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Conversation Analysis

5. CA in Action

Example 8b

06 Pat Hm:: moderate I’d say
07 (0.2)
08 Doc: Can you define that, hhhehh ((laughing outbreath))
09 Pat: Uh huh hah .hh I don’t get off my- (0.2) outta
10 thuh restaurant very much but [(awh:)

The physician begins this effort by inviting the patient to 'define' moderate (line 8). As he concludes his turn, he looks up from the chart and gazes, smiling, directly at the patient, and briefly laughs. Laughter in interaction is quite commonly associated with 'misdeeds' of various sorts (Jefferson, 1985, Haakana, 2001). Because the laughter in this case is not targeted at a single word or phrase but follows the physician's entire turn, it will, by default, be understood as addressing the entire turn. In this case, it appears designed to mitigate any implied criticism of the patient's turn as insufficient or even self-serving.

In her reply, the patient begins with responsive laughter (Jefferson, 1979) but does not continue with a 'definition.' Instead she takes a step back from such a definition to remark: "I don't get....outta thuh restaurant very much but", and her subsequent development of this line is interdicted by the clinician. While this remark may be on its way to underwriting a subsequent estimate, its proximate significance is to convey the context of her alcohol use, or "how" she drinks. Specifically this remark purports to indicate that her drinking is ‘social’: she does not drink alone in her apartment, nor does she drink on the job. In this way, the patient introduces a little of her 'lifeworld' circumstances into the encounter, conveying that her drinking is 'healthy' or at least not suspect or problematic.

Jefferson G. (1985). An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter. In: Teun A. Dijk (Ed),  Handbook of discourse analysis Volume 3. New York: Academic Press, 25-34.
Haakana M. (2001). Laughter as a patient's resource: Dealing with delicate aspects of medical interaction. Text 21(1): 187-219.
Jefferson G. (1985). An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter. In: Teun A. Dijk (Ed),  Handbook of discourse analysis Volume 3. New York: Academic Press, 25-34.
Jefferson G. (1979). A technique for inviting laughter and its subsequent acceptance/declination. In: Psathas G., Ed,  Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology. New York: Irvington Publishers, 79-96.