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date: 20 February 2018

Transcription for Conversation Analysis

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.

The transcription system for Conversation Analysis (CA) was originally developed by Gail Jefferson, one of the founders of CA, in the 1960s. Jefferson’s transcription conventions aim to represent on paper what had been captured in field audio recordings in ways that would preserve and bring to light the interactionally relevant elements of the recorded talk. Conversation analytic research has demonstrated that various features of the delivery of talk and other bodily conduct are basic to how interlocutors carry out social actions in interaction with others. Without the CA transcription system it is impossible to identify these features, as it represents talk and other conduct in ways that capture the rich subtlety of their delivery. Jefferson’s system of conventions evolved side by side with, and was informed by the results of, interaction analysis, which has shown that there are many significant aspects of talk that interactants treat as relevant, aspects that are entirely missed in simple orthographic representation.

Insistence by conversation analysts on capturing not only what is said but also details of how something is said, including interactants’ visible behaviors, is based on the assumption that “no order of detail in interaction can be dismissed a priori as disorderly, accidental, or irrelevant” (Heritage, J., Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology, 1984, p. 241). Conversation analytic transcripts need to be detailed enough to facilitate the analyst’s quest to discover and describeorderly practices of social action in interaction.