Adjacency Pairs in Pragmatics

This article discusses elements of adjacency pairs in conversational analysis. It studies the features like Preference organization and Preferred and dispreferred responses in the play- 'King Lear'.
According to Longman dictionary of applied linguistics, pragmatics is the study of the use of language in communication particularly the relationships between sentences and the contexts and situations in which they are used.

The study of discourse or discourse analysis is concerned with how speaker combines sentences in to broader speech units. Discourse analysis involves questions of style appropriateness cohesiveness, rhetorical force, topic / subtopics, differences between written and spoken discourse as well as grammatical properties.

Analysis of spoken discourse of spoken discourse is sometimes called conversational analysis (CA). The objective of CA is to uncover the tacit reasoning procedures and sociolinguistic competencies underlying the production and interpretation of talk in organized sequences of interaction.

This article aims at a detailed study of adjacency pairs, its elements and their use in the play 'King Lear'.

Adjacency pairs

Adjacency pairs refer to 'conversational sequences' in which an utterance by one speaker depends upon an utterance made by another speaker. It is a sequence of two related utterances by two different speakers. The second utterance is always the response to the first. It is known as ' a tied pair' also known as 'illocutionary force'.

Pairs of utterances in talk are often mutually dependent. A most obvious example is that a question predicts an answer and that an answer presupposes a question.

It is possible to state the requirements normal conversational sequence, for many types utterances in terms of what is expected as a response and what certain response presupposes conversation analysis say that there is relation between acts and that conversation contain frequently occurring patterns, in pairs of utterance known as adjacency pairs.

One useful mechanism in the convert organization of conversation is that certain turns have specific follow-up turns associated with them. Questions takes answers. Greetings are returned by greetings. Invitations by acceptance. Or refusals and so on. Certain sequences of turns go together. E.g. question-answer, greeting-greeting etc.

Linguist 'Sacks' defines adjacency pairs in terms of characteristics.

Definition - adjacency pairs are sequences of two utterances that are
1. Adjacent.
2. Produced by different speakers.
3. Ordered as first part and a second part.
4. Typed, so that a particular first part requires a particular second part.

There is a rule governing the adjacency pairs. 'Having produced a first part of the same pair the current speaker must stop speaking and the next speaker must produce it that point a second part of the same pair'.

Examples of adjacency pairs

Question and answers-

A. Where the book I bought this morning?
B. On the table.

Invitation and acceptance-

A. I am having some people to dinner Saturday.
And I would really like you to come.
B. Sure.

Request for favor and granting-

A. Would you open the window?
B. Sure

Apology and acceptance-

A. I am sorry to disturb you.
B. That's all right what can I do for you?

Complaint - denial-

A. You left the light on.
B. It was not me.

Other examples of adjacency pairs are:
Complaint-apology ,Greeting-greeting, blame-denial, summons-acknowledgment. Etc.

Structure of adjacency pairs

Three characteristics of adjacency pairs can be noted.

1. The two parts are contiguous and are uttered by different speakers. A speaker who makes a statement before answering a question sounds strange because the parts of the adjacency pairs are non consecutive.

2. The two parts are ordered. The answer to a question cannot precede the question in ordinary conversation one cannot accept an invitation before it has been offered and an apology cannot be accepted before uttered.

3. The first and second parts must be appropriately matched to avoid add exchanges.

In other words it is called sequential organization.

Sequential organization

Adjacency pairs are
1. Contiguous pairs of utterances.
2. Produced by different speakers.
3. That are appropriately matched.e.g. question-answer.
An insertion sequence occasionally, the requirement that both parts of an adjacency pair should be contiguous is violated in a socially recognized way.

A: Where is then book I bought this morning?
B: The green book?
A: Yes.
B: On the table.

Preference organization

Levinson made a study of conversational structure in his great book 'pragmatics', in which preference organization was discussed.Mey George Yule also contributed this study.

Preferred and dispreferred responses

The utterance of one speaker makes a certain response of the next speaker very likely. The acts are ordered with first part and second part and categorized as question-answer, offer-acceptance and so on. Each first part creates preferred and dispreferred response.

They can be categorized as:
1. Preferred second
2. Dispreferred Second

Preferred second has an unmarked sequence, which is expected. For example-
A: I think Ralph is a good writer.
B: I think so too.
Therefore question answer; an offer- acceptance, an invitation - acceptance, a greeting-greeting, a complaint - apology, etc. are the examples of preferred seconds.

A dispreferred second is a marked and unexpected response. They are typically dlevered-
1. After a significant delay.
2. With some reason of why the preferred second cannot be performed. For example,

A: Would it be possible for you to meet me tomorrow?
B: Well, I doubt it.
An offer - rejection, a proposal-rejection, an invitation-refusal, etc are the examples of
dispreferred seconds.

Use of these features in the play - 'King Lear'

1. Act 2 scene 4
Lear: Good morrow to you both
Cornwall: Hail to your grace.
In this conversation,the adjacency pair of greeting-greeting is used.

2. Act 2 scene 4
Lear: Ask her forgiveness
Do you but mark how this become the house?
(kneels) 'Dear daughter I confess that I am old;
Age is unnecessary: on my knees I beg
That you'll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food'.

Regan: Good sir, no more: these are unsightly tricks.
Return you to my sister.

Lear(Rising) : Never, Regan.

In this conversation, the dispreferred second is used. Lear confesses but the response is a refusal, and when Lear requests Regan, then also he gets the negative response of rejection.
Here an implicit marker is indicated through the use of rising tone.

Act 1 scene 1

Lear: What can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sister?

Cordelia: Nothing my lord.

Lear: Nothing?

Lear: Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.

Cordelia: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty

According to my bond, no more nor less.

In this conversation, an explicit marker is used in 'speak again' and in 'speak' which inndicates that the other person can take the turn.

The word 'Nothing' indicates the dispreferred response. Here adjacency pair of question-answer is also used.

Lexical Semantics-D.A.Cruse
Longman dictionary of applied linguistics
Published: 10/22/2009
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