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© Cambridge University Press 2013. “A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly direction. The isotherms and isotheres were functioning as they should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual mean temperature and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun, the moon, the phases of the moon, of Venus, of the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapour in the air was at its maximal state of tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that characterizes the facts fairly accurately, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a fine day in August 1913.” Musil, The Man without Qualities. Introduction. We start with a simple observation - one which we understand to have informed work in conversation analysis from its very inception: for anything that co-conversationalists talk about, there are multiple ways in which it can be described. Schegloff (1988) notes that two aspects of this have been examined in conversation analytic studies. First, and most commonly, conversation analysts since Sacks (1972a, 1972b) and Schegloff (1972) have described the ways in which speakers select from different types of forms in specific domains. For instance, in initial references to non-present persons, speakers can use either recognitional or non-recognitional reference forms (Sacks and Schegloff, 1979; Sacks, 1995; Schegloff, 1996; Enfield and Stivers, eds., 2007). Second, and less commonly, conversation analysts have considered the way in which next speakers may offer alternative and competing descriptions, characterizations or formulations of the same state of affairs (Schegloff, 1988; Drew, 1992). Consider example 1 below. Here, in a conversation between friends, the same activity is described alternately as “drinking” and “having liquor.”.

Original publication





Book title

Conversational Repair and Human Understanding

Publication Date



322 - 342