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adjacency pair


adjacency pair

Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in Conversation Analysis by Emanuel A. Schegloff (Cambridge University Press, 2007)


In conversation analysis, a two-part exchange in which the second utterance is functionally dependent on the first, as exhibited in conventional greetings, invitations, and requests.

An adjacency pair is a type of turn-taking. It is the smallest unit of conversational exchange.

See also:


Concept and term introduced by sociologists Emanuel A. Schegloff and Harvey Sacks in 1973.

Examples and Observations:

  • "One of the most significant contributions of CA [Conversation Analysis] is the concept of the adjacency pair. An adjacency pair is composed of two turns produced by different speakers which are placed adjacently and where the second utterance is identified as related to the first. Adjacency pairs include such exchanges as question/answer; complaint/denial; offer/accept; request/grant; compliment/rejection; challenge/rejection, and instruct/receipt. Adjacency pairs typically have three characteristics:

    • they consist of two utterances;
    • the utterances are adjacent, that is the first immediately follows the second; and
    • different speakers produce each utterance.
    (Scott Thornbury and Diana Slade, Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)

  • Señor Biggles: Miss Bladder, take a letter.
    Miss Bladder: Yes, Señor Biggles.
    (Monty Python's Flying Circus)

  • Woody: Pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?
    Norm: All right, but stop me at one. Make that one-thirty.

  • Mitchell Pritchett: Hey Cam, does the gardener usually work on Saturdays?
    Cameron Tucker: I don't know, he comes when we need him. He's like Batman, but straight.
    (Modern Family)

  • Elaine: Ugh, I hate people.
    Jerry: Yeah, they're the worst.

  • "To compose an adjacency pair, the FPP [first pair part] and SPP [second pair part] come from the same pair type. Consider such FPPs as 'Hello,' or 'Do you know what time it is?,' or 'Would you like a cup of coffee?' and such SPPs as 'Hi,' or 'Four o'clock,' or 'No, thanks.' Parties to talk-in-interaction do not just pick some SPP to respond to an FPP; that would yield such absurdities as 'Hello,' 'No, thanks,' or 'Would you like a cup of coffee?,' 'Hi.' The components of adjacency pairs are 'typologized' not only into first and second pair parts, but into the pair types which they can partially compose: greeting-greeting ("hello,' 'Hi"), question-answer ("Do you know what time it is?', 'Four o'clock'), offer-accept/decline ('Would you like a cup of coffee?', 'No, thanks,' if it is declined)."
    (Emanuel A. Schegloff, Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in Conversation Analysis I. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

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