Conversation Analysis and the Study of Atypical Populations
Soon after Harvey Sacks’ early essays on what Sociology could learn from how people organized their talk, Conversation Analysis coalesced into the shape it has largely come to be known by: the study of action, as produced by the sequential design of language-in-interaction. Conversation Analysis (CA) has since then established some apparently fundamental features of the use of language interaction, common to languages as disparate as English, Finnish, Japanese, French and Arabic (among many others), and some, like turn-taking, which are possibly universal (see Stivers, et al., 2009). These features emerged from early CA studies of the language of fully competent adult members of a speech community. Although most CA research is still based on such speakers, the last 20 years have seen a significant widening of the focus. In this chapter we discuss interactional encounters involving atypical populations: people for whom frustrations in communication are experienced as a permanent fixture of daily life.
We cover three sorts of atypical populations, set out in the order of the volume of conversation analytic work that each has attracted: (a) cases where the speaker’s cognition is (relatively) intact, but there is trouble primarily with language, speech or hearing (as in acquired communication disorders such as aphasia, or in conditions ...