Patterns in Stories Regardless of Topic

CA and Collections

            Conversation analysis is the examination of recordings and transcriptions of naturally occurring events (Beach, 2007, p. 83). Through the use of collections of materials, conversation analysis can show generalizations of common actions and patterns across conversations (Beach, 2007, p. 85).  Patterns in interaction can be found when comparing conversations, supporting Sacks’ theory that there is order to all points (Beach, 2007, p. 83). The following will examine three dog stories between father and son.  An analysis of each story is provided, followed by a compare and contrast section that demonstrates how interactions are similar and different across stories.  A patterns section is next and concludes with a reflexive examination of the material.


Dog Story One

1 S:         [By then ] Cha::rles should have forgiven me for giving him a ba:th this morning.

2                  (0.5)

3 D:                  Uh huh.=

4 S:                  =Yeah, yeah.=He’s not happy with me.

5 D:                  $Heh heh heh heh.$ He is now a soggy camper [↑huh. ]

6 S:                                                                                                                                      [That's] $r(h)ight. Heh heh heh.$ .hh

7                  Well (.) you know giving- giving Clinger (.) a bath (.) is a challenge I'm sure. (.) But

8                  you can pick him up, and you can put him in the sink.=

9 D:                   =[°Oh I do. °]

10 S:     [    And-   ] and you can- (0.5) you can hold him do:wn.

11 D:                   °I   do  [that too°. 

12 S:                           [.hh Charles on the other hand,              

13                  you can't do that with.=

14 D:                  =Oh.

            The first dog story excerpt consists of the son telling his father about giving his dog Charles a bath. This small excerpt is from the beginning of the son’s story where he notifies the father that he gave his dog a bath this morning. The son also informs his father that the dog is not happy he was bathed. Lastly, the son starts to explain how it was difficult to give his dog a bath in comparison to how his father would give his dog Clinger a bath. The father agrees a few times to the son’s assumptions about how he would give his own dog a bath and the excerpt ends. This excerpt contains the abstract, which tells what the story is going to be about and the orientation, which tells who and what will be included in the story as well as where and when (Goodwin, 1990, p. 231).

            The son states in the first line that Charles should have forgiven him for giving him a bath by then. The son is referring to a time the father said to call his mother. The son is confirming that time would be good because the dog shall have forgiven him by then. The time the father suggests triggers the son to start his story. Stories are triggered by turn-by-turn talk and may not always be topically coherent as this story demonstrates (Jefferson, 1978, p. 220).

            The second line consists of the father saying “Uh huh” confirming he acknowledges the son has started a story and he is ready to listen (W. Beach, personal communication, October 9, 2008).  The uh huh also moves the story along in this case. The father does not know where the son is going with the story at this point, and the uh huh allows the son to hear the father is listening and now the son can continue on with his story.

            The forth line is where the son explains the dog is not happy with him. The son is building emotion and drama in the dog when clearly a dog is not capable of expressing emotions (W. Beach, personal communication, October 9, 2008).  The son is telling his prediction of what the dog was feeling, with an indication that he wants some sympathy from his father for the dog being upset at him. This is what is called troubles resistance. Troubles resistance is the display of resistance to troubles (W. Beach, personal communication, October 9, 2008).  The son shows he is sad because the dog is mad at him and invites his father to be trouble receptive, or to comfort him.

In the fifth line the dad expresses laughter indicating there is humor in the situation. The father does not pick up on the trouble resistance his son displays and instead laughs to show he finds humor in the situation. The father responds in a joking manner as an attempt to make the son find humor too when he responds “He is now a soggy camper” in line five.

            The son responds in line six with a brief laughter indicating he finds humor in the situation like the father. He continues his story by explaining it is difficult to give Charles a bath after he finishes laughing. The son quickly brushes off the father’s comment and moves on to the story possibly because the father was not troubles receptive to the son’s previous comment. The father went off track in the conversation for a brief moment and the son quickly moves back to giving more details about his story, although his father does not ask him about it.

            Line nine is where the father responds with “Oh I do” to the son saying he probably puts his dog in the sink for baths. “Oh” usually represents a change of state token in conversation (W. Beach, personal communication, October 9, 2008).  In this case, the oh is not representing a change of state, but it is used in a confirming manner. It is confirming that he does pick up his dog and put him in the sink to give him a bath.

            Line ten and eleven consists of the son telling the father he can hold his dog down in the tub, and then the father confirms he does that. The son explains the father can hold his own dog down and the father responds “I do that too” in line eleven to confirm the son is correct in his assumption.

            In the 12th line the son informs the father that he cannot hold his dog Charles down in the tub. The father responds with “Oh” in line fourteen. This oh is what John Heritage called a “change of state token” (W. Beach, personal communication, October 9, 2008).  The father is using the “oh” to allow the son to know this is new information to him.  

Verbal Communication