Interjections and conversational structure

Excerpt of an English conversation. Transcript adapted from the Newport Beach corpus transcribed by Gail Jefferson, reference NB:1:1:19, timecode 4m57s. Clearly visible is a mix between simpler and more complex turns that relate to each other in socially normative ways, forming orderly sequences, often recursive. Conversation analysts and interactional linguists have documented many of the structural positions and social actions of conversation, including the preproposal of line 1 (Houtkoop-Steenstra 1990); the assessment and counterassessment in lines 2 and 5 (Heritage & Raymond 2005); the repair initiation with Huh? in line 6, which starts a side sequence ( Jefferson 1972); displays of alignment like Mmhm in line 3 (Schegloff 1982); the sequence-closing third in line 8, hearable as either a no or an oh [Schegloff (1997, p. 507) transcribes it as “Oh”]; and the proposal in line 10, for which we now can see that the way was paved by the preproposal at line 1. A technical rendition of conversation like this shows how turns weave in and out of one another like traffic at a busy intersection, and reveals the pivotal role played by interjections, the traffic signals of conversation.

Dingemanse, M. (2024). Interjections at the heart of language. Annual Review of Linguistics, 10, 257–277. doi: 10.1146/annurev-linguistics-031422-124743 PDF