Analysing Casual Conversation

Eggins, S & D Slade 1997.
Publisher: Cassell Academic, London.

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Description: "Analysing Casual Conversation" develops a systematic model for the analysis and description of casual conversation in English. Working through examples of casual conversations, the authors argue that despite its sometimes aimless appearance and apparently unstructured content, casual conversation is a highly structured activity and plays a critical role in the social construction of reality. Drawing on insights from sociology, linguistics and critical semiotics, the book equips readers with the analytic skills to describe the layers and structure and critical interpretive frameworks to explain the 'social work' that goes on through chat.

Casual conversations are identified as everyday verbal interactions in which talk seems to be an end in itself, for example, getting together with friends over coffee or a meal and just having 'a chat'. In seeking to understand how language enables us to participate in casual conversations, and the role such interactions play in our formation as social agents, the authors progressively introduce successive levels of analytical techniques. Organized from a micro- to macro- focus, the techniques provide a cumulative account of conversational patterns at grammatical, semantic, discourse and contextual levels.

At each level, techniques are presented and exemplified using excerpts from authentic conversations. Participants differ in age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic class.

The book begins by distinguishing varieties of everyday talk and reviewing relevant approaches to conversation/discourse analysis. Subsequent chapters detail the analytical techniques, including descriptions of some of the common conversational genres such as storytelling and gossip.

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