A Conversation Analysis Of “Turn-Taking” In The Electronic Media

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

A Conversation Analysis Of “Turn-Taking” In The Electronic Media


Turn-Taking in conversation varies from one language to another because Turn-Taking is usually bound by natural etiquettes attributable to the people‘s culture. Turn-Taking in Yorùbá conversation is no exception. It reflects to a large extent the culture of the Yorùbá People. Hitherto, politeness, honorific pronouns, greeting, proverbs, prayer etc. are major factors in Yoruba Turn-Taking. The major preoccupation of this work, however, is to examine how Yorùbá people take turns especially in a media settingwhere the interlocutors express themselves in their local dialects on weekly discussion topics. The greatest influence on this work is Sacks et al. (1974). Not only did Sacks and his associates pioneer the field of Conversation Analysis, their many discoveries about how interlocutors take turns successfully are still very relevant.

The uniqueness of this research, however, lies in the analysis of Turn-Taking in Yorùbá conversation in juxtaposition with Sacks et al.‘s Turn-Taking which focuses only on how interlocutors take turns in American English conversation. The subject of this research is the audience of Mìnìjọ̀jọ̀, a weekly Yorùbá discussion programme which airs on Africa Independent Television (AIT) on Sundays between 1pm and 2pm. The audience comprises of speakers of major Yorùbá dialects like the Ìjẹ̀bú, Ìjèṣà, Ẹ̀gbá, Èkìtì, Ìbàdàn and Oǹdó dialects. Through disguised observation (with the permission of the producer of the programme) as well as audio and video recordings, the data for this research were collected, transcribed according to Conversation Analysis methods and then analysed. During the analysis, one very important finding is that some Turn-Taking rules are exempted in a media setting because certain media ethics override such Turn-Taking rules in Yorùbá conversation.

It is of interest, however, to discover that proverbs in most Yorùbá conversations form Adjacency pairs and at other times, overlapping utterances. In all, this research presents how Turn Allocation Component / Technique, Interruption / Overlapping, Adjacency Pairs, Back-Channel Communication, Silence, Repair and Non-Verbal Communication operate in Yorùbá conversation. It is hoped that this work contributes to subsequent researches on Yorùbá Turn-Taking since there are very few literatures that address Turn-Taking as an important aspect of Yorùbá conversation.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

As far as human relationship is concerned, conversation is an essential tool that promotes interaction among human beings. Only in monologues, where only one person speaks throughout, is the concept of conversation discarded and this is mainly a feature of drama. Fundamental to dialogues and multilogues (conversation involving more than two persons), however, is Turn-Taking. Turn-Taking in a conversation ensures discipline in who speaks, at what point, and for how long. It is like a sharing device, an ‗economy‘ operating over a scarce resource (Levinson, 1983:297). It is also a crucial mechanism in human-system interaction in which the interlocutors yield and take turns, guided by Turn-Taking cues (Duncan & Fiske, 1977).

In discussing Turn-Taking, therefore, a mechanism guided by a set of rules can be identified (Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson, 1978). This mechanism includes a local management system which will indicate a Transition Relevance Place (TRP), Turn Construction Units and regulations by signals and Allocation Systems. In all, silence is abhorred, so much so that even when there is silence, it is still interpreted as an action. Although Turn-Taking is regarded as a prerequisite to every organized conversation, every culture has its unique Turn-Taking qualities.

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