Interaction in workplace meetings

Discourse Studies 14 (1):3-10 (2012)
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Abstract

Meetings differ from ordinary conversation in that they have an agenda that specifies in advance the topics to be addressed during the meeting. However, the introduction of these topics needs to be locally accomplished and recognized by the participants as agenda items. This article presents some characteristic practices used for introducing agenda-based topics. It shows that they rely on the known-in-advance status of the items, and are presented by the chair as unilateral announcements. They exploit and invoke the written agenda in several ways. The announcements are often short phrasal constructions, just citing the written title of the agenda point. Furthermore, a gaze down at the written document is used as a public display that the introduction is related to the agenda. In contrast to this practice of introducing agenda items, topics not specified by the agenda are introduced by suggestions and questions that present the introduction as contingent on acceptance by the co-participants. The analysis sheds light on the ways in which institutional talk-in-interaction is permeated by the formulations and logic of written documents.

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