Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.) Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57-101). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

"An import of the preference status of actions is that it bears on how those actions are performed. Isolatable turn-and-sequence shapes provide for different kinds of actualizations of the actions being performed with and through them. Two types of shapes are of interest for this study: One type is a design that maximizes the occurrences of the actions being performed with them, utilizes minimization of gap between its initiation and prior turn's completion, and contains components that are explicitly stated instances of the action being performed. The other type minimizes the occurrences of the actions performed with them, in part utilizing the organization of delays and nonexplicitly stated action components, such as actions other than a conditionality relevant next. The respective turn shapes will be called preferred-action turn shape and dispreferred-action turn shape.
The thesis of this chapter is that an action, by virtue of how the participants orient to it, will be housed in and performed through  a turn shape that reflects their orientation. That is, there is an association between an action's preference status and the turn shape in which it is produced." (p. 64) 
I enjoyed reading this chapter, partly because I learn many new things about how sequences are organized and partly it made me think about what academic writers do when they agree or disagree with each other or when they evaluate each other. Since I'm planning to write something on book reviews for a different class, I wonder if there are some similarities when people share their evaluations in conversation and in writing. I know book review is not conversation but still I think when academic writers cite each other they do not only report what others say but also  evaluate them. Perhaps it is more observable in research articles than book reviews. Even though conversation is different from academic writing in many ways, I think there may be some parallels. For example, I remember reading upgrades, same evaluations, downgrades, disagreements with agreement prefaces, favorable assessments followed by unfavorable assessments, etc. in research papers. I would like to look into evaluations in the future. But how can you know if an evaluation is preferred or dispreferred without having two sides to the conversation? I guess you cannot find the answer in the text. However, it is possible that the profile of the journal and its potential audience as well as readers' assessments of evaluations in the articles as they read might be useful to understand preferred and dispreferred evaluations. Are the readers conscious of their assessments? Maybe not, not always anyway. But maybe dispreferred assessments are more salient for the readers and maybe they can verbalize their assessments. But maybe published articles are not the best place to look at dispreferred assessments because I suppose most of the articles with dispreferred articles are rejected. Besides, probably there is no single dispreferred evaluation for the entire discourse community and probably theoretical affiliations and personal differences play a role. Still, it is possible that there is a pattern to dispreferred assessments in specific discourse communities as reflections of their moral, epistemological, and ideological preferences. Perhaps this is related to genre knowledge and appropriateness. I don't know, I'm just thinking as I write. What do you think?

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