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The preference for self-correction in the organization of repair in conversation

From: Language
Volume 53, Number 2, June 1977
pp. 361-382 | 10.1353/lan.1977.0041

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[Received 27 July 1976.]


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* We wish to acknowledge the help, through discussion and/or through bringing relevant data to our attention, of Jo Ann Goldberg, Anita Pomerantz, and Alene Terasaki at the University of California, Irvine, and of Françoise Brun-Cottan, Irene Daden, and Louise Kerr at the University of California, Los Angeles. Harvey Sacks was killed in an automobile accident while this paper was undergoing final revision.

1. Bolinger ([1953] 1965:248) writes:

'What speakers avoid doing is as important as what they do. Self-correction of speech and writing, and the correction of others in conversation ("I can't understand what you say"), in classrooms, and over editorial desks is an unending business, one that determines the outlines of our speech just as acceptances determine its mass. Correction, the border beyond which we say "no" to an expression, is to language what a seacoast is to a map. Up to now, linguistic scientists have ignored it because they could see in it nothing more than the hankerings of pedants after a standard that is arbitrary, prejudiced and personal. But it goes deeper. Its motive is intelligibility, and in spite of the occasional aberrations that have distracted investigators from the central facts, it is systematic enough to be scientifically described.'

Not much has been made of the distinction—in part, perhaps, because the disciplines have used it to divide up their work, self-correction being occasionally discussed by linguists (since it regularly occurs within the sentence?), e.g. Hockett...

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