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Adjacency pairs consist, as the name suggests, of a first-pair part (initial move or question), which is connected to an adjacent second-pair part (response move or answer).

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CCST2130 Spoken Communication

Assignment One

Andrew McFarlane


Tutorial Group: 11-1 Thursday

J. Mulholland

Word Length: 1200 words


Adjacency pairs consist, as the name suggests, of a first-pair part (initial move or question), which is connected to an adjacent second-pair part (response move or answer). Not only do such devices select next speaker but also they establish the sense of the relevant type of action to be produced in response. This is not to say that the selected speaker will respond in the prompted way, only that turn transitions may, and often are, assembled and coordinated through the use of adjacency pairs. Insofar as the selected speaker may not respond accordingly, adjacency pairs are “conditionally relevant”.

It is this speech device of initial and response moves in adjacency pairs that will be examined through the selected conversation segment. The analysis will look at the different types of initial moves that are used (e.g. Question, statement) in the speech pairs, as well as establishing the reason for the use of words “And” as well as “But” throughout speech pairs.  The analysis will also look at the various response moves that follow the initial moves and attempt to establish whether they are preferred or non-preferred responses.

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An example of a different type of initial move can be seen on line ten in the form of a statement. Here speaker B begins a statement with the word “And”. This holds great significance in conversation analysis as Schiffrin analysis predicts, ‘and’ is used primarily to mark that the current move is a continuation of the same speaker’s prior turn. “And’ also correlates strongly, though not absolutely, with the presentation of new information.  This holds true for Speaker B who goes on from talking about her sons’ commission to “some weeks he got a hundred dollars and others week he might of got well forty dollars”.  

Response Moves:

The first response move in this speech segment comes in line two in response to the direct line of questioning by speaker C. Speaker B replies to the question “On a commission yeah”. This response move is the preferred response that C was after because it was the C’s expected answer. Sack’s states, 'the utterance of one speaker makes a particular kind of response likely’ (1974, p.53).  Therefore because C posed the question as “its on a commission basis isn’t it”.

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Initial moves influence and limit responses as well as raise topics, which requires the listeners to speak about. A preferred response is given when you respond as the speaker expects you to, in agreement or support of them, whilst a dispreferred response is when the expected response is not given (Mulholland 1991: 48). However, as shown throughout the analysis, it is important to remember that speech pairs are not absolute “rules”; they are just conversational “norms”.  After current speaker produces an initial move, next speaker may or may not chose to produce a response move.  



Levinson, S. (1983). What is an insertion sequence.  http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAnInsertionSequence.htm. (Accessed May 10, 2003).


Sacks, H., Schegloff, E., and Jefferson, G. (1974) “A simplest systematics for the organization of turntaking in conversation”, in Language, vol. 50.

Mulholland,J. (2003) “Spoken Communication”

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