What a difference a word can make
People spend a good deal of time talking to one another, and in general we do it pretty well. We might feel excited, angry, embarrassed, or — if we’re lucky — loved, in the course of our daily conversations. So is there any benefit to thinking about a science of talk? Can we really gain anything from scientific analysis of something we “just do”? I believe we can, and I’ve spent the last 20 years studying real talk from real people talking to each other in real time. Take this ordinary telephone call between two friends, Nancy and Hyla, transcribed according to the standard conversation analysis transcription system, which includes intonation and the actual sounds being made rather than just the correct spelling of a word (lines under a word represent emphasis and different movements in pitch, the equals sign means that the turns are very rapid): On the face of it, this is utterly mundane. Perhaps this seems obvious. Like Nancy, Gordon produces an answering “hello.” 1. 2. 3. 4.
Related: words, linguistics, semantics and semiotics