Discourse Analysis of a Spoken Text Between an Art Student and a (3)

Discourse Analysis of a Spoken Text Between an Art Student and a Teacher



Discourse Analysis of a Spoken Text Between an Art Student an Art Teacher

The 2-minute face to face conversation is between a student Mary and an Art teacher in a classroom, talking about animals and animal behaviors in a casual chat. The student, Mary is a Chinese student who studies in Grade 9 in an international school in Guangzhou. She has great interest in biology, with abundant knowledge about animals from books, articles and BBC documents. The art teacher is from Canada, who also likes small animals. The conversation involves a description of animal behaviours and their effect on humans. They describe how they feel or view the animals and the actions they take when the animals act in certain ways. It is more of a description, as the individuals take a longer time to explain a scenario while the other person listens. Politeness is evident as the participants give turns in the conversation and there is a natural flow of words. The essay analyses the conversation by first transcribing it using the transcription symbols as shown in Appendix 1. A transcription is a tool for identifying and describing the moment by moment unfolding of talk (Gardner, 2015). The data is then analyzed using pragmatics and conversation analysis methods. The pragmatics consider maxims of conversation, performative sentences, and deixis, while the conversation analysis focuses on social actions such as describing, questioning and agreeing.


An analysis of a conversation first needs transcription, which enables examination of the form of language used by the participants (Mazeland, 2006). The transcribed data in Appendix 1 used transcription symbols to illustrate the flow of information. Pragmatics and conversation analysis approaches were chosen to analyze the conversation. The analysis focuses on the maxims of conversation, performance sentences, and deixis pragmatics, which are clearly notable in the conversation.

According to Grice, maxims of conversation requires a speaker to be informative in the conversation: Maxim of relevance in a conversation means sticking to the topic; Maxim of manner relates to orderliness and behavior, and the maxim of quality discourages unsupported claims. The use of presupposition involves sentences that assume to the second party before an answer is given. It assumes that the second party already knows the subject of conversation. It is background knowledge necessary for conversation to be appropriate and understood by listener (Grundy, 2008). Presupposition has been used in the conversation to create logic in dialogue.

Performative sentences under the pragmatics approach will also be used to analyze this conversation. They are either affirmative or declarative. If the performance sentences could be constative in its force, then the grammatical form would be declarative, while if it is not compositionality considered, then the performance force could be attached to performance sentences to create meaning (Harnish, 2002). Performance features and the context modify what is being conveyed by utterance, by either adding, modifying other words and excluding some messages in a conversation. This has been portrayed in the conversation between the teacher and the student’s understandings of animals. In using the deixis approach, which is reference to an object or person referring to the situational context, the essay analyses the personalities of the two parties. Deixis expressions could be away from or toward the speaker and are in three categories, person, spatial and temporal deixis. Person deixis will be used, which localises an entity based on the speaker (Green, 2008). It directly concerns the relationship between the structure of language and the context in which they are used (Dylgjeri & Kazazi, 2013). Without a common frame in conversations, deixis will be impossible to understand.

The second approach is the conversation analysis, which aims to represent data in recordings, in ways that would preserve and reveal interactionally relevant elements of the dialogue (Bolden & Hepburn, 2018). This is used throughout the conversation to create meaning in the dialogue and information being passed. It identifies the connections that exist between the parties, based on their flow of words and intonation. The participants use the rising and falling intonations in their conversation to create the dialogue turns for each individual. The pauses indicate the turn and insisting on points, while stress on a certain word or sentence identifies the ideas to concentrate or the message that the speaker wants to pass. Analysis of turn-taking clarifies how a conversation is conducted and also gives an insight into the personal relationship of the parties in the dialogue (Wiemann & Knapp, 1975). After listening to the conversation and how the dialogue interchanges between the two parties, it becomes possible to illustrate the exchange of ideas in the description of the animals. This is also shown in the symbols used in the conversation in Appendix 1 illustrating the pauses and agreeing to one another’s ideas.


Conversation analysis demonstrates that practices are oriented by participants in the design of their talk, and in creating relevance from one another’s conduct (Drew, 2018). The conversation analysis and pragmatics could be blended to create a more meaningful dialogue. While pragmatics studies how contexts contribute to meaning, conversation analysis evaluates the signs, words and flow of sentences to create meaning. These two need to be considered for a successful dialogue analysis. Maxims of conversation in pragmatics are evident in the teacher-student conversation as they both have information passing to the other. The parties understand one another and could even respond or add information to create more sense. The flow of the information insinuates the relevance of topic, as each party speaks about animals and reactions to them. As the conversation starts with the student giving an experience of pigeons bathing, the teacher could respond by generalising that birds whack with their feathers in water and even adds another bird, which is the duck that creates a continuation of the conversation as each party speaks of the duck. Maxim explains regularity in a certain conversational behaviour concerning sticking to the topic (Chamedzky, 1992). The vocal conduct creates the relevance of the dialogue and an understanding between the parties.

This form of conversion is a discussion of animal behaviours. The maxim of manner is depicted in the conversation, as there are orders and not much of overlapping voices. This orderliness in the maxim of manner creates effective turn-taking, in that a person could respond to a conversation after the first one completes the sentence. The pauses are a way of allowing the second party to either add information, negate some, or support by agreeing to it. As the student narrates about the duck at her grandmother’s place, the teacher is listening as we hear the ‘mm-mmh’ sound, showing continuity or agreeing to the statements. According to Grice’s conversational norms, ‘do not say what you believe is false’ (Fallis, 2012). The student gives stories about her grandmother and shows confidence in the voice that it is true and that it happened. The speaker’s honesty is encouraged, as depicted in this conversation. The supported claims create the flow of the conversation and regulate the social structure (Koudenburg, Postmes & Gordijn, 2016). The maxims provide genuity and justification of information in a conversation.

The teacher-student conversation flows with responses that match the relevance of the topic. The maxim of relevance is depicted through the participants’ responses to information from the other. In line 5, as the teacher explains the behaviour of the ducks in water, the student easily relates to her grandmother’s experience with ducks. The response is relevant to the topic that was being discussed which is on ducks. According to Grice, the maxim of relevance requires a partner’s contribution to be appropriate to the needs at each stage of transition (Kleinke, 2010). The participants do not ask questions but instead give their views and expect the other party to either support or give their opinion on the same subject. Maxim of relevance allows conversations to continue, as relevant information gives the morale to continue conversing.

Line 40 presents a performative sentence as well as maxim of quality as the student gives the example of her grandmother on the issue of the ducks. Maxim of quality is evident as the student gives information and supports it with evidence from grandmother’s experience. It requires information provided in a conversation to be genuine and justified (Vergis, 2017). In Line 43, the student speaks about her grandmother’s dog being poisoned. The teacher gives a response by providing evidence that it is true that dogs could get poisoned and she had seen this happen in Egypt. She supports the student’s ideas by giving an example from her own experience. Performative sentence is seen from an imitation of the grandmother’s voice by increasing the intonation. Performative sentences are acts of the performative verbs, which are self-verifying and achieve an objective based on the literal meaning (Searle, 1989). The rising intonation, in a slower motion than in the usual conversation, describes the difference in the flow of words. The student also uses the personality referring to the grandmother like her, and this explains to the teacher that it is not just any other grandmother but her own.

The reference to a person, object, or event is appropriate in a conversation as it saves the speaker from repeating the subjects in every sentence. The first step of analysing deixis is to note existence of expressions that refer to something else (Hacks, 2017). In Line 8, the student uses ‘she’ referring to her grandmother, while explaining about the ducks. In Lines 12 and 13, ‘they’ is used to refer to the ducks. The discussion was on the ducks’ behaviour hence they directly relate to the ducks. Also, ‘their’ is used to refer to the duck’s feathers and described as white. ‘They’ is also used to refer to the dogs that sleep on top of the cars. Deixis specifies an identity or location from the perspective of the speaker or listener in the context of the conversation topic (Dylgjeri & Kazazi, 2013). They create flow of information for the parties to understand easily and evidence of concentration on the conversation from the listener.

From the perspective of conversation analysis, the dialogue is descriptive. It reveals the behaviours of animals according to the parties’ understanding and experiences. The individual’s pauses for two seconds or less is to give room for the other individual to continue with the conversation. The stress on some words restores the topic of the conversation, reminding the listener of the responses to give on a particular statement. Conversation analysis discovers how participants understand and respond to one another in turns, focusing on the flow of the conversation (Hall, 2019). In Line 18, the teacher gives an old saying of ‘like water off a duck’s buck’ after the conversation of the duck, the student responds with another saying of insulting people with their bad memories. The response goes in line with the first statement and responds with another saying. In Line 27, Mary supports the issue of bad memory by saying that she is always forgetful like that. The flow of the conversation is determined by the responses given by the people engaged in the conversation.

People use language and body to communicate. The organizational principles give meaning to every idea one is putting across to the other party (Van Han, 2014). In Line 43, on the issue of the poisoning of dogs, the expression of the flow of words shows the discontentedness of the idea happening. The teacher responds by explaining that it also happens in Egypt but also gives a contrary opinion that dogs are not poisoned in Canada. One statement of the speaker leads to a relevant response by the second party on the same topic of discussion. This is also the maxim of relevance because of the flow of conversation while sticking to a topic. The conversation model of turn has identified significant delay before a response is given and in giving the descriptions before the other party gives the feedback (Levinson, 2016). The transcription symbols by use of (.) show the pausing used in the conversation, which is used in the listener agreeing to a point made or waiting for a response. Conversation analysis studies the human conduct to organise and construct the flow of the conversation.


Discourse analysis studies social life in the analysis of language while investigating meaning, using analytical approaches and theories to explain the use. These analytical approaches have advantages to attaining the objectives, and also limitations that suppress or assumes some concepts in the analysis. The approaches increase the ability to describe texts and understanding the topic of the conversation.

Pragmatics looks at how the language is used for communication rather than how the language is structured in the sentences. It is advantageous in understanding the communication flow of the conversation. The maxims of conversation inform the participants of the ideas being passed across. As seen in Mary and her teacher’s conversation, the participants understand one another and are able to effectively respond depending on the ideas passed across. It also depicts the relevance of the topic, and one could easily tell when a participant moves away from the subject matter. Taking turns in conversations is controlled by pragmatics, which brings up the relevance of conversations between parties (Zhao, 2011). Pragmatics especially the maxims of quantity cannot be easily discovered as the individual speaking is the only one who has the evidence to support the claims they make. The listener may not know if the claim is true or false and may end up agreeing to it to allow the conversation continue or be concluded. Maxim of quantity is supported by more information from the participant’s experiences. In the conversation, the student uses the maxim of quantity by using examples to support her ideas to the teacher.

Conversation analysis helps to evaluate conversations to be understood by third parties. It analyses the speeches of participants in a dialogue and can be understood based on expressions used. One of the strengths of conversation analysis is that the themes in the analysis are ordinary and close (Paltridge, 2006). If language is used without context, it only displays the literal meaning, which might not make sense to the listener. It also achieves reliability from naturally recorded conversations to creating a meaningful written transcript for easy referencing by individuals. Mary and her teacher’s conversion have flow of information as they concentrate on the subject matter all through the dialogue. To add on, conversation analysis addresses most important details of a conversation by stressing on important aspects such as the details of the topic. It also offers the opportunity to study expressions in writing of the behaviour of participants of a conversation. This benefit offers the opportunity to interpret the conversation and understand the emotions and attitudes of the participants towards a subject. For example, the attitude of Mary and her teacher’s attitude towards animals.

Conversation analysis is not self-sufficient as it has to be supported by symbols and keys to be meaningful (Hammersley, 2003). In creating an effective written dialogue using conversational analysis, the symbols have to be used to create meaning to the sentences. As shown in Appendix 1, the symbols and keys give meaning to the flow of information in the conversation. Another limitation is that most of the time, the conversational maxims are usually disregarded; hence, the intended meaning is not achieved by the writer or to the reader; this is because of the change in cultural communications of different societies or platforms (Spielmann, 1986). The analysis may also be interpreted differently by various readers or listeners especially if the meanings of the symbols are not well understood and this creates a conflict in the same conversation by different individuals. For example, the symbols use used in Appendix 1 to analyze the conversation may be understood differently by various individuals hence, misinterpretation is a common limitation of conversation analysis.


Discourse analysis is a reliable, systematic, and valid evaluation of a conversation using analytical approaches such as pragmatics and conversation analysis. Pragmatics can use Grice’s maxims of conversation – quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. It gives a rule that should be followed in the analysis of a conversation. The use of deixis and presupposition creates a meaning to the listener through the interpretation made by the listener. The conversational analysis uses symbols to describe the flow of words and intonations in conversations. These approaches have their benefits and limitations that either provide the strength or suppresses the success of conversation analysis. Discourse analysis aims to understand language for both spoken and written conversations and gives a purpose to various types of utterances.


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Student: I’ve

Seen pigeons bathing-

Teacher: really, Birds I think (2.0)

it’s neat how Birds whack with their

feathers in the water, especially ducks(.)

if you ever seen ducks in the water and

how it just rolls right off the back?


Yeah, because my grandmother had ducks

before and she told me that when the

ducks are in the field with mud [mm-hmm]

the ducks look completely dirty but for

a few seconds later (.) [they’re clean] and they

shake off the wet mud, and they’re and

their feather is still white and

Beautiful (.) whereas as pretty as shiny as

They were before.



there’s an old saying that is like water

off a duck’s back

(you don’t have to worry about it just goes away)

Student: or like insulting

people with their bad memories before them,

you’re remembering things are just like

water drops on a duck’s back just

or you pour water on the duck’s back(.)

[mm-hmm] you just dont remember it and it

flows away


which is it a great saying I

think especially for bad memories(.) you

(don’t look for that (.) so why not

Student: like seeing people that has really

bad remembering things(.) like tomorrow we’ll

have lunch together-

and next day(.) heck no. you forgot this I

wait you for two hours(.) and I’m going to

be tardy .h


I am very much that way, I like

to say: I would lose my own head if it

wasn’t attached to my body(.)

Student: that’s what

my grandma says too, she said ? hey Mary you’re

going to lost her own head if it’s not

connected to your neck (.) you lost everything [everything] forgetful forgetful forgetful (.) [mmh] that truth is her

dog got poisoned by one of the mean



they do that a lot in Egypt as

Well, it’s not so much in Canada at home,

if there’s dogs that you don’t like you


by law and they take care of it (.)but in

Egypt, they would poison the dogs too – but

it was so funny because you would see a

pack of dogs, and they’d be sleeping on

top of the cars(.) instead of just like in

>the corners of the streets or whatever

they’d be on top of the cars< (.) so if you

had to drive your cars you’d have to

shoot the dogs away


Line Speaker Transcription Student I’ve seen pigeons bathing- Started her turn

Teacher really, Birds I think (2.0) Agreed as she continues

it’s neat how Birds whack with their Makes a statement

feathers in the water especially ducks(.) Insists on the duck and pauses

if you ever seen ducks in the water and Explains

how it just rolls right off the back? Concludes with high intonation

Student Yeah, because my grandmother had ducks Acknowledges giving evidence

before and she told me that when the Explains

ducks are in the field with mud [mm-hmm] Acknowledges

the ducks look completely dirty but for Describes

a few seconds later (.) [they’re clean] and they Pauses and follows with unclear words

shake off the wet mud and they’re and Continues explaining

their feather is still white and Gives description of duck

Beautiful (.) whereas as pretty as shiny as Continues and pauses

They were before. Concludes

Teacher Right Acknowledges

there’s an old saying that is like water Acknowledges using a saying

off a duck’s back Concludes the saying

(you don’t have to worry about it just goes away) Background feedback in a higher speed

Student or like insulting Gives alternative example

people with their bad memories before them, Continues explaining

you’re remembering things are just like Further explains the saying

water drops on a duck’s back just Relates remembering to water on duck’s back

or you pour water on the duck’s back(.) Concludes and Pauses

[mm-hmm] you just don’t remember it and it

flows away Acknowledges while providing more support

Teacher which is it a great saying I Concurs with the saying

think especially for bad memories(.) you Gives own opinion and pauses

(don’t look for that (.) so why not Continues explaining

Student like seeing people that has really Gives another scenario

bad remembering things(.) like tomorrow we’ll Practical example

have lunch together- Example showing continuation

and next day(.) heck no. you forgot this I Continues with example and pauses

wait you for two hours(.) and I’m going to Explains amount of time in waiting

be tardy (.h) Explains action to be taken

Teacher I am very much that way, I like Acknowledges that she is like that (Forgets easily)

to say: I would lose my own head if it Uses a saying to describe her forgetting nature

wasn’t attached to my body(.) Continues with saying and pauses

Student that’s what Acknowledges giving example of the grandmother

my grandma says too, she said ? hey Mary you’re Explains in a rising intonation

going to lost her own head if it’s not Explains grandmother’s saying

connected to your neck (.) you lost everything [everything] forgetful forgetful forgetful (.) Continues explaining

[mmh] that truth is her Acknowledges

dog got poisoned by one of the mean Gives the reason behind grandmother’s attitude stressing on the main information

neighbors Source of the attitude

Teacher they do that a lot in Egypt as Gives an example of location where dogs are killed

Well, it’s not so much in Canada at home, Continues explaining

if there’s dogs that you don’t like you Gives alternative of not poisoning

Call: Action that can be taken

by law and they take care of it (.)but in Explains the party that helps to take the action

Egypt, they would poison the dogs too – but Explains dog poisoning

it was so funny because you would see a Reasons that led to poisoning

pack of dogs, and they’d be sleeping on Explains reason

top of the cars(.) instead of just like in Continues explaining and pauses

>the corners of the streets or whatever Explains faster than before

they’d be on top of the cars< (.) so if you Continues explaining

had to drive your cars you’d have to Gives solution to solve the dog problem

shoot the dogs away Continues explaining