Phonetics and Prosody in Conversation


University of Sheffield


There is a sense in which anyone engaged in the analysis of audio recordings of talk-in-interaction is analyzing its phonetic design: there is, after all, no talk-in-interaction without phonetic design. The elaborate system of notation developed principally by Gail Jefferson for the transcription of unscripted conversation provides evidence of sociologists recognizing the potential interactional relevance of phonetic details. That the Jefferson system is still so widely used shows that conversation analysts—whether trained in phonetics or not—routinely register the potential interactional import of phonetic detail to the conduct of social, spoken interaction. Since Goldberg (1978) a body of work has built up in which techniques of auditory and acoustic phonetics are applied to the study of talk-in-interaction in ways which aim to be consistent with the principles of CA, identifying interactional relevancies of the features described. It is some of that work, and some issues which surround it, which is described here. Analytic principles are described in section 2; some outcomes of analyses following those principles are outlined in section 3; issues in representing talk-in-interaction on paper are discussed in section 4; some future directions and challenges are described in section 5.

Analytic Principles

Technical phonetic analyses of conversation of the type described in this chapter ...

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