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Conversation Analysis

Conversation analysis is the empirical study of conversations by employing techniques drawn from ethnomethodology. Conversation analysis examines details of naturally occurring conversations to reveal the organizational principles of talk and its role in the production and reproduction of social order. In this all facets of conversation for meaning – from the smallest words to the timings of pauses, interruptions etc. are also studied. Ethnomethodologists Harold Garfinkel and Harvey Sacks were concerned to show how the orderliness of society is actively produced by the actions, especially during conversations, of participants. Conversations can be recorded and can be analyzed over and over again. Conversation analysis has achieved many important things in interpretivist sociology. First it has helped in uncovering a lot about the ways in which ordinary talk is structured. With the help of recorded conversations we now have a better understanding of how conversations are started and terminated, how topics are chosen or avoided. It has served as a methodological tool for sociologists by enhancing the quality of evidence and has also served as a tool for checking the validity of analysis. This method has been able to throw light on institutional talk by comparing specialized forms of talk –courtroom interrogation, pilot’s conversation with air- traffic control etc. with everyday talk. Many jobs are done mainly through talking- even being a family doctor is mostly a talk. So conversation analysis has contributed significantly to the work of sociology.