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Epistemic status and the recognizability of social actions

Journal article
Authors Oskar Lindwall
Gustav Lymer
Jonas Ivarsson
Published in Discourse Studies
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 500-525
ISSN 1461-4456
Publication year 2016
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Pages 500-525
Language en
Links dis.sagepub.com/content/18/5/500
Keywords Action formation, conversation analysis, epistemic status
Subject categories Sociology


Although the production and recognition of social actions have been central concerns for conversation analysis (CA) from the outset, it has recently been argued that CA is yet to develop a systematic analysis of ‘action formation’. As a partial remedy to this situation, John Heritage introduces ‘epistemic status’, which he claims is an unavoidable component of the production and recognition of social action. His proposal addresses the question how is social action produced and recognized? by reference to another question how is relative knowledge recognized? Despite the importance placed on the latter question, it is not clear how it is to be answered in particular cases. We argue that the introduction of epistemic status builds on a reformulation of the action formation problem that unnecessarily de-emphasizes the importance of the sequential environment. Our re-analyses of key sequences cast doubts on the empirical grounding of the epistemic program, and question whether the fundamental role of epistemic status has been convincingly demonstrated.

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