Two dimensions of formats for repair initiation. The distinction between open and restricted type formats is retrospective: it is about the nature and location of the trouble in prior turn. The distinction between request and offer type formats is prospective: it is about the nature of the response that is relevant in next turn. The two dimensions together define three basic types of formats for repair initiation: (1) open request, (2) restricted request, and (3) restricted offer.
Using elementary properties of interactional resources, we can capture commonalities and differences between repair formats in principled and precise ways. For instance, to capture the distinctions between four repair initiation formats in English (as presented in Sidnell 2010), we can use the following three properties: Question (is there a content question word?), Repetition (does the repair initiator repeat some material from the prior turn?) and Confirmation (does the repair initiator make confirmation relevant in next turn?).
A repair sequence consists of a repair initiation that points back to a prior turn (identifying it as a trouble source) and points forward to a next turn (the repair solution). The visual style of this schematic was adapted in a broader account of repair in conversation by Albert & De Ruiter.
Herb Clark, building on Austin’s (1962) distinctions of levels of speech acts, notes that successful communication is grounded in joint actions by speaker and addressee at at least four distinct levels. In the Austin/Clark action ladder, higher levels depend on lower levels in terms of causality (higher levels are implemented by means of lower ones) and entailment (completion of a higher level entails completion of the ones below it). As a corollary, the action ladder exhibits the property of “downward evidence”: evidence that B recognized A’s intended action (level 4) is also evidence that B succeeded in interpreting A’s words (level 3), that B correctly identified the words (level 2), and that B attended to A’s vocalisation (level 1). All four levels are involved in building mutual understanding, and each of them can be a locus of trouble.
A word like huh? —used to initiate repair when, for example, one has not clearly heard what someone just said— is found in roughly the same form and function in conversational corpora from 31 spoken languages from across the globe. The ten in bold are examined in phonetic detail and found to be about as similar to each other as variants of the word dog across English varieties. Languages 11–20 are from , 21–31 from sources cited. Locations are approximate. 1. Cha‘palaa 2. Icelandic ha 3. Spanish e↗ 4. Siwu ã:↗ 5. Dutch h↗ 6. Italian ε:↗ 7. Russian a:↗ 8. Lao hã:↗ 9. Mandarin Chinese ã:↗ 10. Murrinh-Patha a:↗ 11. ‡Âkhoe Hai//om hε↗ 12. Chintang hã↗ 13. Duna 14. English hã↗ 15. French 16. Hungarian hm↗/ha↗ 17. Kri ha:↗ 18. Tzeltal hai↗ 19. Yélî Dnye 20. Yurakaré æ↗ 21. Lahu hãi 22. Tai/Lue hy ˘↗/há↗  23. Japanese e↗  24. Korean e↗  25. German h 26. Norwegian h↗  27. Herero e↗  28. Kikongo e↗  29. Tzotzil e↗  30. Bequia Creole ha:↗  31. Zapotec aj↗ .