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The Management of Topics in Ordinary Conversation

Yang, Yuening (2019) The Management of Topics in Ordinary Conversation. PhD thesis, University of York.

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‘Topic’ has been a relatively neglected area in conversation analytic research. Partly owing to conceptual issues, such as what precisely constitutes a topic? and how are topics defined and identified?, the management of topics in ordinary conversation has come to be less widely studied than other more superordinate organizations in conversations, especially aspects of sequence organization. However, topic is an important organizing unit for conversation, shaping talk-in-interaction in profound ways. For ordinary participants, topics are what conversations are all about, what they orient to in real-time interaction and also what they reflect on their talk retrospectively. In this thesis, I aim to dispel previous misconceptions about conversational topics and provide a systematic overview about the organization of topics in ordinary conversation. Drawing upon recordings of telephone conversations between family members, friends, neighbors, etc., I explored various topical actions in conversation, as well as the nexus between topic and other organizing features of conversation. My analysis is divided as follows. In chapter 3, I examine two forms of topic transition – stepwise topic transition and touched-off topic transition — where a new topic is introduced by maintaining some topical link with the previous topic. In chapter 4, I further develop an early observation about creating the circumstances to introduce some next topics, where there is no natural environment to do so. In chapter 5, I focus on another topical action – topic resumption, and highlight its sequential context as well as linguistic design. In the last analytical chapter, I turn to another conversational feature, self-repairs, and explore how they interact with the organization of topics. This thesis provides an in-depth overview on how participants orient to their topics in ordinary conversation. It shows that topic is a valid organizing factor in interaction and it can be managed in systematic ways. It is hoped that this thesis will bridge gaps in CA literature in topic and complement our understanding about topics in conversation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Language and Linguistic Science (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.808728
Depositing User: MS Yuening Yang
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2020 23:57
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2020 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26984

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