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Coherence-inducing strategies in conversations amongst the aged
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2000 (English)In: Journal of Pragmatics, ISSN 0378-2166, Vol. 32, no 4, 425-462 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates the accomplishment of coherence in multiparty conversations amongst the aged. Coherence is defined as a multilayered organisation which is relevant for the joint making of meaning in interaction (Korolija, 1998a: 112), and observable at the structurally intermediate level of episodes. Every episode reflects how participants locally and globally structure their situated interactions. Analyses of coherence are carried out at episode boundaries, across, and within episodes.

The conversations, involving four participants aged 80+ and one staff member, are recorded at a Senior Citizen Centre (SCC) in Sweden. The aim of the SCC is to provide care and social support for the aged. The focus in the study is restricted to coherence-inducing devices which are typical for the SCC conversations in comparison with devices identified in multiparty conversations belonging to other activity types (see Korolija, 1998b; Korolija and Linell, 1996; Linell and Korolija, 1995).

Quantitative and qualitative analyses of episodes indicate that coherence in the SCC conversations is constructed mainly through repetitive or recurrent discourse strategies such as the re-use of topicality and routinized responses. The strategies cement the interactions in a way which may occasionally impede topical progression. At the same time, the repeatedly constructed coherence patterns in the SCC conversations contribute to coherence in the present lives and worlds of the aged. More thorough connections between age and coherence-making remain to be investigated.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2000. Vol. 32, no 4, 425-462 p.
Keyword [en]
Multiparty conversation, Coherence, Activity type, Episode, Social interaction, Senior citizens, Communicative impairments
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-12875DOI: 10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00058-2OAI: diva2:17257
On the day of the defence date the title of this article was "Talk for talk's sake: On routine construction of coherence in multiparty phatic conversation".Available from: 2008-01-07 Created: 2008-01-07 Last updated: 2011-08-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Episodes in talk: Constructing coherence in multiparty conversation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Episodes in talk: Constructing coherence in multiparty conversation
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study contributes to an understanding of how coherence can be assigned or constructed by participants in authentic multiparty conversational interaction. Coherence is analysed as a type of organisation relevant for the making of meaning in situated interaction, but also in retrospect from a third party's (or analyst's) perspective; it is both constructed and reconstructed. Important questions are: what makes multiparty talk hold together, what do a number of participants in conversation (have to) do in order to sustain coherence, and in what senses can multiparty conversations be argued to be coherent?

A notion of episode is (re)introduced as a unit of natural social interaction, manifest at a structurally intermediate, or a global, level of conversation. The use of episode implies that coherence, a pragmatic phenomenon, steadily encompasses text, i.e. talk, context(s) and actions, and sense-making practices invoking contexts during the progression of interaction. This reflects the reciprocal relations between language, social interaction, and cognition. Also, a coding method of coherence has been developed, Topical Episode Analysis (abbreviated as TEA). The thesis explores the concept of episode and its place among units of interaction, and describes the episode structure and coherence-making in some specific activity types.

The empirical material used, 24 multiparty conversations making up a total of 1500 episodes, consists of dinner conversations among peers, multi-generational family gatherings (involving aphasics), radio talk shows, and conversations recorded at a centre aimed for elderly people (with symptoms of dementia). In all conversations, conversing is a main activity.

Both qualitative and quantitative analyses have been carried out. Results include the following points: (i) coherence in multiparty conversation can be regarded as a co-construction; (ii) coherence is accomplished through the invoking of contexts (context, situation, and background knowledge), implying that coherence is an attribute of activities in context and not only 'text'; (iii) coherence-making is the unmarked case in authentic conversation and incoherence or non-coherence appear to be theoretical constructs; (iv) coherence patterns are activity specific; (v) coherence is multilayered, consisting of one local and several global levels; (vi) coherence is constructed through a division of communicative labour, suggesting that also people with communicative impairments contribute to coherence-making.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 1998. 138 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 171
Coherence, episode, context, multiparty conversation, activity type, communicative impairments, radio talk, dinner conversation
National Category
Social Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-10517 (URN)91-7219-161-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
1998-02-27, Elysion, Hus T, Campus Valla, Linköpings Universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2008-01-07 Created: 2008-01-07 Last updated: 2013-02-28Bibliographically approved

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