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You gotta light?:On the luxury of context for understanding talk in interaction

Journal of Pragmatics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2007.03.007
  • Political Science


Abstract To deal with some current debates about the analytic validity of ‘contextual’ details in the analysis of talk-in-interaction, we (Alec McHoul and Mark Rapley) work through two cases. The first is hypothetical and derives from the current literature in speech-act-theory-inspired pragmatics (Capone, 2005). The second is actual and arises from our initial disagreement with an earlier publication by one of our colleagues (Antaki, 1998). What we hope to show is that the idea of context is, itself, something of a moveable feast; that it can have multiple formations ranging from the broadly political to the almost-but-not-quite effect of surface texts and their sequential implications. In this respect, we hope to ease tensions between otherwise cognate approaches to the analysis of talk-in-interaction. Our argument is that, if context is hearable in the talk as such, then it can’t be ignored by analysts. In section 3 of the paper (and precisely so as not to make this a ‘contestation’), Charles responds in his own terms and to see what kind of mutual footing there may (or may not) be for all involved in the analysis of talk vis-à-vis questions of context. If there is an upshot of the paper as a whole it is that further work on the ‘context question’ in studies of talk-in-interaction could well entail a return to (and perhaps a respecification of) the foundational ethnomethodological question of the status of ‘members’ knowledge’.

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