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Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen

Constructing reason-for-the-call turns in everyday telephone conversation

One of the central concerns in the linguistic study of talk-in-interaction is to treat language as a set of resources (among others) molded by and deployed in the service of tasks incumbent upon interlocutors engaged in a speech encounter. That is to say, beyond any specific research issue in the field of interaction and grammar (Ochs, Schegloff and Thompson 1996) or interaction and prosody (Couper-Kuhlen and Selting 1996) lies a more general question: What problems must be resolved in order for speakers to succeed in interacting verbally with one another? How are specific linguistic forms helpful in addressing these problems?

As it happens, some of the tasks facing participants in an interactional encounter derive from the very nature of the communicative mode at hand. In telephone communication, for instance, where an occasion for talk must be generated at a distance, a warrant from the caller for initiating the occasion becomes relevant. This warrant is typically announced to the called party in the form of what has come to be termed a reason for the call (Sacks 1992a, 1992b; Schegloff & Sacks 1973, Schegloff 1986). Classifying something as a reason for the call not only provides an account for a particular occasion of talk, it also has consequences for subsequent talk, in that the identities and relevancies it establishes condition appropriate ways of responding (Sacks 1992a: 773-76). Recipients of reason-for-the-call announcements may thus choose to respond accordingly or not. Given the fact that callers must formulate a reason for calling and that called parties must recognize - among the various things that get said by the caller - some one thing as being the warrant for the call and respond to it relevantly - it is of considerable linguistic interest to inquire into the nature of the practices used to accomplish this task so endemic to telephone conversation.

 To cite this publication:
Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen: Constructing reason-for-the-call turns in everyday telephone conversation, InLiSt - Interaction and Linguistic Structures, No. 25, June 2001, URL: <http://www.uni-potsdam.de/u/inlist/issues/25/index.htm>


InLiSt No.25
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