Conversation Analysis

A couple weeks ago, my friends and I had a 5 minute conversation that I used for analysis of conversation through different conversational lenses.  I wasn’t as much a part of the conversation as I was observing different speech patterns and conventions of language.  Using Cameron’s description of Conversational Analysis, I analysed the conversation setting, the kind of talk, and the patterns in the speech in order to better understand the interaction my friends had amongst themselves.

Cameron argues that “at any given moment, the truth that is in progress will typically ‘belong’ to a single speaker (‘one speaker at a time’)” and that “participants in conversation will not usually all talk at once, and conversely there will not usually be stretches of time in which no one talks at all” (89).  I definitely noticed this in parts of their conversation especially since there were not many long pauses or awkward silences in the conversation.  While analyzing the conversation, I immediately noticed interruptions within the conversation. Cameron explains that conversation analysis has much to do with the act of turn-taking, or lack of.  Turn-taking negotiation happens continuously, and “Conversation Analysis holds that talk is ‘locally managed’, meaning that its patterns and structures result from what people do as they go along rather than from their being compelled to follow a course of action that has been determined in advance” (Cameron, 90). Interruptions have interesting sub-patterns that make the balance of power in conversations unique. This feature of discourse has many implications for the speech patterns.  Also in the conversation there were numerous times where interruption occurred.  An example of this can be seen below:

Transcript Snippet 2

Transcript Snippet 3


At the parts where Person 1 ends abruptly with a “…” and then continues to speak, this is where Person 2 interrupted their thought if not for a lengthy thought of there own but instead just a word of agreement or clarification, it was enough to make Person 1 stop talking momentarily.  I noticed this being a pattern throughout the 5 minutes of conversation.  Another pattern I noticed was the use of the word “like” a lot.  Throughout my whole transcription, I found a total of 30 uses of the word “like.”  Even seen above you can see the amount of times the word “like” was used by Person 1.  This word seems to be rooted in western culture as I’ve seen this phenomenon numerous times around campus and in other aspects of my life.  It appears that “like” is used as filler when the speaker is trying to come up with the next thought.

3 thoughts on “Conversation Analysis

  1. This was a really interesting conversation because it deals directly with a telling of a story, or I suppose a book in this case. Nonetheless, the speaker is explaining something that they are heavily interested in, and the other person is gaining interest as well. I think that is a key part of this interaction. It dictates how the movement of speech goes. Like you said, there were interruptions that caused a break in the speech. I think speaker 1 was maybe excited that someone was interested in what they were talking about, therefore giving them “the floor” for speaking. “Like” is also used, as you stated, and I think this happens a lot in many speech acts. Possibly more here because he was relaying information and had to think about what he was saying more than normal. Great analysis!

  2. Interesting analysis. Alternatively to your idea that person 2 was interrupting person one with small comments, do you think its possible that person 2’s interruptions were instead functioning in a similar way to the use of “like”? Meaning that person 2 is picking up on the fact that person 1 is trailing off/trying to figure out what to say next and that person 2’s “oh” and “ahaa” are simply filler in the conversation to give person 1 time to gather his or her thoughts. It could also signify that person 2 is trying to tell person 1 that they are listening. Do you think the word “like” is ethnographic to people of our generation as a filler word?

  3. I found your analysis really interesting. I did my first blog post turn-taking, but my results were very different than your’s. Your conversation shows that your friends are very good at waiting their turn to talk, and listening as one person is telling a story (and this book sounds very interesting). And of course, the word “like” is always used too much in almost every conversation among people in our culture. After reading so many blog posts about people using the word “like” I feel the need to watch the way I talk. Do you think your friend noticed how much he was saying “like”? Do you think he said it so often because he was excited about what he was talking about? Or do you think it’s just normal for him to use the word that often?

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