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Topic organisation in Japanese conversation

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posted on 08.08.2014, 13:59 by Midori Kino
This study investigates the organisation of topic in Japanese conversation. Using the framework of conversation analysis (CA), it aims to identify the mechanisms of the organisation of topic initiation, maintenance, and shift by investigating the environments where these actions occur and the devices participants use in order to achieve their actions at a particular place. Through the examination of questions and repair initiation, the organisation of topic initiation is shown as a boundaried topical movement in which the closing of one topic is followed by the initiation of another. It is crucially characterised as the recipient design, thereby, participants thoroughly attend to the co-participants’ events/experiences. The topic negotiation is illustrated through the examination of devices such as discourse marker dakara (‘so’) and figurative expressions pursuing the recipients’ response by means of the upshot and summary assessments. While orienting to the topic closing, participants monitor whether they can move to a next topic or they have something mentionable. The practice of reformulation and the reformulation questions reveal the organisation of topic shift which may enable the participants to manage or control the topical movement by organising their utterances through the initiation of repair. While keeping some connection with the prior or earlier turn(s), participants introduce a new topic. Participants effectively use repair initiation in implementing topic initiation/topic shift in order to develop the topical talk when they face troubles or fail to make their projections. Participants’ management elicits the co-participant’s coordination, which is an important social action. The study shows that the ways participants organise their conversation are overwhelmingly similar between Japanese and English, which indicates that conversational structures are in fact somehow primordial and they transcend linguistic and cultural differences.



Hutchby, Ian

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Department of Sociology

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University of Leicester

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