When interacting with one another, whether face-to-face, via the telephone or other media, we take turns to talk. Each turn we take is designed to ‘do’ something. Inter-action consists of the interplay between what one speaker is doing in a turn-at-talk and what the other did in their prior turn, and furthermore between what a speaker is doing in a current turn and what the other will do in response in his/her next turn. Hence a turn-at-talk is contingent in some fashion on the other’s prior turn, and sets up contingencies of its own for what comes next, for how the recipient will respond (turns-at-talk are, as Heritage, 1984b: 242 puts it, “context shaped and context renewing”). The contingent connections between a turn and its prior, and the contingencies one turn creates for a subsequent (responsive) turn, generate strings or sequences of connected turns, sequences that progress on the basis of our understanding of what one another was doing in his/her prior turn(s). By interaction, then, we mean the contingently connected sequences of turns in which we each ‘act’, and in which the other’s—our recipient’s—response to our turn relies upon, and embodies, his/her understanding of what we were doing and what we meant to convey in our (prior) turn.
By way of illustration, here is a quite transparent example from close to the beginning of a call between Katherine and her mother, Leslie. In her turn in lines 4/5, Leslie ...