Intercultural Reflections on Publishing a CA Textbook in Spanish

By Luis Manuel Olguín, Department of Sociology at UCLA

With the vast amount of research that has been done in CA in so many different languages and settings by now, we have a clear idea that many practices are cross-linguistic and essentially they hold for human social interaction. However, those who have worked with languages other than English, will have encountered a number of different issues that relate to the specific ecologies they are dealing with and that many times will make their interlocutors wonder “Is that so?” in relation to that language/culture/country.

The intercultural matters section provides insights into other than English data and encourages authors to discuss non-north-western culturally orientated social issues and world views and invite comments and ideas from the community. The format is that of a critical discussion of the issue being presented, supported by data.

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Have you ever encountered intercultural issues in analyzing non-English data? Share them with the CA community by sending us your piece! Please note that your contribution should satisfy the following requirements: 1) not exceed 1,500 words; 2) contain one or two transcripts and relative preliminary analyses; 3) illustrate an intercultural phenomenon fitting within the existing framework of EM/CA analyses.

Please email your contribution to pubs@conversationanalysis.org

Since its inception in American sociology over half a century ago, Conversation Analysis (CA) has consolidated as a robust interdisciplinary field and research method in the humanities and social sciences. CA research has expanded across the globe, showcasing work on a wide variety of languages and social settings as well as exciting methodological innovations and applications. With practitioners on virtually every continent, CA hubs and networks continue to emerge at institutional, regional and national levels, broadening and strengthening the CA global community.

Cross-fertilization of the field as it expanded over various world academias has undoubtedly had implications for CA practice, broadly understood. Presenting findings and collaborating with researchers from different traditions often requires using (or avoiding) technicalities to be clear and explicit about analytical aims and methodological assumptions. Publications and conference programs attest to the continued emergence of more and more areas of specialization. Teaching requires adapting CA notions and methods to educational curricula and students’ levels and, in academic settings outside English-speaking contexts, finding ways to convey CA notions and terminology in new languages and cultural contexts. As conversation analysts are concerned with the history, development, and impact of our discipline worldwide, CA’s current expansion invites us to consider the ways CA practice shapes and is shaped by new academic settings, languages, and research areas.

Earlier this year my colleague Chase Raymond (University of Colorado, Boulder) and I published an introductory textbook to CA in Spanish (Raymond & Olguín 2022) in an effort to further growing interest in the field across Spanish-speaking academia. In what follows, I reflect on the process of writing the textbook, the first of its kind in the Spanish language. Extending the notion of ‘interculturality’ from how it’s usually used in this newsletter, I highlight a series of intercultural challenges communicating CA in Spanish and for different kinds of audiences. Some of these challenges resonate with those reported by Ostermann and Garcez (2021) regarding the development of CA in Brazil. Moreover, I believe that CA communities around the globe, in particular those working in languages other than English, might share similar experiences. The ultimate goal of this piece is then to motivate disciplinary reflection about how CA is practiced across academic contexts and, in particular, taught and introduced to non-English-speaking audiences.

Which CA? For which context?: Reintroducing CA to Spanish-speaking academia

When writing introductory texts, authors are confronted with the task of defining that which they have set themselves to introduce. In English, for example, CA has been defined as a “field” (e.g., Sidnell & Stivers 2013), a “method” (e.g., Peräkylä 2007; Hoey & Kendrick 2017), a “tradition of analytic work” (e.g., Ten Have 2007:5), an “approach-to” (e.g., Sidnell 2010), a “discipline” (e.g., Goodwin & Heritage 1990:286), and, most recently, a “science” (e.g., Stokoe 2018). Definitions such as these reflect the state of the field at different times in history, as well as the academic contexts in which authors are writing and texts are likely to circulate.

Across Spanish-speaking academia, CA is well known primarily in linguistics and by scholars working within functionalist traditions. Whereas CA conceptual frameworks (e.g., the turn-taking model, the organization of repair) have been extremely influential for discourse-analytic, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic work in Spain and Latin America, language and social interaction research that applies a CA methodology is still relatively scant, with extant studies primarily focusing on institutional settings and mostly published in English (Olguín, 2022). Similarly, although introductory texts to CA in Spanish are found as early as in the 1980s (including a Spanish-language translation of Levinson’s Pragmatics in 1989) and book-length introductions have begun to appear (see, e.g., Vázquez Carranza 2019; Martínez Carrillo 2021), most of these texts either discuss the field vis-à-vis well-established approaches to language use in the region or review specific areas of CA scholarship, many times as a means to propose interesting connections to pragmatic, sociolinguistic, and discourse-analytic studies. Missing from this landscape was a text that introduced CA scholarship in Spanish in its own terms, surveying the field’s extensive body of knowledge and highlighting conversation analysts’ characteristic analytic mentality and formal procedures for working with interactional data.

Such was the challenge ahead: Re-introducing CA to Spanish-speaking academia, taking stock of more than 50 years of scholarship. In the textbook, we introduce CA as a discipline in its own right. The core chapters of the book offer an up-to-date survey of CA’s cumulative body of knowledge on four organizational domains of conversational interaction: turn-taking (Chapter 4), action sequencing (Chapter 5), preference (Chapter 6), and repair (Chapter 7). Still, in view of CA’s expansive applications to research areas in sociology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, among other disciplines, we also introduce CA as a method, organizing the textbook in such a way as to render visible what drawing on Goodwin (1994) we call the conversation analyst’s “professional vision.” With this in mind, in the initial chapters of the book, we not only introduce the CA perspective (Chapter 1), its history (Chapter 2), and transcription conventions (Chapter 3), but we instruct readers on how to use generic organizations of talk-in-interaction to be introduced in subsequent chapters as tools for studying local organizations of practice, something we showcase in regard to institutional talk (Chapter 8) and action formation (Chapter 9). In addition, end-of-chapter activities in the book are designed to hone analytic skills in each organizational domain and in relation to others, thus taking into account Schegloff’s (2007) observation that “[o]nly by observing [organizations of practice] all together will we understand how the stuff of social life comes to be as it is [but o]nly by understanding them one by one will we get into a position to observe them all together” (p. 264).

Traduttori, traditori?: Translating CA terminology into Spanish

Due to the very nature of the analytic enterprise, concept formulation in CA at many times borrows vernacular names of everyday actions and social activities. Yet other concepts are designedly technical to grasp “seen but unnoticed features” (Garfinkel 1967:41) of the interactional organization of talk and other conduct under analysis. In translating CA terminology into Spanish, we strived to pay attention to such differences and not to betray the “semantic import” (Sartori 1984) of CA concepts nor CA’s characteristic methods of discovery.

The first challenge we had to grapple with was that many notions, which are common currency in CA analytical practice, resist easy translation into Spanish. Consider, for example, the terms assessment, answer, and account. While there might be precise dictionary options for translating these terms into Spanish, as trying to find a translation for assessment showed us, sometimes dictionary options are too foreign for describing mundane behavior (e.g., tasación) or too ambiguous in common usage (e.g., apreciación). Conversely, translations might be readily available in everyday language, but their selection as terms might obscure important conceptual distinctions. For example, answer is easily translated by the Spanish word respuesta. But what should we do then about response, which is also habitually translated by the same word? And what are we to do with non-answer responses (e.g., Stivers & Robinson 2006)? Finally, we might end up finding translations that, as terms, map well into notions but whose selection will lose conceptual associations explicit in English. Dar cuenta and rendir cuentas, for instance, are two really good translations for accounting and to account for. But the word cuenta, which is part of both expressions, massively fails by itself to translate the term account, for which explicación works well in many cases.

For translating terminology, we primarily relied on CA published work in which concepts were originally introduced in English and first translated into Spanish. We aimed for our translations to capture notions in plain language. As a result, we have proposed new terms for some notions already circulating in Spanish-speaking academia. For example, instead of técnicas de heteroselección, which has been used for translating other-selection techniques in Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson’s (1974) turn-taking model, we ditched the morphologically-complex word heteroselección in favor of a straightforward periphrasis: técnicas de selección a otro. Similarly, whereas repair is widely translated as reparación, we believe the term enmienda is not only simpler, but avoids problematic semantic associations to restoring something broken or damaged. It is also the translation used in the Spanish-language version of Levinson’s Pragmatics (1989). Across the chapters, we bold terms as we introduce them and include English originals in parentheses for most. We also offer English-Spanish and Spanish-English glossaries as appendices in order to help readers search for and navigate English publications in specific research areas that the textbook introduces.

One language, many cultures: Presenting CA findings and suggesting avenues for research

Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world and the second in terms of the number of native speakers (Eberhard et al. 2021). It is also the most spoken of the Romance languages with 38 dialects, according to Glottolog (Hammaström et al. 2021), populating Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Yet, despite the language’s global presence, CA studies on Spanish as an interactional resource and on social norms, actions, and practices that organize mundane and institutional interactions in Spanish-speaking countries are still exiguous and taking place more prominently outside the region. A final challenge in writing the textbook was then how to present and discuss findings about the social organization of talk-in-interaction in a language and for cultures whose consequentiality for interactional conduct we are only beginning to explore.

As Schegloff (1996) famously noted, interaction is the “primordial site of human sociality.” Naturally occurring conversations exhibit structural features that participants deploy and orient to as competent interactional agents. In fact, in the last two decades, comparative work across world societies has shown that many aspects of conversational interaction are shared among a wide range of languages and cultures (e.g., Enfield & Stivers 2007; Stivers et al. 2009; Enfield et al. 2019; Kendrick et al. 2020; Floyd et al. 2020). In the textbook, we draw on Schegloff’s (2006:71-ff.) distinction between generic and local organizations of practice (see also, Schegloff 2007:xiv-v; Schegloff 2013:41-3) to present robust CA findings regarding universal structural features of interaction while proposing analyses for particular configurations in the language and discussing them as avenues for future research.

Throughout the textbook, we illustrate conversational practices and structures with extracts from Spanishes in the Americas, whose audio recordings readers can access online. The book offers more than one hundred exemplifying cases, showcasing the robustness of findings across dialects. But we are cognizant of the fact that dialectal variation might encompass different local organizations of speaking practices. Although one language historically unites all countries, many cultures exist across the region, organized around national borders, indigenous languages and communities, rural and urban areas, formal and informal institutions, etc. We end the textbook highlighting some of these differences and posing some questions in an effort to motivate research in many regional areas and on topics that remain unexplored.

Concluding remarks

A few weeks ago, I asked CA Twitter to share with me bibliographic references to introductions to CA in languages other than English. I was curious to gauge where and when basic CA notions were introduced to non-English speaking regions. Here is the list, which includes references to CA introductory texts in Chinese, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish.[1]Many thanks to friends and colleagues on Twitter and the CORE-ILCA network for sending in references in all these languages, helping compile the list. And there are certainly more. While serving as a resource for students and instructors, individual references in the list are also testaments of how CA is thought and taught in different world academias.

The idea of an introductory text to CA in Spanish emerged from observing the need for such a resource for Spanish-speaking scholars, instructors, and students. As authors, Chase and I had to devise ways to surmount what we can certainly describe as intercultural challenges communicating CA in Spanish and for different academic targets. I’ve barely touched on a handful of these as part of my reflections on reintroducing a burgeoning field in expansion, translating instruments used to dissect and make sense of talk, and presenting a scholarly work that is yet to fully acknowledge the linguistic and cultural diversity of the region. After almost four years of work, the publication of the textbook coincides with an academic network actively working to promote CA methodology in language and social interaction research in the region. We offer the book as a stepping stone to furthering CA practice in Spanish, helping the discipline and its method take further root across Spanish-speaking academia.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Chase Raymond at UC Boulder and Guadalupe Ruiz Fajardo at Columbia University for comments on an initial draft of this text.

References

Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig. 2021. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 24th edition. Dallas: SIL International.

Enfield, N. J., and Tanya Stivers. 2007. Person Reference in Interaction: Linguistic, Cultural and Social Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Enfield, N. J., Tanya Stivers, Penelope Brown, Cristina Englert, Katariina Harjunpää, Makoto Hayashi, Trine Heinemann, Gertie Hoymann, Tiina Keisanen, Mirka Rauniomaa, Chase Wesley Raymond, Federico Rossano, Kyung-Eun Yoon, Inge Zwitserlood, and Stephen C. Levinson. 2019. “Polar Answers.” Journal of Linguistics 55(2):277–304.

Floyd, Simeon, Giovanni Rossi, and N. J. Enfield, eds. 2020. Getting Others to Do Things: A Pragmatic Typology of Recruitments. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Giovanni, Sartori. 1984. Social Science Concepts: A systematic analysis. Beverly Hills: Sage.

Goodwin, Charles, and John Heritage. 1990. “Conversation Analysis.” Annual Review of Anthropology 12:283–307.

Goodwin, Charles. 1994. “Professional Vision.” American Anthropologist 96(3):606–33.

Hammarström, Harald, Robert Forkel, Martin Haspelmath, and Sebastian Bank. 2021. Glottolog 4.5. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5772642. (Available online at http://glottolog.org, Accessed on 2022-04-13.)

Hoey, Elliot M., and Kobin H. Kendrick. 2017. “Conversation Analysis.” in Research Methods in Psycholinguistics: A Practical Guide. Wiley-Blackwell.

Kendrick, Kobin H., Penelope Brown, Mark Dingemanse, Simeon Floyd, Sonja Gipper, Kaoru Hayano, Elliott Hoey, Gertie Hoymann, Elizabeth Manrique, Giovanni Rossi, and Stephen C. Levinson. 2020. “Sequence Organization: A Universal Infrastructure for Social Action.” Journal of Pragmatics 168:119–38. doi: 10.1016/j.pragma.2020.06.009.

Levinson, Stephen C. 1989. Pragmática. Traducción de Barcelona: Teide.

Martínez Carrillo, María del Carmen. 2021. Conversar En Español. Un Enfoque Desde El Análisis de La Conversación. Peter Lang D.

Olguín, Luis Manuel. 2022. El Análisis de la Conversación en la academia de habla hispana. Manuscript in preparation.

Ostermann, Ana Cristina, and Pedro de Moraes Garcez. 2021. “Conversation Analysis in Brazil and Talk-in-Interaction in Portuguese.” Calidoscópio 19(2):143–51.

Peräkylä, Anssi. 2007. “Conversation Analysis.” Pp. 791–94 in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Vol. 2, edited by G. Ritzer. London: Blackwell.

Raymond, Chase Wesley, and Luis Manuel Olguín. 2022. Análisis de La Conversación: Fundamentos, Metodología y Alcances. Abindon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1996. “Turn Organization: One Intersection of Grammar and Interaction.” Pp. 52–133 in Interaction and Grammar, edited by Elinor Ochs, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Sandra A. Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2006. “Interaction: The Infrastructure for Social Institutions, the Natural Ecological Niche for Language and the Arena in Which Culture Is Enacted.” Pp. 70–96 in The Roots of Human Sociality: Culture, Cognition and Interaction, edited by N. J. Enfield and S. C. Levinson. New York: Berg.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2007. Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in Conversation Analysis Volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2013. “Ten Operations in Self-Initiated, Same-Turn Repair.” Pp. 41–70 in Conversational repair and human understanding, edited by M. Hayashi, G. Raymond, and J. Sidnell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Sidnell, Jack, and Tanya Stivers, eds. 2013. The Handbook of Conversation Analysis. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sidnell, Jack. 2010. Conversation Analysis. Chichester:Wiley-Blackwell.

Stivers, Tanya, and Jeffrey D. Robinson. 2006. “A Preference for Progressivity in Interaction.” Language in Society 35:367–92.

Stivers, Tanya, Nick J. Enfield, Penelope Brown, C. Englert, Makoto Hayashi, Trine Heinemann, G. Hoymann, Federico Rossano, J. P. de Ruiter, K. E. Yoon, and Stephen C. Levinson. 2009. “Universals and Cultural Variation in Turn-Taking in Conversation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(26):10587–92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903616106.

Stokoe, Elizabeth. 2018. Talk: The Science of Conversation. London: Robinson.

Ten Have, Paul. 2007. Doing Conversation Analysis. London: Sage. Vázquez Carranza, Ariel. 2019. Análisis Conversacional: Estudio de La Acción Social. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara.

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Notes
1 Many thanks to friends and colleagues on Twitter and the CORE-ILCA network for sending in references in all these languages, helping compile the list.
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