CA tutorial: Transcription transcripts

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What to transcribe?

    transcript 1

    transcript 2

    transcript 3

    pros & cons

    transcript 4


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    analysis 1

    analysis 2



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Transcript 4

Explaining the notation in the transcript

On the previous page I gave a 'usable' transcript which was a compromise between various competing worries about what to put on and what to leave off.

I introduced a lot of new symbols which need explaining. Here is that transcript again, with comments in the right hand column to help clarify what the notation symbols do. They were originally developed by Gail Jefferson in the early days of of CA, and have proved so robust and analytically useful that they have become indispensable. Some explanations need a bit more room, so there are still more notes at the foot of the table. [I've also collected together all the signs on a separate page labelled 'notation'.]

[Lyn & Zoe T4, 1]
1Zoe ((off camera)) Mum? worth noting that the two parties are not in sight of one another hello the '.pt' is a conventional representation of a slight lipsmack. The up arrow shows a pitch rise; the underline shows slight increase in volume
3 (3 sec) putting the pause on its own line means it doesn't 'belong' to either party (see note 1)
4LynI'm here another underline showing slight increase in volume
5 (.8) more precise timing allows analysis of more subtle effects
6Zoe (okay)- the brackets show that the word is something of a guess; the dash represent a 'cut-off' sound
7 (1.0) timing
8Lyn ((coughs / clears throat)) the double brackets and italics show that this is a stab at a sound difficult to represent anywhere near phonetically
9 ((clatter)) another sound, this one unattributed
10 (3.0) as above
11Zoe hello no particular notation to add
12 (.6) timing again
13Lynhi:: the colons show an elongation of the sound
14Zoe where's the cigarett:es the arrow shows another intonation spike; note that it is at the start of the word, not the end; had it been, we might have used a conventional ? mark (see below). The : shows an elongation of the 't' sound
15 (1.5) timing
16Lynin the kitchen, emphasis again, and the comma indicates a 'continuing' trajectory, as if she has more to say
17 (6.0) timing
18Zoe th' camera's on. the full stop indicates a 'sentence-ending' intonation (cf 'comma', above).
19Lyn >yes< the inward arrowheads mean the word is spoken fast
20 (1.8) timing
21Zoe w'(h)are you ta(h)lking to it   the (h)s are laughter particles embedded in the rush of talk
22  while you wORK? the capitals indicate higher volume, and the ? an upward 'question' intonation.
23Lyn no:, a combination of emphasis, elongation and a comma for 'sentence-continuing' intonation
24 (.5) timing
25Lyn [heh heh ºheh hehº= the 'heh's are conventional 'little laughter' sounds; the latter pair are softer. The square brackets, aligned with the turn below, show that it is in overlap; the equals sign, that it runs on to the next equals sign
26Zoe[hh what ye' DOINg then aligned, and the hh indicates an outbreath. The "ye'" is an attempt to capture a curtailed 'you'
27Lyn =hahh hahh hahh the equals sign shows this runs on from a previous turn
28 (1.0) timing
29Zoe what's the point:h up spike, emphasis, elongation and a continuation of the "t" sound into a brief outbreath
30 (1.5) timing
31Zoe oh god (.) look what I'm wearing up intonations, emphasis and the (.) is a just-noticeable pause

Some further notes about the conventions

There is plenty more to say about using those symbols - it is not always easy.

Here are just three of the more common queries that crop up when people start to think about transcribing for the first time. They're all good questions, and the notes above just sketch out an answer. As ever, there is a lot more to be said, and if you were interested you might follow the issue up in one of the introductory sources in the References.

  • Do pauses go on the same line as the speaker's turn?
    It's worth making a distinction between a pause that 'belongs' to someone and one that doesn't. So put the pause in the speaker's turn, if the speaker doesn't seem to have finished, as happens in line 31; but if he or she has reached a point where another person can speak without danger of seeming to 'butt in', then put the pause on a new line (as happens quite a lot above - on lines 3, 5, 7 and so on.

  • Those up and down arrows - what do they mean exactly?
    Intonation is so complex that these two conventions - along with full stops, commas and question marks - are admittedly rather thin ways of trying to get across the 'music' of the talk. But they are helpful in showing where speech 'rises' and 'falls'. But the arrows are notoriously hard to use reliably, so when starting out, try to limit them only to the most significant pitch change in a phrase, and to ones which happen in unexpected places. 

  • The laughter notation looks a bit crude.
    Yes, it is; laughter is notoriously hard to transcribe. The safest bet seems to be to a) distinguish between, on the one hand, laughter 'bubbling through' words (indicated by (h) in the middle of words) and, on the other, laughter on its own; and b) between more or less quiet and more or less loud laughter, by conventions like 'heh heh' and 'ha ha', along with underlining and capitals. But laughter is acknowledged to want its own careful study.

But anyway - do all these things really have to be very precisely marked?

Yes, because a lot can be communicated by exactly how and when you speak. Like every other notation convention on this page, the 'proof of the pudding' is that even the tiniest of features have been found to be significant.

This is the end of the 'transcription' section. You can always come back here if you need to remind yourself of what the symbols mean, or alternatively you can go to a simpler listing on the notation page.

If you'd like now to move on and to see what I mean about speech features being significant, have a look at the analysis pages.