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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

On 'okay'... and on academic language

I was working on the analysis of the extract below, to make sense of the inarticulable letter repetition at the beginning of the conversation.
  1. Chris | 10:29 | hello thereeee 
  2. Kate | 10:29 | Hello there
  3.  Kate | 10:29 | did you get my triage report yesterday
  4. Chris | 10:30 | how are you today? (angel) or (devil) ?
  5. Chris | 10:30 | i did, not opened yet 
  6. Kate | 10:30 | (angel)
  7. Chris | 10:31 | coooool 
  8. Chris | 10:31 | ok quickie then - any news from the training?
As I was forging my way through the subtle and hidden cues used by the boss (can you guess which speaker is it?) to minimise the power difference between herself and her subordinate and to create a friendly, informal virtual working environment, I stumbled upon the tiny "ok" in line 8. 

My inner conversation analyst came round right away: ok is quite an important token here, an acknowledgement of the discussion before, but also a sign of moving on to the next topic. I did a bit of research so that I can support my interpretation, when I found this beauty:

"Okay" is employed pivotally, in the midst of yet at precise moments of transition, by recipients and current speakers alike, across a variety of speech exchange systems (both casual and institutional), not just in any sequential environment but where what is 'at stake' involves movements from prior to nextpositioned matter(s)

Did you not get it? Never mind. It took me several attempts too. 

This is the source if you would like to read the whole paper: 
Beach, W. (1993) Transitional regularities for `casual' "Okay" usages. Journal of Pragmatics analysis. J.M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

It is really very interesting, once you get past the academic lingo. 

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