The turn as a site for micro and macro structuring in a workplace meeting

Cecilia E. Ford

University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

TP164: Forms of social organization in meeting talk

Different levels of context, including the context of activity and the wider contexts and constraints of workplace hierarchies and institutional accountability, are managed by participants as they shape specific turns. While hierarchy and economy are broad concepts in the study of social structure, they are also indexed and enacted in moment-to-moment talk in workplace meetings. Drawing on meetings in North American workplaces, I offer a case of connections between details of talk-in-interaction and the social constraints and structures of an institution. I concentrate on how participants shape their vocal and non-vocal actions during the course of a single vocal turn, considering how these “micro” practices are responsive to and indexical of context conceived in broader terms.

In a meeting of academic medical specialists, Gwen initiates a turn with “So”, beginning a candidate understanding of her recipient, Ned’s, just completed explanation. Gwen has been questioning the scientific validity of a drug company’s experimental methods:


Gwen: So, at least there would be some scientific (.) myeh: okay,

Note that Gwen abandons her projected turn trajectory after “scientific”, and she restarts with “myeh: okay”. Crucial components of the interaction here are coordinated non-vocally. I propose that avoidance of explicit verbalization of a negative stance in this instance represents a local practice for enacting a general institutional avoidance of criticizing the drug companies which are the institutions major source of research funding.

My analysis of this piece of data offers one form of connection between the study of the infrastructure of social interaction—e.g., turn taking, repair, sequence organization-- and the moment to moment indexing and enactment of institution, conceived of more broadly.

Session: Themed Panel (part 2)
Forms of social organization in meeting talk
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 06