Occasioned Semantics: A Systematic Approach to Meaning in Talk [Book Review]

Human Studies 34 (2):129-153 (2011)
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This paper puts forward an argument for a systematic, technical approach to formulation in verbal interaction. I see this as a kind of expansion of Sacks’ membership categorization analysis, and as something that is not offered (at least not in a fully developed form) by sequential analysis, the currently dominant form of conversation analysis. In particular, I suggest a technique for the study of “occasioned semantics,” that is, the study of structures of meaningful expressions in actual occasions of conversation. I propose that meaning and rhetoric be approached through consideration of various dimensions or operations or properties, including, but not limited to, contrast and co-categorization, generalization and specification, scaling, and marking. As illustration, I consider a variety of cases, focused on generalization and specification. The paper can be seen as a return to some classical concerns with meaning, as illuminated by more recent insights into indexicality, social action, and interaction in recorded talk
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