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Organizing multi-party talk: Orienting to multiple simultaneous conversations


Multi-party conversational interaction often results in multiple simultaneous conversations. Groups of four of more participants have methods for schisming (Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson, 1974), transforming one conversation into two simultaneous conversations that are visible by the operation of two turn-taking systems; the greater the group size, the greater the number of conversational floors possible. Egbert (1993) described how participants induce schisming through the production of turns designed to break away from an already ongoing conversation, and how participants resolve schisming resulting in the continuation of either the pre-existing or the break-away conversation. What happens in between? When a group of friends gather and simultaneous conversations co-occur, how do they manage their involvement in these multiple conversations? What methods, aside from sequence completion, enable a participant to change the trajectory of his current conversation to induce schism resolution? This study describes how members of close-knit social groups manage their involvement in multi-party conversational interaction. Specifically it examines the ways in which speakers engaged in dyadic conversation orient to another co-occurring multi-party conversation, implicating a schism-resolution for their own conversational floor and the opportunity to re-join the multi-party floor. To do this, participants orient to their own on-going conversation as well as another. In particular, we note the occurrence of pivotal turns, produced within the constraints of one's own conversational turn-taking system but also sensitive to the turn-taking organization of the other co-occurring conversation. Pivotal turns are produced in a transition relevance space of the other co-occurring conversation. These turns are designed to be understood in this other co-occurring conversation because of the use of deictic terms,


Szymanski, M. H. ; Aoki, P. M. ; Plurkowski, L. ; Thornton, J. D. ; Woodruff, A. Organizing multi-party talk: Orienting to multiple simultaneous conversations. 9th Interrnational Pragmatics Conference (IPrA); 2005 July 10-15; Riva del Garda; Italy.