Topic development

As in many of the other discussions, the set questions largely determine the structure of the discussion. However, within this structure, the speakers are very co-operative in their development of topics. I have already considered above how G14 manages to convert the activity of asking the set questions from a authoritarian process to a more egalitarian one, by encouraging the participation of the other two group members. G14 shares the responsibility for asking the next question, and thus changing the topic, with the other group members. This can be illustrated with lines 12-14. In this instance, G14 checks with the other two speakers if they are ready to progress to the next question. When they agree, she proceeds. In other instances, G14 waits until the group has reached consensus on an issue before she proceeds.

All three group members feed in ideas in response to the set questions, for example they all respond in lines 14-22 to the question "How does Johnson treat the prisoner?". There are other instances of speakers introducing new elements into a discussion only after consensus on the topic under discussion has been reached. An example of this is G15's behaviour at line 24. All three speakers agree the previous point, that Bamforth does not think of the Japanese prisoner as a human being; G15 then introduces a new issue by pointing out that Bamforth also sees the risk involved in taking the prisoner with the returning party.

22. G14: why does he want to shoot him (1)

23. G13: mmhmm

G14: it's because he's the enemy (XXX =cos

G15: just because he is the enemy=

24. G14: he thinks it's so mach

G15: (.) and he also thinks that (.) the

25. G15: prisoner is a risk to take back to base (.) he

26. G13: yeah

G14: yeah

G15: probably is a risk but you've got to think of the

27. G15: other advantages of taking him back and he doesn't

28. G15: sort of realise that

There is also a considerable amount of joint turn taking in the discussion. One example occurs at line 44:

44. G13: than him (.) it's like he's= =uhuh (XXXX)

G14: =a social climber=

In the following example, G14 and G13 pick up on a point raised by G15, and after they have both supported it, G14 takes the discussion back to G15's original point to affirm all group members agree on it:

77. G15: he's sort of (.) I don't know he's kind of curious as (.)

78. G15: to what the prisoner is (.) he doesn't sort of realise

79. G13: uhuh and

G14: oh that's like when he's going put your hands on your

G15: that he's an ordinary human being

80. G13: drop hands on your head and drop drop drop=

G14: head and drop them ((laughs))=and he was

G15: ((laughs))

81. G14: going on about his wife and he'd found out about his wife

G15: mmhmm

82. G13: =three ((laughs)) three (.) yes (.)

G14: and two kids= ((laughs)) (XXXX)

G15: =oh right= oh

83. G13: that was the thing ((laughs))

G14: ((laughs)) (1) he's curious (.) uhuh

G15 introduces the idea that Bamforth is driven by his curiosity. She strongly hedges this proposition: "he's sort of (.) I don't know he's kind of curious". G14 gives her back channel support at line 78. ("uhuh"), and two supporting illustrations, at lines 79-80 and 80-82. G14's first example overlaps G15. G13 also contributes to G14's illustration at lines 79-80, and corrects G14's "two kids" to "three", which causes both G13 and G14 to laugh. There is frequent laughter in this exchange, and overlapping speech. When G13 and G14 have completed the two textual illustrations to support G15's original point, G14 returns to G15's original proposition, and repeats G15's original lexical item: "he's curious (.) uhuh". This is a strong example of joint topic construction.

In this respect, also, the discussion is co-operative, and all group members participate in joint topic construction.

Back to Chapter 4 Main Page