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Title:Voilà, an orientation shift marker in modern French discourse: a conversation analytic perspective
Author(s):Haileselassie, Azeb
Director of Research:Golato, Andrea; Golato, Peter
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mall, Laurence
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Markee, Numa
Department / Program:French and Italian
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):discourse marker
word search
hypothetical talk
Abstract:Using Conversation analysis as a methodology, this study investigates the use and functions of the discourse marker voilà in French interaction. As my literature review will show (chapter 2), prior studies on voilà focused mainly on morphosyntactic aspects of voilà (e.g., Moignet, 1969; Morin, 1985, Hug, 1995). Despite being one of the most frequently used words in everyday French conversation the discourse marker voilà has yet to be systematically studied from a conversation analytic perspective. This oversight is reflected in beginning French textbooks, in which the treatment of voilà is in most cases restrictive and somewhat misleading. The present study is the first comprehensive study of voilà which takes into account the sequential position of the discourse marker in talk-in-interaction in order to identify the multiple functions that it performs. My data come from two different speech exchange systems: four hours of ordinary phone and Skype conversations among native speakers of French, and over twenty hours of institutional talk in the form of radio and TV talk shows from France. All the functions of voilà described in this dissertation occur in both speech exchange systems, except for delicate talk which contained no instances of voilà. In my analytical chapters I examine the use of voilà in sequence closings (chapter 3), the use of voilà in openings (chapter 4), and the use of voila in word search activities (chapter 5). In chapter 3 I show that voilà is used in second pair parts (SPPs) of adjacency pairs to claim higher epistemic authority over co-participants and in sequence closing thirds (Schegloff, 2007). In addition, voilà can close a turn before its syntactic/pragmatic ending. This usually occurs in delicate interactions, or when recipients are presumed to know the rest of the talk. In chapter 4, I investigate how speakers use voilà to present upshots of their prior talk, and to introduce hypothetical direct quotes. In chapter 5 I explore the use of voilà in word search activities. My analyses show that speakers deploy voilà to preface the newly found word, and to mark the finding of the sought-for word. Speakers may also use voilà as a semantic place holder until the sought-for word is found. The occurrence of voilà in these various positions indicates that voilà is a rather prevalent device. Finally, in my conclusion chapter (chapter 6) I highlight the main findings, I point out the pedagogical implications of my findings, the limitations of the current study, and the avenues for future studies. Throughout my analyses and discussion sections, I explore the question as to why voilà among any other possible linguistic elements is used by co-participants to perform its various actions. My analyses demonstrate that when voilà closes an action and indicates a speaker’s readiness to start the next action, it looks backward and forward at the same time. Likewise when voilà presents the newly found word, presents upshots of prior talk, projects the yet-to be found word in the projection space or presents the hypothetical direct quote in the imaginary and fictitious world, it clearly looks forward. All of these observations thus establish the fact that voilà in discourse is directly linked to its central semantic meaning, which is spatial-deictic (Bergen & Plauché, 2001, 2005). It is specifically voilà’s ability to look backward and forward at the same time that differentiates it from voici. When voilà is used in combination with other discourse markers (e.g., enfin voilà), the actions are mainly performed by the additional discourse markers and not necessarily by voilà. Hence, when used by itself, the actions performed by voilà are first and foremost accomplished by virtue of its position in the ongoing talk. All of these observations lead to the conclusion that voilà’s is defined by its ability to shift orientation and thereby orient co-participants’ attention to specific parts of utterances. Therefore I argue that if from a morphosyntactic perspective voilà is a subjectless or an existential verb (Moignet, 1969; Morin, 1985, Hug, 1995), then from a conversation analytic perspective voilà is primarily an orientation shift marker.
Issue Date:2015-07-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Azeb Haileselassie
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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