UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Language & Cognition seminar - Prof Elizabeth Stokoe

04 May 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Language and Cogniiton Seminar series logo

Wednesday, 4 May 2022. 1-2pm UK time. "A method in search of a problem: The power of conversation analysis." Talk held online (please contact the organiser for joining details).

This event is free.

Event Information

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Disa Witkowska – Language & Cognition

A method in search of a problem: The power of conversation analysis

In this presentation, I will explore the power of conversation analysis to reveal ethical, moral, and sometimes problematic communication practices that have personal, legal, and societal consequences for those involved. Such practices would otherwise be unknown, imagined incorrectly, unevidenced, disattended or remain obscured, since the worlds of communication and conversation are largely investigated using simulation and experimental methods or post-hoc surveys and interviews. As largely (but not exclusively) qualitative researchers, conversation analysts work with datasets of audio- and video-recorded social interaction ‘in the wild’; that is, conversations that are not simulated, role-played, or experimentally produced. Our research focuses on how different words, phrases, and grammar - as well as non-lexical features like ums, uhs, in-breaths and overlaps and embodied resources like gesture- all combine to shape what happens next in a conversation. While conversation analysis is sometimes regarded as the soggiest of ‘soft’ qualitative research, I will show that it not only challenges common communication myths (e.g., about body language or gender differences) but can reveal fundamental problems with research data across the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ spectrum, from quantitative data collected in experiments to narrative accounts collected in interviews. Drawing on diverse datasets, including recordings of first dates, healthcare encounters, police interviews, and crisis negotiation, I will show how simple things like asking ‘yes/no’ questions in different ways will tilt the answers given. I will also explore the issues raised when we scrutinize the spoken delivery of interview protocols and diagnostic instruments. I will argue that conversation analytic research exposes the workings of real-life inequalities, the myriad practices of exclusion, and the otherwise hidden reality of the damage that turns at talk can do.

About the Speaker

Prof Elizabeth Stokoe

at Communication and Media, Loughborough University

More about Prof Elizabeth Stokoe