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 Conversation Analysis and Communication

WAYNE A. BEACH

San Diego State University

Introduction

For Communication scholars, the study of language dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries BC.1 In Greek and Roman society, skilled orators such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero and the Sophists (e.g. Gorgias and Potagoris) have been examined to understand how public speaking, argument and debate shape social life (Bizzell & Herzberg, 2001). The ‘art of rhetoric’ involves the use of language to persuade and solicit responses, to encourage open and reasoned positions, and to urge consideration of alternative paths toward wise decision-making. These dimensions of social life have triggered generations of inquiries in studies of interpersonal and relational communication, approaches that have tended to separate language from social action (Fitch & Sanders, 2005; Glenn, LeBaron & Mandelbaum, 2003). Understanding how these processes of communication have been conceptualized, including the roles of language and methods employed to study them, provide a useful backdrop for situating the emergence, significance and momentum of CA within the discipline of Communication. In particular, CA offers an alternative and empirically rigorous method for closely examining ordinary and institutional conduct, and has become a major influence in studies of language and social interaction, health communication, and related areas. This chapter provides a brief history of communication research, the ...

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