A Conversational Analysis of Acholi

Structure and Socio-Pragmatics of a Nilotic Language of Uganda


Author: Maren Rüsch
A Conversational Analysis of Acholi elucidates various interaction strategies for the Nilotic language Acholi. Based on detailed examples, Maren Rüsch links the structural organization of Acholi conversations to cultural features such as politeness, language socialization and narrations. Despite common claims of universality regarding the structuring of human languages by previous authors, the study shows that some Acholi strategies differ from other languages. The verbal and non-verbal practices displayed give an in-depth insight into speakers’ cognitive participation during interaction.
On the basis of in-situ research in Uganda, including the collection of rich audio- and video-material, this volume provides an innovative approach to language documentation and description and constitutes a thorough conversation analytic study of an African language.

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Maren Rüsch, Dr. phil. (2018), University of Cologne. She works on natural interactions in Nilotic and Bantu languages and has published several articles on Conversation Analysis, youth languages and skinscapes.
List of Maps, Tables, and Figures

1 Introduction
 1.1  About the Genesis of This Book and the Study It Comprises
 1.2  Historical, Political and Linguistic Background: Northern Uganda and Acholi in Numbers, Graphics and Quotes
 1.3  Acholi Preliminaries: Written and Spoken Language “Standards”
 1.4  On Methodology, Ethics and Conventions

2 Framing Interaction
 2.1  Action and Reaction
 2.2  Framing and Context

3 Conversational Micro- and Macro-management
 3.1  Starting from Scratch: Turns and Adjacency Pairs
 3.2  Order and Action Before, After, and Within: Sequences
 3.3  Dealing With Conversational Trouble: Repair and Overlaps
 3.4  Saying It Again: Repetitions

4 Socio-pragmatics
 4.1  About Politeness, Criticism, and Evaluation
 4.2  Creating the Difference with Tiny Words: Pragmatic Markers
 4.3  Depiction of Action: Ideophones
 4.4  Ritual Interaction

5 Non-verbal Contributions to Conversation
 5.1  Doing Things without Words: Depictive, Deictic and Emblematic Gestures
 5.2  Non-verbal Action in Conversation: A Note on Paralinguistic Features
 5.3  A Multimodal Approach: Structure and Action through Gesture, Gaze, and Body

6 A Multidimensional Conceptualization of Conversation Analysis in Acholi
 6.1  Universal and Language-Specific Features
 6.2  A Multidimensional Approach


All interested in the linguistic areas of pragmatics, sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, gesture studies and cognitive linguistics, as well as readers concerned with Northern Uganda, its culture, or Nilotic languages.