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Disputation 26.9.2015
Thorunn Blöndal, nordiska språk

Where grammar meets interaction. Collaborative production of syntactic constructions
in Icelandic conversation

Conversation is the most common social action people engage in and the most familiar situation of language usage. Mundane conversation is by necessity a cooperative project in which two or more people participate, taking turns in speaking. Cooperation of interlocutors in a dialogue is found in many forms but is especially noteworthy in the smooth transition which takes place when speakers actually share the conversational floor.

Breaking the rule of ‘one party speaks at a time’ or of allowing a speaker to complete his or her utterance could at times be interpreted as violations of the conventions of communication and therefore hostile. In other contexts, “rule-breaking” is clearly a friendly gesture as is the case with the two interactional processes explored in the thesis, syntactic completions and other-extensions in Icelandic conversation.

Completions fall into two categories: induced and non-induced completions. Induced completions are carried out by the second speaker to assist his interlocutor, e.g. when she is searching for an appropriate word. Non-induced completions are mainly used to show affiliation with the previous speaker’s words.

Other-extensions also fall mainly into two categories: supportive actions, where the second speaker gives his partner’s words more weight or explains them, and checking understanding, where the second speaker is trying to clear up his partner’s words to avoid problems later on in the conversation. With a few exceptions, both completion and other-extension are received in a positive way in the conversations.

It is argued in the thesis that the conversational turn is not necessarily a production of one person. Two (or more) participants in a dialogue can produce collaborative turn sequences, where the second speaker‘s contribution goes in the same direction as the first speaker‘s utterance. It is therefore the directionality that decides whether a turn produced by two speakers is interpreted as one turn or two. When two or more speakers share their turn, they also share the conversational floor and in these instances we can talk about a collaborative floor. The appropriate surroundings for collaboratively producing a conversational turn and sharing the floor with the other participants are in friendly conversation with people who know each other’s conversational behaviour.


M.Sc. Thorunn Blöndal disputerar 26.9.2015 kl. 12 vid Humanistiska fakulteten, Helsingfors universitet på avhandlingen "Where grammar meets interaction - Collaborative production of syntactic constructions in Icelandic conversation". Disputationen äger rum i Auditorium XII .

Opponent är Ph.D. Jakob Steensig, University of Århus, och kustos är professor Jan Lindström.

Doktorsavhandlingen publiceras i serien Nordica Helsingiensia .

Doktorsavhandlingen publiceras också elektroniskt och finns tillgänglig i Helda.

Respondents kontaktuppgifter:
Thorunn Blöndal
thorunnbl(a)gmail.com