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Research Proposal Research Topic

Lu Hui Xian Sharon; u030985A

In the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the King of Hearts says to Alice: "Begin at the beginning, then go on until you reach the end -- then stop." But how exactly do we stop when we want to end a telephone conversation? Do we just stop talking? Or do we employ certain set of procedures, brought about by the joint work of participants? For my topic, I would analyze the procedures participants in a telephone conversation employ to initiate a closing (referred to as pre-closing devices) and to actually close a conversation (encapsulated in the notion of terminal exchange). In addition, I would also look into the contextual features that appear to determine the occurrence of particular procedures and the functions played by those closing procedures. More specifically, I am interested in how Singaporeans close their telephone conversations. Rationale for the research Telephone conversations are segmented events which are marked off in some fashion with beginnings, middles and ends. Closings (ends) are one of the greatest challenges in telephone conversations. It deals with the problem of organizing the simultaneous arrival of the co-conversationalists at a point where one speakers completion will not occasion another speakers talk and that will not be heard as some speakers silence. It can also perform different functions (i.e. interactional, ritual and social marking functions) in relation to the type of call they occur in and the role of relationship between participants. Hence, closings may be seen as achievements in telephone conversations. Yet, due to its complexities, closings, in contrast to openings, are much less studied. It would therefore be interesting to find out about the complexity of closings, especially in the Singaporean context. In the early years of conversation analytic discipline, much attention has been on the machinery of conversation (its structural description). However, according to Placencia (1997)1, she argues that restricting oneself to the description of structural aspects of talk can only give a partial account of a phenomenon and a more adequate picture can be gained if attention is given

to its contextual aspects (i.e. age and gender of participants etcetera). In this paper, I echo her view and attempt to take into consideration the contextual features occurring in Singaporean telephone conversations. Intended method of data collection I would audio-tape the full conversation of 20 personal calls and 10 service-encounter type of telephone calls made in my home and transcribe only the closing speeches. Participants in these conversations include my parents and me, aged between 19 and 47, and a range of friends, acquaintances, relatives and service providers with whom we interact on the phone. I would also note down the characteristics of the participants such as type of relationship and social distance between them, their age, the type of conversation, the use of indirectness and face-saving devices (if any), the participants selection of procedures and linguistic forms. On top of that, I would also consider the multifunctionality of such procedures. Lastly, using the data collected, I would do statistical analysis, sort them into their respective categories and present them graphically. Foreseeable results and findings I would expect most closings to have a pre-closing sequence, preceding a terminal exchange. This is because conversations that simply terminate without any forewarnings (or preclosure) are usually considered abrupt and hence, rare in real life.

Placencia, M (1997) Opening up closings the Ecuadorian way Text 17(1)(1997), pp. 53-81