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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Membership and language use : an investigation into the internal sequential organization of naturally occurring stories from a social interaction perspective Gardner, Holly


The research reported here constitutes an investigation into features of internal ordering of stories narrated in natural conversation. Following the work of Sacks, Schegloff and other sociological analysts of conversational structure, this report focuses on methodical ways in which utterances are interpretable by reference to, e.g., sequential placement. An existing literature on the social organization of the telling of jokes and stories suggests that slots designed for utterance-types can be analytically identified. The present study aims to show that there is an identifiable position, story closing, which provides for orderly expectations concerning the items that may be found in such a location. The report argues that there are two independently describeable organizations which structure naturally occuring stories: the course-of-action framework and an organization oriented to giving a grounding identity to the story's teller. The former is concerned with the series of connected, temporally unfolding events, marked by beginning and end, which the story proposes to represent by a sequence of utterances. In that story-tellers exhibit selectivity and coherence, it is evident that such stories are formulated from the point of view of the character that teller allocates to self within the narration. The latter organization provides for the story's recipients a "members adequate sociological explanation" of the teller's character's point of view. It does so by assigning to teller's character a social identity which is the locus of commonly known, socially organized motives and attitudes. The story closing is a sequential position that closes off the course-of-action from the teller's character's point of view. The expectation that such an item will fill that slot can be used by the story's recipients to decide among different possible interpretations of a story's last utterance.

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