Research Spotlight

This page spotlights the current research interests of some LISO faculty and graduate students.

Gene Lerner - Department of Sociology

Gene Lerner - PhotoAs a Conversation Analyst I find myself working simultaneously on a myriad of possibly interesting facets of talk and other conduct that may well prove to be fundamental to human sociality. I can describe two of my most active research projects.

The first of these attempts to ground some “entitlements” and “obligations” - to ground their very recognizability - in the organization of turn-taking and action sequencing for conversation. I have been tracking down the violations to ordinary next speaker selection practices to discover the forms of “intervening action” that justify a non-selected participant speaking out-of-turn. It seems to be the case that such violations are connected to normative concerns that might be characterized as social entitlement and obligation as well as social solidarity. It is the very violation of turn-taking's practices for selecting a next speaker that makes these normative matters visible.

The second project I have been very actively engaged in concerns the ways speakers refer to themselves. (This project is being pursued collaboratively with Celia Kitzinger of York University in the UK.) The focus here is on those places in conversation where a speaker stops what they are saying in order to repair the way they refer to themselves. We find that interactionally interesting actions are underwritten when a speaker takes the time to change from a singular self-reference (“I”) to a plural or collective self-reference (“we”) when such a change is not a factual necessity. So, for example, we find that repairative shifts from “I” to "we" (or to some enumerated collectivity) are used to diffuse responsibility to a collectivity or organization and shifts from “we” to “I” are used when personal experience rather than public action is being described for a couple or other collectivity.