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Margret Selting
Fragments of TCUs as deviant cases of TCU production in conversational talk

In previous papers I have analysed the interplay of syntax and prosody in the production and interpretation of TCUs in their lexico-syntactic, semantic, pragmatic and sequential context (Selting 1996a, 1998 Ms). I described the roles of syntax as the projection device with scope over the current TCU till the end of a possible sentence or other possible syntactic construction in the given context, and prosody as the projection device with the ability to locally project continuation beyond the current TCU, with further lexico-syntactic, lexico-semantic, pragmatic and activity-type specific factors projecting larger turns. This analysis was used to clarify the notions of the turn-constructional unit (TCU) and of transition relevance places (TRPs) at possible completion points of possible turns. TCUs were, largely in agreement with Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1974), defined as basically the smallest linguistically possible complete units in their sequential context, with TRPs being blocked and suspended at the ends of non-final TCUs till the projected (first) possible completion point(s) of possible final TCUs in the turn.

If, however, we want to further ask what the constructions and resources are in detail that participants use in order to construct their units in talk, we encounter difficulties. As Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson (1974) noted, in principle any item can be used in, say, a phrasal or a single-word unit, signalled and contextualized via intonation. For this reason, it will be difficult to validate and warrant our analysis of the ingredients in a possible TCU positively. Therefore, in this paper, I will use deviant cases in the production of units, i.e. fragments of units, in order to (a) further investigate the kinds of knowledge that we use to construct and make both fragments of units as well as units in talk interpretable, and to (b) further support and validate my prior analyses of 'units' in talk.

Fragments of units occur quite frequently in talk. For not everything that occurs before the beginning of a new unit is itself a unit: besides units we find stretches of talk that do not constitute complete units but are left unfinished. How are such unfinished fragments recognizable as unfinished? How can participants distinguish units from fragments of units? And what, in consequence, makes finished, complete units recognizable as such?

 Published as:
Selting, Margret (2001): Fragments of units as deviant cases of unit-production in conversational talk. In: Margret Selting & Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen, eds., Studies in Interactional Linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 229-258.



InLiSt No.7
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