Adjacency Pair (Conversation Analysis)

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In conversation analysis, an adjacency pair is a two-part exchange in which the second utterance is functionally dependent on the first, as exhibited in conventional greetings, invitations, and requests. Also known as the concept of nextness.

An adjacency pair is a type of turn-taking. It is generally considered the smallest unit of conversational exchange.

The concept of adjacency pairs, as well as the term itself, was introduced by sociologists Emanuel A.

Schegloff and Harvey Sacks in 1973 ("Opening Up Closings" in Semiotica). 

See Examples and Observations below.

Examples and Observations:

  • Characteristics of Adjacency Pairs
    "One of the most significant contributions of CA [Conversation Analysis] is the concept of the adjacency pair. An adjacency pair is composed of two turns produced by different speakers which are placed adjacently and where the second utterance is identified as related to the first. Adjacency pairs include such exchanges as question/answer; complaint/denial; offer/accept; request/grant; compliment/rejection; challenge/rejection, and instruct/receipt. Adjacency pairs typically have three characteristics:
    • they consist of two utterances;
    • the utterances are adjacent, that is the first immediately follows the second; and
    • different speakers produce each utterance 
  • Adjacency Pair Types
    "To compose an adjacency pair, the FPP [first pair part] and SPP [second pair part] come from the same pair type. Consider such FPPs as 'Hello,' or 'Do you know what time it is?,' or 'Would you like a cup of coffee?' and such SPPs as 'Hi,' or 'Four o'clock,' or 'No, thanks.' Parties to talk-in-interaction do not just pick some SPP to respond to an FPP; that would yield such absurdities as 'Hello,' 'No, thanks,' or 'Would you like a cup of coffee?,' 'Hi.' The components of adjacency pairs are 'typologized' not only into first and second pair parts, but into the pair types which they can partially compose: greeting-greeting ("hello,' 'Hi"), question-answer ("Do you know what time it is?', 'Four o'clock'), offer-accept/decline ('Would you like a cup of coffee?', 'No, thanks,' if it is declined)."
  • The Lighter Side of Adjacency Pairs

    Leonard: So, Sheldon. How ya doing?
    Sheldon: That's how you start a psychotherapy session. How am I doing? I was promised a riverboat journey into the jungles of my subconscious. Instead, I get the same question I hear from the lady who slices my baloney at Ralph's.


    Scott Thornbury and Diana Slade, Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy. Cambridge University Press, 2006

    Emanuel A. Schegloff, Sequence Organization in Interaction: A Primer in Conversation Analysis I. Cambridge University Press, 2007

    Johnny Galecki and Jim Cooper in "The Pants Alternative." The Big Bang Theory, 2010

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Adjacency Pair (Conversation Analysis)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 10). Adjacency Pair (Conversation Analysis). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Adjacency Pair (Conversation Analysis)." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 24, 2018).