in conversation. These are represented by question marks and especially by the exclamation marks. The pauses and breaks also show the discourse occurring. As an example, in line 9 Mia says: "Well..." and then there is a brief pause in the discourse.
Sociolinguistics
Sociolinguistics is the study of linguistics and language in society. This branch of study looks at how our language and conversation is affected by the society at large. Likewise, conversation and speech is also highly affected by the society. The sociolinguistics of conversation and speech deals with the social nature of speech, regards speech as a skilled work, shows the norms governing speech, and shows speech as a signal of social identity. Similarly, the entries and exits in speech are also affected by social interactions. Additionally, verbal and non-verbal behavior is affected by speech. Finally, there are male and female differences in speech due to culture and societal effects (Hudson 106-143).
When we look at the sociolinguistics of the conversation under consideration, we find that this conversation is affected by both American and Chinese cultures and societies. This is because the speakers in the conversation are both Chinese and American. Furthermore, they are in the United States. The nature of conversation is social in nature. All of the persons who meet in the conversation greet each other. Then, this speech and conversation is also a skilled work. All of the persons are skilled in talking and know the English language and its use in speech. They also know how to communicate their ideas and thoughts.
The norms of the speakers governing speech are also known. They talk in a civilized manner and know that they do not have to use slang or abusive language. Accordingly, Henry in line 55 refrains from using abusive language and only says "Bullsh.." rather than engaging in slang or abusive language. Likewise, they also know that they have to let the other person speak and do not interfere in others' speech or engage in interjection. Their conversation also reveals their social identity which is respectable students. Moreover, as they interact with each other they show entries into and exits from conversation. These are governed by their interaction. They also have stable non-verbal behavior and do not engage in using hands or other types of vulgar activity while speaking and conversing. Finally, there is difference in speech with respect to their genders and are dictated by the American culture in which they exist.
Conclusion
Conversation analysis is very important in determining the mores of the society. They show how people converse and how they engage in communication. This is done through various means such as looking at speech errors, analyzing the discourse, and through sociolinguistics. It tells us how the communication process is dynamic and involves its development through interaction. People are skilled in communication and talk to convey meaning and message. However, they have their own styles of communication as well as manners. The context of a conversation also has a bearing on the talk. Then, these communications are equally affected by the society and culture in which these occur. Hence, conversation analysis tells us a lot about the people engaging in communication as well as regarding their backgrounds and environment.

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