others and accepting theirs to us, apologizing, justifying, accounting, keeping up appearances, fulfilling obligations, standing on one's rights, extending and asking for support, and all the rest that makes up the organized pattern of social and socialized actions.

As Goffman has so well documented in several places, the lion's share of interpersonal activities I public social settings falls in the category of ritual ceremonial interchanges as prescribed by the transactional code in force. Conversation is the publicly sanctioned medium of exchange for doing ritual work. We have defined our task here as a systematic analysis of talk in conversation, and the paradigmatic approach we propose for this analysis involves the structural description of particular sample conversations as a means to establish the general syntactic machinery needed to account for the specific ways in which the ritual work is being accomplished through that medium. Our discussion, thus far, has been sufficiently elaborate to indicate what might be some of the major structural components of conversation and how these are used by participants in the service of the ritual work that is required of them by virtue of their membership position in the social group they belong to and from which they derive their definition as a person, as on entitled to recognition and status. We have seen that talk can be analyzed as an organized sequence of conversational events, the surface manifestations of these being utterances and gestures that occur within a talking turn. As Sacks (1970) has argued convincingly a talking turn is a natural and basic sequential device of conversation upon whose organization revolves many, if not all, other conversational facts. A conversational episode is also a natural and basic unit, though it is much larger in scope, and it in turn, is dwarfed by the much larger unit that is embodied in another natural and basic unit, that of the person, the conversationalist, the participant. One way of seeing what a person is, is to see him as an individual who possesses a conversational identity. An individual's conversational identity can be seen as a cumulative definition given by the set of conversational episodes in which he was a participant. Each conversational episode involves a sequence of transactional exchanges whose basic organizing structure consists of the ritualized management of a series of transactional moves that require joint coordinated work for their unproblematic routine accomplishment. Transactional moves are organized into bracketed sections of conversation, having beginnings, middle parts, and closings. Transactional devices (idioms) are made available to participants by the transactional code to engineer the various transactions that the conversational medium allows for expression. These devices serve as public signs of the ratification and completion of transactional goings on, as well as affording a great deal of individual choice about the specific surface manifestations of utterances and gestures within a participant's talking turn (personal style of expression, appearance and demeanor).

The general framework we are proposing for the systematic analysis of talk can thus be seen to consist of a convergent hierarchy of increasingly specific conceptual entities, starting with the notion of a person as an individual whose group membership entitles him to the transactional rights and obligations of a conversationalist, and further specifying that status in terms of a conversational identity, as defined by a cumulative record of prior conversational episodes, each of which is composed of a sequence of talking turns organized into bracketed sections identified by the transactional exchange sequence of transactional moves manifested in particular surface utterances and gestures. We have inspected the utterances that comprise a particular conversation and we have shown how through a series of analytic steps it is possible to define some basic structural components and mechanisms of conversation.

In the next chapter, we propose to demonstrate the theoretical significance of the structural mechanisms thus identified by applying them to the solution of certain specific problems in conversational work. Included will be such problems as opening and closing conversations, topic raising and topic switching, the function and structure of transactional idioms, the investigatory practices of conversationalists, reporting accounts and story telling. However, before we are ready to take up these specific problems, more needs to be said about he general transactional framework within which conversational work is to be understood. The remainder of this chapter will therefore be devoted to a general consideration of the structure of interpersonal transactions as embodied in the transactional code and practiced in conversational encounters. Here, even more than earlier, our direct indebtedness to Erving Goffman will be evident to those who are familiar with this master observer of the ritual idiom.


That social interactions are patterned, i.e. recurrent, is both evident to all as well as traditionally accepted by social scientists. The existence of a transactional code that prescribes proper patterning of interactions for social group members is a less readily available piece of wisdom to the uninformed and to traditional social scientists. Yet, to Emily Post and her relevant audience of the day, the existence of a code book of etiquette came to be literally true, in a way that we might suspect linguists may have sometimes envied in their own unending search for a grammatical code book for sentences. To our knowledge no one has ever succeeded in writing a code book for ordinary face -to-face transactions, and thus to do for the study of social interactions what Emily Post has done for the description of polite demeanor. Instead, books have been written about the transactional code book and a great deal has been discovered about what its contents must perforce include. We will thus continue to speak about a transactional code, by which we shall mean whatever cumulative but incomplete facts we have about its contents.

We must presume that sometimes very early I the transactional code, there appears a specification of what we refer to as the "Talking Contract". This might consist of a set of stipulations that set down the rights and obligations of a talker, if he is going to legitimately claim membership in the speech community whose talking standards are governed by that transactional code. There are the sorts of things that immediately come to mind for compelling reasons: he must use the officially sanctioned dialect or be branded as an alien with consequent restrictions to privileges afforded locals only, such as information about local conditions that would be a source of embarrassment were it available to certain outsiders, and the like; because, when he speaks, he can be seen to be claiming that he means what he says, he therefore is obliged to signal in advance of saying something he doesn't mean, such as a tongue in cheek, lest he might give offense to others present by embarrassing them when it becomes known that what they have taken in seriousness, was in fact said in jest, and therefore laying themselves open to the impression that they may be undesirable persons of the sort that cannot tell the difference between serious and non-serious talk; because an individual can get into trouble when insisting to talk to just anyone in sight, talkers in good standing must acknowledge each other whenever they find themselves in each other's sight (e.g. by a greeting exchange), even if it is the case that they have nothing to say to one another upon that occasion; and on and on to what seems to us a very large class of behavioral prescriptions. The very ease with which the transactional code book can be filled by this means makes it suspect as a solution for the problem of determining the overall structure of conversation.

Perhaps a theoretically more interesting approach to the study of the transactional code is to consider the sorts of questions one might ask about transactional exchanges that are of public record, and then to build the theoretical exchanges that are of public record, and then to build the theoretical apparatus that can be shown to be able to potentially give a satisfactory account of the answers. This is the approach we have attempted in this book. Transactions of public record include; what can be witnessed wherever co-mingling of potential talkers occurs; artificially produced derivative records such as the film of an encounter of a transcribed written version of it; and the accounts talkers give to each other of talking episodes. The last of these has a special status in our ethnomethodological framework and more needs to be said about it here.

It might be tempting to claim from a contemporary behavioristic point of view that the first two types of records of conversational transactions are more "objective," accurate, and hence the source of "real" data, than the last which is 'contaminated' by 'distortions' of memory. But this position would miss the point of our analysis. We use here the same theoretical rationale that motivated us in the earlier discussion, to require that all concepts in the analysis pass the test of demonstrably being participant based oriented to features. And now the same rationale requires that "facts" about a person or about his conversational identity, if they are to constitute data for our hypotheses, must be facts of public record, not facts artificially produced by a technologist's snooping devices. Facts about a person's conversational identity are not to be found in films, tape recordings, and transcripts, but in the public mind: statements, opinions, reports, accounts, and the like, produced by acquainted others. (Incidentally, we do feel it's useful to prepare permanent technically produced records of these sorts of accounts for more leisurely analysis.)

An individual's conversational identity is a matter of public record. If it is generally reported of someone that he said X, the proper "fact" to be had from this observation for our purposes is the implication of that observation for that individual's conversational identity, namely the fact that others believe he is the author or statement X. (For reasons that are legally, ethically, and politically relevant, there may be an interest in assessing the validity of attributing the authorship of a statement to a particular person, but that is another matter entirely.) Thus, facts about a person that are of public record have to do with image impression (e.g. reputation) and an interest in the validity of these sorts of facts lead to an examination of image management work of participants whereby they attempt to support, protect, and repair their public image, their face, their public selves, their conversational identity.

To recapitulate: the perspective we are adopting for the study of conversations is to view these as composed of transactional moves seen as work participants accomplish to support, protect, and repair each other's reputation as conversationalists, and it is this work, in the form of a cumulatively recorded and remembered package that others have in their mind when thinking of A's reputation as a talker or his conversational identity.

The "recording" process alluded to is what's involved in the theoretical interest of the data whose peculiar validity we are defending, namely, as stated previously, "the accounts talkers give to each other of talking episodes." An account is a bracketed section of conversation and accounting, as will be seen, is a routine and frequent type of work in talk. Accounting has the sense of "justifying something" and one way of looking at the function of the transactional code is to see it as the agency that lays down the standards of reference for social justifying or accounting: every event in a conversational encounter has a potential positive or negative implication for one or more of the participants and, in consequence, conversationalists are constantly engaged in accounting for events that may be offensive-rationally justifying, asking permission, apologizing, answering requests for elaboration, etc. In most general terms, a person is constantly under obligation to account for himself to others, viz. to protect, support, and repair his conversational face and the claims attached to it.

Conversational identity can thus be seen as a person's accounted face, what he has succeeded to put on public record as evidenced by his past transactional exchanges with others, a record that is seen by all as a personal and unique accomplishment, an individual expression of what organized social life can afford. Everyday ordinary face-to-face talk treats the face accounting of others as a routinely recurrent topic. In some circles, this particular topic is a put ahead of all others in importance and frequency, in which case it is sometimes referred to as "gossip talk" (cf. also gossip columns in newspapers).2

The content of the accounted face consists neither of so-called objective film and tape recordings an anthropologist might gather following the person on his daily round, nor of any derivative analysis he might independently make of such data. Rather, it is composed of the information about him that is on public record, a record located in the minds of others. It is this record that makes up the relevant data for the task of deriving the structural components of interpersonal transactions.3


We wish to consider now the relationship that exists between transactional work and conversational utterances. Understanding this relationship is important inasmuch as it is what determines the format and content of both the transactional code and the sets of claims that make up a person's accounted face. What conversationalists are oriented to notice and remember about each other are precisely those things which the transactional code marks as relevant for a person's public image; furthermore, and now from the other side of the fence, the conversational utterances that are of public record and may thus be examined, evidence the nature of a person's transactional work in the support and maintenance of his public image.

Let us consider some concrete examples drawn from our own speech community, and in this case, from the personal experience of one of us (LAJ). My daily round includes several trips from my second floor office to the main departmental office located on the ground floor. Often, these visits downstairs are purely functional, sandwiched between other activities, and the I have an interest in making them as short as possible so I can get back to my office. Now the work that I have to successfully accomplish "a short visit to the office downstairs" can be quite involved, though presenting routine problems, and a close examination of the strategies I use will serve as an adequate illustration of the nature of the interlock between transactional work and conversational displays (utterances and gestures).

If I were able to make myself invisible, I would disappear when I leave my office area, reappear in front of the secretary's desk, then disappear again in the hallway and staircase. Since I lack invisible paint, I try to do the next best thing, namely, I act as if I want others to pretend that I am invisible. To accomplish this, I use what might be referred to as negative conversational tactics. To wit: I am entering the office and between the door where I stand and the faculty mail box area stands a colleague blocking my way with his social presence (i.e. he is not reading as if engaged and unavailable; in fact, he is inattentively looking at some letters, plainly showing all concerned that he is socially available). At this point I cannot merely pretend that I haven't seen him since he literally blocks out with his body part of the mail box I intend to get to. Were I to attempt this transparent ruse, he would either take offense, or would deliberately and shamelessly try to foil my plan by addressing to me a conversational opener, thus forcing me to escalate my unavailability to the point of inexcusable rudeness. Instead, I do something else that sometimes works. I stop at the door and put on a highly perplexed and preoccupied face, quickly scanning the room and pausing on his face just long enough to be able to create an ambiguity in the claim that I am making: either (a) I have seen him but am pretending no to recognize him or, (b) some extra situational restrictions of an unusual sort prevent me from meeting my obligations to him as an acquainted person. It is the maintenance of this particular ambiguity upon which the success of my strategy depends. If my interlocutor unambiguously defines my claim as (a), i.e. I am pretending I haven't see him, it then becomes a routine situation for which he as a ready solution: a tentative passing greeting that is designed to set-up a conversational entry. If he unambiguously defines the situation as (b), i.e. some extraordinary event that is overwhelmingly preoccupying me, he would dramatically stand aside making an exaggerated public display to satisfy the definition of the situation as an emergency causing me momentary embarrassment, with the additional later problem of being asked to account for the "emergency". However, if my strategy of maintaining the ambiguity succeeds, I can count upon his perplexity to hold him conflictually hesitant long enough for me to real for my mail and dash out again before he has had a chance to give the situation a strategically meaningful definition.

The observation that such negative conversational strategies succeed sometimes, and an understanding of why it is that they succeed, allows us to draw further inferences about the nature of transactional work as they are expressed in conversational displays. It should be clear why the above ambiguity succeeds in keeping the other from making a move. Consider his dilemma. If he acts as if he assumes that (a) is the case, i.e. that I am pretending I didn't see him, while he and I both know that (b) might be the case, he runs the risk of his action being seen as either insensitive to the requirements of the situation or over-desirous for one-sided contact. If he acts as if he assumes that (b) is the case, while he and I both know that (a) might be right, he runs the risk of being seen as a dupe. The success of my strategic move can thus be seen to rely on the risks to this face involved in any readily available counter-strategy. Many dodging strategies in conversation, as well as much bluffing face work, succeed by a similar principle. Bluffing face work refers to illegitimate claims a participant might make about his conversational identity, relying upon the reluctance of others to risk demanding an account for his claims (cf. social passing).

We should closely inspect the supposition contained in transactional mechanisms of the sort just discussed. The existence of conventionalized transactional

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