Reviewed by Liang Chen, University of Georgia
Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation is dedicated to Harvey Sacks, whose research into talk-in-interaction proved foundational to the field of conversation analysis. The editor Gene H. Lerner opens the volume with a brief introduction to Sacks’ work and influence, to the contributors, all of whom were students and/or colleagues of Sacks’, and to the articles themselves (1–11). Gail Jefferson (13–31) provides a technical introduction to the transcription conventions she originated. She focuses on the value of careful transcription, especially emphasizing the transcription of nonlinguistic features of conversation, such as laughter and timing. The rest of the book consist of three parts: ‘Taking turns speaking’, ‘Implementing actions’, and ‘Sequencing actions’.
In Part 1, Harvey Sacks (35–42) presents his groundbreaking work on fundamental organizational aspects of turn-taking in conversation such as taking one turn at a time, minimizing overlaps and gaps between turns, and so forth. Gail Jefferson (43–59) then continues with the problem of simultaneous speech or overlap, focusing on the systematic forms of overlap and methods for ‘post-overlap retrival’ of overlapped talk.
Part 2 focuses on the various ways speakers accomplish conversational goals. Emmanuel A. Schegloff (63–107) examines the sequence organization in the simple act of answering the phone. Specifically, he discusses the effect of the telephone summons—who is qualified to be the answerer and how that person will answer the summons. Anita Pomerantz (109–29) examines data of reported absences from an attendance clerk at a high school to see how people carry out conversational tasks related to their institutionally relevant identities. The methods that the clerk employs are found to include being neutral, focusing on the procedures of the school, avoiding subjective comments, and compensating for incomplete and possibly incorrect records. In her third contribution to the volume, Gail Jefferson (131–67) examines newspaper reports and conversational data and finds that, in extraordinary circumstances, people tend to select ‘first responses’ that contain an ordinary interpretation of the extraordinary event.
Part 3 focuses on the placement of specific action sequences within conversations, and on the connection between linguistic features and social action. Alene Kiku Terasaki (172–223) examines the ‘pre-announcement sequence’, which is one type of preliminary or small sequence of actions designed to come before the main action sequence, and which she divides into three components: pre-announcement, solicitation, and announcement. She suggests that syntactic and sequential features are at least as important as content features in determining what in a conversation will be perceived as the ‘announcement’. Gene H. Lerner (225–56) examines collaborative turn sequences: those sequences with one speaker completing the in-progress turn constructional unit of another speaker. He discusses the ways in which this completion can be either accepted or disregarded. In the final contribution, Jo Ann Goldberg (257–97) examines how a speaker can change loudness from one utterance to the next to sustain engagement or demonstrate disengagement in the closing-sequences of telephone calls.
The articles in this volume merit the praise as an excellent collection reflecting the ever-widening appeal and potential of conversation analysis, specifically as influenced by Harvey Sacks. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the analysis of talk in interaction.