Plenary speakers

  • Rebecca Clift – University of Essex, UK
  • Aug Nishizaka – Chiba University, Japan
  • Jeff Robinson – Portland State University, US
  • Marja-Leena Sorjonen – University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Tanya Stivers – UCLA, US



Rebecca Clift writes that “My PhD was on Misunderstandings in Conversation, at Cambridge University. I have taught both CA and Pragmatics in the University of Essex’s  Language and Linguistics Department for over twenty years. Thanks to my students – with whose help I am still trying to figure out how people make sense of one other – I have moved beyond my initial focus on English interaction and have gained valuable glimpses into how people also make sense of each other in Arabic, Greek, Spanish, Japanese, Persian, Burmese, German, and French. My work in CA is linguistically-oriented – my 2001 ‘Language’ paper on actually was my first attempt to persuade linguists of the value of CA. More recently, my 2016 textbook Conversation Analysis in the ‘Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics’ series tries to do the same thing in book form. My recent research goes beyond the strictly linguistic and focuses on, amongst other things, embodiment and laughter in conversation, and I’m currently examining a substantial corpus of videoed family interaction to try and establish the interactional motivations for indirectness.”

Aug Nishizaka’s research has centered on the interactional organization of perceptions in the environment where multiple bodies are present. In the early 2000s, he began researching the interactions between pregnant women and medical professionals. While he was studying CA at UCLA in 2001, the use of human embryonic stem cells in research became a controversial issue in the United States; and whilst obstetrics has been at the forefront of medical technology, no research had been conducted on what was happening during actual interactions between obstetrics service users and practitioners. He and his colleagues began to visit obstetric clinics, hospitals, and midwife houses in Japan carrying video cameras. Then, the Fukushima disaster occurred in 2011. Thereafter, his research has examined interactions between evacuees/residents and volunteers/professionals in several settings in the areas directly affected by the nuclear power plant explosions. Since 2014, he has been visiting an affected area to interview residents who returned to their hometown after the evacuation order was lifted, to explore the local achievement of conceptual connections of various terms used in their talk about their current everyday lives.

Jeffrey D. Robinson is professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Portland State University, and Affiliate Professor of Radiation Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. In addition to conducting basic conversation-analytic research in institutional contexts (primarily physician-patient interaction) and mundane contexts (with an emphasis on accountability and repair), he applies conversation analysis as part of quantitative, outcome-oriented research (examining, for example, how coded practices of interaction are associated with parents’ decisions to vaccinate their children, and with breast-cancer patients’ levels of hope and optimism). Methodologically, he has advocated the analysis of large data sets (toward the development of ‘practices’ of action), and for the prudent incorporation of more traditionally social-scientific techniques involving sampling and statistics.

Marja-Leena Sorjonen, who is Professor of Linguistics and Co-Director of the Centre for Excellence in Intersubjectivity, University of Helsinki, Finland, writes that “Time after time I have found something that at first looks utterly mundane and uninteresting subsequently to be a key to understanding an interactional practice. Receiving the first part of somebody’s telephone number with a certain type of response token; prefacing the 1+Nth survey question with “and”; the doctor saying to the patient ‘say aa’; one customer after another walking to the counter while requesting cigarettes using the imperative ‘give me a pack of Marlboro’ at a kiosk. Nothing in the social world is irrelevant for a linguist and conversation analyst.  I have crossed different kinds of regional and interactional frontiers, which has meant crossing intellectual and interactional frontiers. I started in the academic world studying Finnish language and linguistics at the Universities of Joensuu and Helsinki and continued with CA and linguistic anthropology at UCLA, returning eventually with a PhD in applied linguistics to Helsinki. Exploring social, cultural and linguistic diversity and commonality in interactional practices and meaning-making are what I feel passionate about.”

Tanya Stivers is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Language, Interaction and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work examines the basic structures of social interaction in everyday and medical settings. Her research interests include the interactional process of decision making; the management of social relationships in interaction; and the ways that interaction processes and structures are mediated by language, culture, age or other sociodemographic factors. Methodologically, she has explored the ways that CA methods can be combined with quantitative methods to explore comparative questions about, for instance, race/ethnicity, SES or differences in language and culture. More recently, she has combined ethnographic methods with CA to better understand clinical conversations with families.