a conversation analytic perspective by azeb

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in French
in the Graduate College of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015
Urbana, Illinois
Doctoral Committee:
Associate Professor Laurence Mall, Chair
Professor Andrea Golato, Director of Research
Associate Professor Peter Golato, Co-Director of Research
Associate Professor Numa Markee
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.
Chapter 1: Introduction ................................................................................................... 1
Chapter 2: Literature review ........................................................................................... 5
2.1 What is conversation analysis (CA)? ..................................................................... 5
2.1.1 The ethnomethodological foundation of CA ................................................. 7
2.1.2 Sequence organization in CA......................................................................... 9
2.1.3 Turn-taking in conversation ......................................................................... 11
2.1.4 What is a turn? ............................................................................................. 12
2.1.5 Methods: acquiring data, and transcription .................................................. 13
2.1.6 Methodology: why CA? ............................................................................... 14
2.1.7 Data collection: description of subjects and research site ......................... 17
2.2 Closing a conversation ......................................................................................... 18
2.2.1 Closing a sequence ....................................................................................... 21
2.2.2 Post expansion ............................................................................................. 22
2.2.3 Sequence closing thirds with “oh” ............................................................... 23
2.2.4 Sequence closing thirds with “okay” ........................................................... 24
2.2.5 Sequence closing thirds with assessments .................................................. 25
2.2.6 Combination of sequence closing third tokens ........................................... 28
2.2.7 Closing a sequence with “anyway”.............................................................. 29
2.2.8 Closings in French ...................................................................................... 31
2.3 Word searches ..................................................................................................... 39
2.3.1 Gaze in word searches ................................................................................ 43
2.3.2 Gestures in word searches ........................................................................... 45
2.3.3 Word searches in Japanese .......................................................................... 48
2.3.4 Concluding remarks .................................................................................... 49
2.4 Review of voilà .................................................................................................... 51
2.4.1 The difference between voici and voilà ..................................................... 51
2.4.2 Definitions of voilà in dictionaries ............................................................. 52
2.4.3 Functional definition of voilà ..................................................................... 53
2.4.4 Voilà: a preposition and an adverb............................................................... 54
2.4.5 Voilà a verb? A morphosyntactic approach ................................................. 55
2.4.6 Voilà as presentative: Pragmatic approach ................................................ 57
2.4.7 Voilà from an integrated viewpoint ............................................................ 60
2.4.8 Semantic perspective .................................................................................. 61
2.4.9 The use of voilà in foreign language textbooks .......................................... 64
2.4.10 Voici and Voilà in discourse ..................................................................... 65
2.4.11 Concluding remarks .................................................................................. 70
Chapter 3: The use of voilà in closings.......................................................................... 76
3.1 Introduction .......................................................................................................... 76
3.2 Positions ............................................................................................................... 76
3.3 Functions .............................................................................................................. 77
3.4 Prior studies on discourse markers in closings..................................................... 77
3.5 Analysis of voilà in closings: an action management device ............................... 80
3.5.1 Shift in activity type .................................................................................... 80
3.5.2 Shift of action in sequentially difficult environments ................................. 83
3.5.3 Shift in syntactically and pragmatically incomplete turns .......................... 99
3.5.4 The use of voilà in b-event statements ...................................................... 112
3.5.5 Shift in action within speakers’ turns at talk ............................................. 117
3.5.6 The use of voilà in the closing of side sequences ...................................... 124
3.6 Summary of findings and discussion ................................................................. 133
Chapter 4: The use of voilà in openings ...................................................................... 139
4.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 139
4.2 Positions ............................................................................................................. 139
4.3 Literature review on upshots and on hypothetical talk ...................................... 140
4.3.1 Literature review on upshots ..................................................................... 140
4.3.2 Literature review on hypothetical talk ...................................................... 142
4.4 Analysis of voilà in openings: A discourse structuring device ......................... 146
4.4.1 Voilà in upshots ......................................................................................... 147
4.4.2 Voilà in hypothetical direct quotes ............................................................ 163
4.5 Summary of findings and discussion ................................................................ 173
Chapter 5: The use of voilà in word searches............................................................. 180
5.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 180
5.2 Positions ............................................................................................................. 180
5.3 Prior studies on word searches ........................................................................... 181
5.3.1 ‘Place holders’ across languages .............................................................. 181
5.3.2 The use of voilà in real object search ........................................................ 182
5.4 Analysis of voilà in a word search .................................................................... 191
5.4.1 Voilà prefacing the searched-for word ...................................................... 191
5.4.2 Voilà after the finding of the searched word .............................................. 200
5.4.3 Voilà in the middle of a word search ......................................................... 206
5.5 Summary of findings and discussion ................................................................ 220
Chapter 6: Conclusion .................................................................................................. 225
References ...................................................................................................................... 237
Les études sur voilà ne sont pas nombreuses et cela surprend: ou bien la question est trop
simple pour qu’on s’y attarde, ou bien elle est d’une grande complexité et difficile. L’étude va
montrer que la deuxième justification est la bonne”.
(Léard, 1992: 99)
Chapter 1: Introduction
Language can essentially be seen from two different perspectives: it is either an “action”
or a “structured sets of abstract forms” (Linell, 2005: 3). In the former view, language is a
dynamic process animated by interlocutors’ exchanges in interaction, whereas in the latter point
of view, language is seen as a fixed product with fixed forms where the main interest remains its
function as a system (Linell, 2005).
Indeed, for a long time language, and more specifically grammar, has been viewed as an
independent and self-sufficient entity, i.e. as a fixed form. However, when used in everyday
interaction, as Lerner (1996: 239) puts it, grammar is no longer a “structure of language” but is
instead a “structure of practice”. From this viewpoint, grammar cannot be separated from
interaction; we can even state that its existence relies mainly on interaction. As Ford, Fox, &
Thompson (2003: 119) have stated, “in interactional settings, we can see grammar at work”. In
other words, it is in interaction or in the exchanges and understanding displays that we perceive
the meaning of grammar. In this sense, instead of being a predictable and strict structure,
grammar becomes a malleable instrument that changes throughout the conversation. In Ford et
al’s (2003: 122) words, grammar is modified incessantly through “what people have heard and
repeated over a lifetime of language use”.
Thus, interaction offers a place for grammar to prosper, to be displayed and to be
expanded as needed in talk-interaction. This implies that interlocutors are active participants in
the unfolding interaction, who not only use the construction of turns to predict and project the
change of speakers, but also use recipients’ responses to either expand upon and/or otherwise
modify their initial turn (Ford et al., 2003). As Clayman & Gill (2004: 589) have pointed out
“human interaction lies at the very heart of social life”; we use interaction not only to
communicate and exchange information, but to also socialize and share our cultural norms.
Interaction makes discourse coherence relevant. According to Schiffrin (1987), coherence
demands an active participation and contribution of interlocutors to the ongoing interaction.
Every time an utterance is produced, it is assessed and evaluated by the recipient, who in turn
produces another turn based on the previous turn. This same mechanism is available to the
analyst who studies how coherence was accomplished. In short, coherence cannot be separated
from interaction; they are interdependent in that one cannot be achieved without the other. Any
turn relies on the previous one to produce an appropriate response (Craig & Tracy, 1983). On
this same topic of coherence, Schegloff (1984b) has also stated that every participant’s utterance
is supposed to show that the speaker has attended to the prior utterance by the co-participant.
Thus, every participant’s utterance displays that it is placed according to what was said before.
For Schegloff (1984b: 37) this procedure is a “constraint” that co-participants have to respect.
However, if it happens that co-participants do not respect this constraint, in other words if they
do not produce the next relevant utterance, they will indicate it by using “misplacement markers”
(Schegloff & Sacks 1973: 319-20 cited in Schegloff, 1984b: 37). These markers clearly indicate
that what is about to come is not what is expected or is otherwise “out of place” (Schegloff,
1984b: 37).
Not all markers are indicative of misplacement; as a matter of fact markers, discourse
markers in particular, are the main indicators of discourse coherence. In a way, the analysis of
discourse markers is the analysis of discourse coherence (Schiffrin, 1987). Discourse markers
serve to signal shifts in the discourse structure. To use Schiffrin’s (1987: 36-37) words, they
“bracket” units of talk. Previously, discourse markers were treated by researchers as randomly
distributed fillers which were devoid of any meaning (Craig & Tracy, 1983: 36-37). However,
several studies (e.g., Schiffrin, 1987; Hansen, 1997; Fraser, 1990) have since shown that
discourse markers are words and phrases which are syntactically independent from the rest of an
utterance, but which serve a variety of discursive functions and which achieve cohesion through
tying previous utterances to upcoming ones. As Bolden (2006: 682) has said, discourse markers
are “the smallest details of interactions” which need careful consideration because “social
relationships are inextricable from them”.
Discourse markers are characteristic of spoken language in general, and in French not
only are they frequently used, they are a “‘hallmark’ of spoken expression” (Pellet, 2005: 3).
Discourse markers such as bon (Barnes, 1995), et bien (Hansen, 1996), alors (Hansen, 1997),
and donc (Hansen, 1997; Pellet, 2005, 2009), to name a few, have been the object of various
detailed studies. Perhaps surprisingly, however, and despite its being one of the most frequently,
if not the most frequently, used word in everyday French conversation, the discourse marker
voilà has yet to be systematically studied from a conversation analytic perspective (but see
Bergen & Plauche, 2001; Delahaie, 2008; Delahaie, 2009a; Delahaie, 2009b; Grenoble & Riley,
1996; Léard, 1992; Moignet, 1969 on select functions of voilà). Introductory French textbooks
reflect this oversight as well; the treatment of voilà in the few textbooks that mention it is limited
to a very restrictive and possibly misleading meaning.
Using conversation analysis (CA) as a methodological framework, in this study I will
analyze the frequently used French discourse marker voilà. The research promises to afford new
insight into how and when French native speakers use the discourse marker voilà in everyday
talk-interaction. The study will take account the sequential position of voilà in the ongoing
interaction in order to identify the specific actions accomplished in each position.
My findings promise to be of great interest to the field of pragmatics and to the field of
CA, in particular French CA, in that they will fill what to me is a surprising gap in the literature
on French discourse particles. My study thus contributes to the knowledge of social interaction in
French, as well as to comparative studies with other languages. While my research will be
exclusively concerned with the study of the use of voilà between native speakers, my findings
may also be relevant for the eventual development of more authentic teaching materials.
Chapter 2: Literature review
In this chapter, I will review and summarize previous research relevant to the current
study. Specifically, the chapter begins with an overview of Conversation Analysis (CA). I will
first describe key and basic concepts related to this methodology (e.g., turn taking, sequence
organization, adjacency pairs, etc.). I will then review prior studies on specific interactional
environments in which voilà regularly occurs. This overview will lay the necessary groundwork
for understanding the analytic chapters. I will then turn to a discussion of prior research on
closings, including prior studies on closings in French. The next section will focus on prior
studies on word search activities, including the embodied actions which accompany them.
Finally, I will summarize prior work on the discourse marker voilà.
2.1 What is conversation analysis (CA)?
CA can be defined as the “systematic analysis of the talk produced in everyday
situations…” (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008: 11). The objective of CA is to analyze how coparticipants understand and respond to one another in their turns at talk, the central focus being
how sequences of actions are generated in the exchanges.
What sets CA apart from other linguistic analyses is that talk is not studied in terms of
“structure of language” but rather “as a practical social accomplishment” (Hutchby &Wooffitt,
2008: 12). In other words, utterances in talk-interaction are used as negotiation tools in whatever
activity (e.g., requests, complaints, etc.) interlocutors may be involved in (Hutchby & Wooffitt,
2008). In CA terms, these activities are what are better known as actions (Hutchby & Wooffitt,
2008; Markee, 2000; Sidnell, 2010). In short, CA’s objective is to show interlocutors’ orientation
to their own talk; that is, CA studies the organization of talk from the participant’s emic
perspective, and not from an external, etic point of view. As Schegloff & Sacks (1973: 290) put
it, the orderliness of talk-interaction is explained by the fact that it has “been methodically
produced by members of the society for one another”. Thus, it is the understanding of the
participants, and not that of the analyst that is used by conversation analysts to observe what the
action of a particular turn is (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson, 1974). While speakers show their
understanding of the previous talk in their sequentially next turn of talk, their understanding may
or may not be identical to what the prior speaker wanted to convey. In any case, however, that
understanding will be displayed in the next turn (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008). The procedure to
rely on the next turn to interpret the prior turn is called the “next-turn proof procedure” (Hutchby
& Wooffitt, 2008: 13). As an illustration of this mechanism, let us consider the following
exchange which is taken from a conversation between a mother and her son about an upcoming
Parent-Teachers’ Association meeting (taken from Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008: 14)
Do you know who’s going to that meeting?
I don’t know!
Ouh:: prob’ly: Mr Murphy an’ dad said prob’ly
Mrs Timpte en some a’ the teachers.
In line 1, the mother’s question is ambiguous; it can either be an information seeking
question or a go-ahead seeking pre-announcement. Russ’s answer in line 2 makes it clear that he
interpreted the previous line as a pre-announcement. However, the mother’s response in line 3
shows that she was actually asking an information seeking question. Russ eventually answers the
mother’s question in line 4. He could have answered the mother’s question earlier, but he was
orienting to the sequentially unfolding talk. As Hutchby and Wooffitt (2008) explain, this
segment shows that participant’s understanding of a prior action can change in the course of the
conversation. It also shows that speakers act based upon their orientation to sequential structure.
The ethnomethodological foundation of CA
Historically, CA emerged as an independent and autonomous field in the late 1960s and
early 1970s with primarily H. Sacks, E. Schegloff and G. Jefferson when they started looking at
“the level of social order which could be revealed in everyday practice of talking” (Hutchby &
Wooffitt, 2008: 15).
However, the intellectual and theoretical frame of CA can be traced back to
ethnomethodology. The term ethnomethodology was first used by Garfinkel (Markee, 2000). It
refers to the “study in which every day common sense activities are analyzed by participants and
by the ways in which these analyses are incorporated into courses of action” (Markee, 2000: 25).
In other words, it refers to how members of society conduct themselves systematically in a way
they know will make sense to other members of the same society. According to Garfinkel (1984;
1967), all social actions are based on the fact that humans share a common understanding of each
other. Without these shared and accepted understandings or intersubjectivities, anything social
will not be possible (Wetherell, Taylor, Yates, & Open University, 2001).
Garfinkel (1967) used games analogies to explain that only the shared and accepted
explicit rules make social actions possible. What is interesting in Garfinkel’s observation is that
in real life there are no written and explicated rules by we which we all abide, but somehow
these unwritten rules automatically become apparent when they are breached (Wetherell et al.,
2001). Indeed, Garfinkel (1967) demonstrated through several experiments known as “breaching
experiments” (Wetherell et al., 2001: 51) that if we remove all the social norms we
systematically assume are known and shared by other members of society, we will soon create
confusion and misunderstanding. According to Wetherell et al (2001: 51) intersubjectivity for
Garfinkel is “the product of a circular process, in which an event and its background are
dynamically adjusted to one another to form a coherent ‘gestalt’” (cited in Wetherell et al. (2001:
The perspective envisioned by Garfinkel is directly applied in CA, or to use Wetherell et
al.’s (2001: 52) words, “the practices and procedures with which parties produce and recognize
talk are talk's 'ethnomethods'”. However, CA’s characteristic is that it is able to show the
achievement of intersubjectivity through the analysis of talk. In other words, through the
analyses of speakers’ production of talk and recipients’ orientation to this talk, CA is able to
show the display of collaborative effort, the mission of which is to accomplish social action by
members of society for other members of this same society. The role of the analyst is to show
how these members of a given community understand each other and achieve this sequentially
structured talk (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008).
The analysis of any given data in CA is context dependent in the sense that the immediate
sequential environments are what interlocutors use to make sense of what is said in previous
turns and what they subsequently use to produce the relevant next action (Markee, 2000). On the
other hand, the general organization of turn taking in talk-interaction does not depend on social
status, gender, age, race, or location of interlocutors. These factors do not affect the mechanisms
and organization of talk interaction (Sacks et al., 1974; Markee, 2000).
Sequence organization in CA
One of the most obvious things about conversation is that actions are typically arranged
in pairs, for instance questions and answers, greetings and return-greetings, invitations and
acceptances/refusals, etc. These sequences are called adjacency pairs (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973).
The two pair parts are uttered by two different speakers and they are often produced one next to
the other. However, this is not always the case, as there can be insertions between the first and
second part. However, upon the production of a first pair part (FPP), the second pair part (SPP)
will remain relevant even if it is not produced in the next turn (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008). This
illustrates the “serial nature of talk-in-interaction and its sequential properties” (Hutchby &
Wooffitt, 2008: 43). This is exemplified in the following exchange (from Schegloff, 1968, cited
in Hutchby & Wooffitt, 2008: 43):
A: Can I have a bottle of Mich?
B: Are you over twenty-one?
A: No.
B: No.
question 1
insertion 1
insertion 2
answer 2
In line 1 A asks B a question, which would be a FPP, but in line 2, but instead of
answering A’s question in line 2, B asks another question, thereby providing another FPP instead
of providing the SPP for A’s FPP in the previous turn. In line 3, A addresses B’s question and
provides the SPP to B’s FPP in line 2. Once the inserted question and answer are completed, in
line 4, B then addresses A’s question in line 1 and gives the relevant response to that question,
that is, the SPP to the FPP in line 1.
This exchange shows that in line 2, B was not avoiding to answer A’s question in line 1,
but that he was instead waiting to have the missing and important piece of information needed to
address A’s question in line 1. As we saw, B eventually answers A’s question once he has the
necessary information to address the question. The exchange also shows participants’ ongoing
understanding of the talk as it is unfolding, and also stresses the “normative character” (Hutchby
& Wooffitt, 2008: 45) of adjacency pairs. In other words, speakers monitor at all times the
responses by recipients and check if the responses are relevant to the questions.
Another feature of adjacency pairs is that some types of FPP have more than one type of
SPP. For example, one can either accept or reject an offer, one can agree or disagree with an
assessment, and one can either grant or reject a request. These alternative responses do not
perform the same actions, nor are they delivered in the same manner (Pomerantz, 1984).
Granting a request, accepting an offer and agreeing with an assessment are termed “preferredactions” (Pomerantz, 1984: 64) whereas rejecting a request or an offer and disagreeing with an
assessment are called “dispreferred-actions” (Pomerantz, 1984: 64). Preferred responses are
typically delivered straight forwardly and are rather short, whereas dispreferred responses are
usually longer, they are followed by some sort of accounts, hedges or hesitation markers as
illustrated in the following example from (Schegloff, 2007: 64):
A: Yuh comin down early?
B: Well I got a lot of things to do before gettin
cleared up tomorrow. I don’t know.
I w- probably won’t be too early.
In this exchange, we can see that A’s request/invitation (line 1) is not exactly declined but it is
not either accepted straightforwardly. B’s response in line 2, starts with “well” which is usually
used to hedge a dispreferred answer, then he offers an account (lines 2-3) followed by “I don’t
know” which indicates that he cannot commit assuredly. Finally, he answers the question in line
4, but the addition of “probably” after a self-repair indicates that he cannot for sure grant the
request/accept the offer (Schegloff, 2007).
Turn-taking in conversation
Conversation by definition implicates people taking turns to interact and the mechanism
involved is known as turn taking. The procedure of turn taking functions in a way so that there
isn’t a significant gap between the end of one speaker’s utterance and the beginning of another
speaker’s utterance. In addition, speakers see to it that they do not overlap with another speaker’s
talk (Sacks et al., 1974). In other words, typically, one speaker talks at a time.
Transitions from one speaker to another are governed by a set of rules. First written by
Sacks et al. (1974), the main points of the rules are given below (taken from Sidnell, 2010: 43)
(C= current speaker, N= next speaker)
a. If C selects N in current turn, then C must stop speaking, and N must speak next,
transition occurring at the first possible completion after N-selection.
b. If C does not select N, then any (other) party may self-select, first speaker gaining
rights to the next turn.
c. If C does not select N, and no other party self-selects under option (b), then C may
(but need not) continue (i.e. claim rights to a further TCU).
There are of course a few exceptions to these commonly accepted rules. For example, if
someone enters a room full of people, the person will mostly probably be greeted at the same
time by everyone in the room, or if someone tells a joke the responsive laughter will normally
come at the same time by everyone appreciating the joke, and indeed the contrary would be
surprising; people don’t usually wait for one person to finish their laughter before they begin
laughing themselves (Sidnell, 2010).
The turn-taking system in conversation is “locally managed” (Sacks et al., 1974: 725) and
“party-administered” (Sacks et al., 1974: 726). It is locally managed because the mechanism
takes care only of the immediate surrounding turns, i.e., the current and next turns, and not later
turns of talk. It is party administered because there is no third party who monitors and decides
who should and should not talk next; rather, this is decide by the interlocutors themselves.
However, not all kinds of talks are organized in this manner. For example, in formal debates the
turns of talk may be decided in advance, or may be allocated by a moderator to allow the same
amount of talk to all parties participating in the debate. Likewise, in a classroom, the teacher can
sometimes decide who should and should not talk in order to give the opportunity of
participation to a maximum number of students (Sidnell, 2010).
2.1.4 What is a turn?
A turn can consist of one or more “turn-constructional units”, or TCUs. A TCU may be
formed out of a simple word, a phrase or a whole sentence (Sacks et al., 1974: 702). The
following example from Sidnell (2010: 41) illustrates theses different types of units.
Debbie: whatever:an [.hhh
[you were at the halloween thing.
Debbie: huh?
shelly: the halloween p[arty
Sentential turn
Lexical turn
Phrasal turn
Lexical turn
In this exchange, Shelly’s turn in line 2 would be an example of a sentential TCU.
Debbie’s’ turns in line 3 and 5 are lexical TCUs, while Shelly’s turn in line 4 is a phrasal TCU.
Each of these unit types “allow[s] a projection of the unit-type under way, and what, roughly, it
will take for an instance of that unit-type to be completed” (Sacks et al., 1974: 702).
At the end of each TCU, the next speaker may want to take the next turn. These places
where a transition from one speaker to another may occur are labeled “transition relevance
places”, or TRPs (Sacks et al., 1974). These places are of interest to both speakers and recipients.
For example, speakers who want to keep the floor may speed up their pace of talk towards the
end of a TCU and latch to the next TCU, thereby obstructing recipients from taking the turn. On
the other hand, recipients may anticipate the end of a TCU and prepare their entry to start their
own TCU. Thus syntactic, prosodic and pragmatic features are useful indicators for recipients to
project the possible end of a TCU (Sacks et al., 1974).
Methods: acquiring data, and transcription
In order to do conversation analysis, one has to acquire naturalistic data in the form of
audio or video recordings. The next step is then to transcribe the data. In explaining the
importance of working with a recording of real conversation, Sacks (1984 cited in Sidnell, 2010:
20) states:
“I want to argue that, however rich our imaginations are, if we use hypothetical, or
hypothetical typical versions of the world we are constrained by reference to what an
audience, an audience of professionals, can accept as reasonable. That might not appear
to be a terrible constraint until we come to look at the kinds of things that actually occur”.
Sidnell (2010: 23) remarks that to do conversation analysis, one has to practice “to listen
to talk in a different way”. By this he means that in listening, one must pay attention not just to
the words, but also to every silence, as well as to false starts, hesitation markers, intonation and
pace changes, in breaths, etc. and transcribe them as precisely and faithfully as possible. In order
to accomplish such an effort-demanding task, one must of course have to listen to the recordings
as many times as necessary, with sometimes slowing down or speeding up the playback of talk if
needed. The accuracy of the transcription is crucial because the interpretation of the data depends
on the subtleties of meticulously transcribed talk (Sidnell, 2010). A transcription notation
system developed by Jefferson and as described in Atkinson & Heritage (1984) is still used today
to represent the relevant details in talk.
To conclude this section, we can use Markee’s (2000: 28) “defining characteristics of
CA” to encapsulate CA’s main features:
1) CA is “agnostic” (Markee, 2000: 28) to etic interpretations, because the research is not
based on members’ accounts of their own understandings.
2) CA analysts don’t rely on quantitative data, because they do not reveal much about the
“underlying preferential structure of conversation” (Markee, 2000: 28).
3) “Prototypical examples” are not enough for a “convincing argument” (Markee, 2000:28)
concerning the finding of a particular observation or phenomenon; instead, the analyst
must demonstration or show participants’ orientation to accomplish a particular function
in the discourse and see if that function can be found in other similar environments.
2.1.6 Methodology: why CA?
As Markee (2000: 28) has pointed out, in CA arguments are not developed based on
“quantitative and frequency data” but rather on how participants orient to each other’s turns and
make subsequent and relevant responses. In other words, this is what defines a “qualitative
Schiffrin (1987: 66) compares quantitative study to qualitative study for discourse
markers analysis and acknowledges advantages for both methods. She states that both qualitative
and quantitative approaches are valuable and can even be complementary. In fact, she thinks that
in reality these two terms represent somehow an “artificial dichotomy” (Schiffrin, 1987: 66). In
other words, according to the author most analyses take account of both methodologies in their
research. For example, according to Schiffrin (1987: 66) underlying a qualitative study is the
notion that “more is better”, that is, the interpretations of a particular “phenomenon” will be
convincing if we find more of the same phenomenon (Tannen, 1984: 37 cited in Schiffrin, 1987).
We will agree with this interpretation only to some extent. This is because as Markee (2000: 2829) noted, in CA “prototypical examples” are not enough to demonstrate the validity of an
observation; instead, one has to use “the convergence of different types of textual evidence”
(Markee, 2000: 29) to show how a particular phenomenon can have similar functions in different
environments. For example, in an invitation sequence, one has to determine whether the
invitation was declined or accepted by analyzing the turns before and after the invitation. Only
then can one use those same observations that justified the identification of initiation rejection or
acceptance to see if they could play the same role in other contexts (Markee, 2000).
Schiffrin (1987) explained that a quantitative analysis would not be possible without
qualitative description. But most importantly, she points out that quantitative analysis is often not
compatible with talk-in-interaction. This is because by definition, talk is an ever-changing
activity, and to use the author’s words “it is just this quality that can lead an investigator to seat
him or herself in the minds of conversationalist (or to even be a conversationalist) and interpret
from the participant point of view just what is going on” (Schiffrin, 1987: 67). It is specifically
this same quality that makes “counting exceedingly difficult” (Schiffrin, 1987: 67).
It is for this same particular reason that I opted to adopt the framework of Conversation
Analysis (CA). As stated earlier, discourse markers are not placed randomly, but rather are
placed in specific positions and contribute thus to the coherence of the discourse (Schiffrin,
1987). Hence in analyzing the input of a discourse marker (e.g., voilà) in talk in-interaction, we
should opt for “an approach which takes sequential accountability” (Schiffrin, 1987: 69). By
showing how participants in talk in-interaction orient to specific actions and more pointedly how
participants use voilà in specific positions, I will show the different functions that voilà plays in
different environments and situations.
Schegloff (1993) has also noted that in talk in-interaction, the importance and the
relevancy of a phenomenon is not necessarily measured by the number of times the phenomenon
occurs but rather by the way co-participants’ attend and orient to “what a speaker has done”
(Schegloff, 1993: 101). Besides, Schegloff remarks that “one is also a number” (Schegloff, 1993:
101), and for him a single case may be an indicative of a likelihood occurrence of similar cases
on a larger scale. But most importantly, Schegloff (1993) argues that before one classifies and
counts any examples as belonging to a specific category, one has to make sure the actions
performed by these examples are exactly the same.
Of course, a quantitative analysis of discourse markers could be just as valuable and
insightful. For instance, I would argue that voilà is most probably one of the most, if not the most
frequently used particle in spoken French, and as such, a quantitative analysis would probably
shed some light on the reasons for its frequency of use. For instance, a quantitative study would
have offered some insights on whether its frequency is related to the fact that voilà is performing
the functions of other discourse markers, etc. But once again and to paraphrase Schiffrin (1987)
and Schegloff (1993), it would be hard to do a quantitative analysis before a qualitative study. It
is with this “order” in mind that I approach the present study.
2.1.7 Data collection: description of subjects and research site
My data come from mainly three different sources: First my analyses are based upon
approximately four hours of audio and Skype recordings of conversations among native speakers
of French. The participants are mostly close family members: daughter- mother, granddaughtergrandmother, and niece-aunt. Due to the fact that they call and talk to each other on a regular
basis, the conversations could be characterized as quite informal, ordinary and casual.
My second set of data comes from a talk show on the national French radio Europe 1. It
is a two hour long and quite popular daily show hosted by an equally popular host, and is
accompanied by a regular team of people with different professional backgrounds: writers,
journalists, comedians, etc. Together, they comment on the main news of the day, with topics
ranging from political to cultural and other social related news, all delivered in a very friendly
and humorous manner. Some of the features of the show consist of news related quizzes,
interactions with listeners/callers and a segment of discussion with a special guest. Some of the
format is similar to the American radio show on public radio NPR “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”.
I chose to use this show as my main data for numerous reasons: first, it is a non-scripted
show in which various topics are discussed on a daily basis on a quite long period of time (the
show runs for about 2 hours per day). In my opinion, this is a valuable feature as it provides
numerous occasions for production of the targeted word in different environments and
performing different functions; some of the environments in which voilà are produced might not
necessarily be found in planned recorded data (e.g., delicate topics). Most of the panelists are
close friends of the talk show host, which in my opinion contributes to the fact that the
interactions are naturalistic and friendly. The show even provides segments of interactions with
several callers/listeners. All of these qualities make the show similar to a non-elicited mundane
In addition, I am also using a few videos from national French television talk shows. This
additional source has all the qualities of the radio show, while also providing visuals. Both
visuals and gestures in CA are essential, in some cases they may even be crucial (e.g., in word
For the first data set (i.e., the recordings of mundane conversation I collected), I use
pseudonyms to protect the anonymity of the participants. Since the last two data sources are
publically available, however, I use interactants’ first names to identify them. The collected data
were transcribed according to the transcription notation developed by Gail Jefferson (1984) for
conversation analysis. The first lines have been transcribed in French, the second line provides a
word by word translation in English, and the third line is an idiomatic translation in English.
2.2 Closing a conversation
One of the focuses of the current study concerns the use of voilà in sequence closings.
Hence I will first discuss prior studies on closings. I will first review the sequential structure
involved in closing a conversation (e.g., the structure of terminal exchanges) and in closing a
sequence. I will also show how in some cases, sequences can be expanded after a closing has
been initiated. I will address the delicacy involved in closing in general. Finally I will review
closings in French language conversations.
One of the facts underlying the machinery of turn-taking is that the length of conversation
is not specified in advance (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson, 1974). In other words, we don’t know
in advance when a conversation will end. As pointed out by Sacks et al. (1974), the turn-taking
mechanism itself also does not directly address the issue of closing conversations. However, it
does put “constraints on how any system of rules for achieving conversational closing (and thus
length) could operate” Sacks et al., 1974: 710).
The turn-taking system deals first and foremost with “ongoing orderliness” (Schegloff &
Sacks, 1973: 294). It is a system of sequences of talk within which there is an organization of
different types of sequences, and by reference to which the length or the closing of conversation
may be determined. On the basis of this argument, the authors formulate what they called “an
initial problem” (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 294) concerning closings as follows: “HOW TO
Sacks, 1973: 294-295, capitalization in the original). In other words, how can the thread of this
“ongoing talk” be stopped without occasioning interlocutors’ disorientation or confusion?
According to Schegloff & Sacks (1973), part of the solution to this problem is to be
found in the use of a specific adjacency pair, namely the terminal exchange, e.g., an exchange of
“good-byes”. But if the terminal exchanges do actually close a conversation, this solution is only
a partial one since it still does not answer the question of where such closings can be placed in
the sequence. In other words, it is not clear when (and how) the closing of a conversation really
starts (ten Have, 2007).
Closing a conversation is indeed a delicate matter both socially and technically. For this
reason, Schegloff & Sacks (1973: 289) point out that conversations do not just end, but rather
must be “brought to a close”. In other words, while co-participants know that at some point they
will have to end the conversation they are engaged in, it has to be done in a manner that will not
cause resentment to either party involved. As Sidnell (2010: 215) puts it, a “rather specific place,
or context, must be prepared for such actions if they are to be properly understood as simply
ending the conversation rather than as expressing annoyance or anger” (Sidnell, 2010: 215). In
any cases, closing sequences cannot start until all the topics in a given interaction, including the
“unmentioned mentionables”, (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 303) have been dealt with.
Normally, closing a conversation is a two-step procedure, with the first step consisting of
pre-closing/closing token: “well”, “all right”… produced with downward intonation contour; this
is then followed by the terminal exchanges. But in order for the first turn to function as a preclosing, it is necessary that this first turn be positioned at “the analyzable ends” of a topic
(Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 305). In other words, it has to be preceded by a sequence in which
one partner offers to close down the topic and the other accepts.
The “archetype closing” (Button, 1987: 102) or canonical closing for Schegloff & Sacks
(1973) consists of four turns organized in two adjacency pairs. The first and second turns
(constituting the first adjacent pair) are realized with items such as “okay” and “all right,” terms
which indicate for both parties that no new topic will be introduced, while the next two turns
constituting the second adjacent pair or terminal exchanges often consist of an exchange of
“goodbye” (or its equivalent) from both parties.
FIGURE 2.5 “archetype closing” (Button, 1987: 102)
A: Well.
[turn 1: A offers to close (pre-closing)]
B: Okay.
[turn 2: B accepts (second close component)]
A: Goodbye. [turn 3: A takes the first terminal turn]
B: See you. [turn 4: B reciprocates]
While archetype closing or terminal exchanges account for the close ordering of the
sequence, what is really relevant is not so much that they are initiated next after some other turn,
but that as Schegloff & Sacks (1973: 300) stated, it is a “properly initiated closing section”. In
other words, terminal exchanges and pre-closings sequences cannot start before all the topics in a
given interaction, including the “unmentioned mentionables”, (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 303)
are dealt with.
Button (1987, 1989), who elaborated on Schegloff & Sacks (1974), states that there are
more possibilities in closings sequences, and that these range from lengthening the closing
section to actually “moving out” (Button, 1987:104) from the closing section into continuing the
conversation. Moving out sequences identified by Button (1987, 1989) include arrangements,
back-references, reasons-for-calls, and appreciations.
In addition, Goldberg (2004) has observed that intonation contributes to introducing a
closing sequence. She noted that there is an “amplitude shift mechanism” (Goldberg, 2004: 257)
in bringing a conversation to a close. According to the author, after the initiation of closing and
contrary to what might be expected, an increase in amplitude often occurs. Goldberg (2004)
argues that the place right after the closing initiation is ripe for “sequence suspension activities”
(Goldberg, 2004: 294).
By virtue of their structure, sequences are usually shorter than a whole conversation. A
sequence can be closed right after the second pair part of an adjacency pair, or can go beyond
those simple couple of turns. In the following section we will see how a sequence can be as short
as a couple of turns, or in some cases how it can be expanded.
2.2.1 Closing a sequence
In an adjacency pair, the utterance of a first pair part (FPP) makes systematically relevant
the occurrence of second pair part (SPP). This condition eliminates the possibility of a sequence
end after the FPP. However, if a sequence were to end after an FPP, then it would be indicative
of some sort of abruptness (e.g., of someone deliberately ignoring a question). Then again,
“ignoring” is an example of a sequence ending in an unrecognizable manner (Schegloff, 2007).
In this respect, a sequence, just like a turn or any other recognizable structured unit, ends with a
recognizable form of closure (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973). So with the production of the second
pair part, this constraint on sequence completion is met and the sequence is recognizably closed.
This is commonly the case with sequences that have no preference structure, such as greetings,
leave takings, etc. (Schegloff, 2007).
Parties involved in an interaction show that a sequence is closed by moving on to another
sequence and/or by opening a new topic. However, it can also happen that speakers will allow a
lapse of time at the end of one sequence and the beginning of a new one. This can happen while
both speakers are present in the same interactional space e.g., in a car. In those moments
speakers are in a “continuing state of incipient talk” (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 325). Those
moments of silence are not interpreted as “awkward moments” or as some kind of interactional
rule breach. In fact, at some point the lapse will end by speakers resuming the conversation with
a new topic without any need for greetings or any other explanation (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973).
2.2.2 Post expansion
Most of sequences go beyond the minimal length of an adjacency pair. Such expanded
sequences involve the addition of turns by the interlocutors. These expansions occur in three
possible places: before the FPP (Pre-expansion) between the FPP and the projected SPP (insert
expansion) and after the SPP (post expansion) (Schegloff, 2007).
FIGURE 2.6 from (Schegloff, 2007: 26)
A- First Pair Part
B- Second Pair Part
In this section we will mainly focus on the post-expansion and on some of the ways in
which parties in talk-interaction may expand a sequence before they close it. Let us first begin by
stating that in general, sequences with agreeing SPPs are closure-relevant while ones with
dispreferred SPPs are expansion-relevant (Schegloff, 2007). Among the closure-relevant
sequences we will look closely at minimal post-expansions.
Minimal post-expansion sequences have one additional turn after the SPP. By “minimal”
we should understand that the turn which is added is “designed not to project any further withinsequence talk beyond itself” (Schegloff, 2007:118). It is basically designed to close the sequence.
These sequences are labeled “sequence-closing thirds” (SCT) (Schegloff, 1998: 568; Schegloff,
2007: 118). They come in a variety of forms or combinations of them. The most common forms
in English are oh, okay, or assessment tokens.
2.2.3 Sequence closing thirds with “oh”
The main function of stand-alone marker oh is to mark or claim information receipt.
It is a “change-of-state token” (Heritage, 1984: 299) because it indicates that the prior utterance
was informative and that it has changed the recipient’s state “from non-knowing to nowknowing” (Heritage, 1984; Schegloff, 2007: 118). For the purpose of the current study, I will
mainly focus os the position of oh after the SPP, where the change-of-state token indicates the
end of the sequence as illustrated in the following example.
FIGURE 2.7 (Schegloff, 2007: 119)
Nan: FPP =.hhh Dz he av iz own apar:rt[mint?]
Hyl: SPP
[.hhhh] Yea:h,=
Nan: SCT=Oh:,
Nan: FPP How didju git iz number,
Here, we can see that the first turn functions as request for information. In line 2, Hyla
produces a second pair part while in line 3 Nancy closes the sequence with oh and opens a new
one in line 5.
2.2.4 Sequence closing thirds with “okay”
Okay and its variants such as alright are used to mark acceptance (Schegloff,
2007). Oh okay can also close down a sequence after a SPP as illustrated in the following
FIGURE 2.8 (Schegloff, 2007: 121)
Don: FPP Shall I pour it out?
Jon: SPP No I rih- I don’ want that much. Rea[lly.=
Don: SCT
[Oh okay.
I jus’wannid ‘l bit (
Don: SCT Okay.
Don offers Jon some kind beverage (line 1). Jon starts by refusing the offer with “no” but then he
specifies that he doesn’t want as much amount of the beverage as Jon was offering (lines 2 and
4). Don accepts Jon’s request with “oh okay” (line 3 and 5). After Jon provides an account for
the rejection of the offer (line 4), Don again receipts it with okay (this time in second position).
Okay can also close down a sequence after a dispreferred SPP as in the following example.
FIGURE 2.9 (Schegloff, 2007: 121)
1 Ali: FPP you wan’ me bring you anything?
3 Bet: SPP No: no: nothing.
4 Ali: SCT AW:kay.
Here the offer in line 1 is rejected in line 3 after a pause in line 2, which is characteristic of
dispreferred responses. Finally, in line 4 the dispreferred response is accepted.
2.2.5 Sequence closing thirds with assessments
Assessments in third position closings express what in Schegloff’s terms is a “stance taken up
toward what the SPP speaker has said or done in the prior turn” (Schegloff, 2007: 124).
FIGURE 2.10 (Schegloff, 2007: 124)
1 Bee: FPP hHowuh you:?
2 Ava SPP Oka:::y?hh=
3 Bee SCT =Good.=Yihs[ou:nd] hh
In this extract, Ava uses the assessment term “good” as a SCT (sequence closing third) and
rushes through to start a new sequence right after. Assessment terms can therefore be used as a
pretext to start a new sequence.
Antaki, Houtkoop-Steenstra, & Rapley (2000) have shown that high-grade assessments
such as brilliant, terrific, etc. in interview exchanges are not actually used to compliment or to
positively assess “the informational content of the previous turn” (Antaki et al., 2000: 236) but
rather that they “claim a closure on the previous material as having been, in the circumstances,
successfully completed as a section in a segmented whole” (Antaki et al., 2000: 236). The
authors argue that in interview settings, the general pattern of [answer receipt] + [“ok” or “right”]
+ [next question] is a very “schematic characterization” (Antaki et al., 2000: 238). This is
because according to the authors, it does not take into account the repetitions of question, the
confirmation of answers, or any other similar things occurring in this environment (Antaki et al.,
2000). Instead they have found that between an answer receipt and the beginning of the next
sequence, interviewers use a “high-grade assessment” (Antaki et al., 2000: 238). According to
the authors, the general sequence pattern would thus be: [answer receipt] + [“ok” or “right” etc]
+ [high-grade assessment] + [next item]. This is illustrated in the following example.
FIGURE 2.11 (Antaki et al., 2000: 240)
1 I
5 AR
6 I
8 AR
right Ok ‘en (..) (.hh) compared to yr- ev’ryone
else Arthur (.) (tsk)d you think (.) that you’re
>better o:ff< (.) about the same (.) or worse off
((throat noise)) I’m better off
yer better off ri:ght (.) jolly good(.)hhh
ah (are most?) of the things that yo:u do Arthur (.)
In this extract of an interview, I receipts AR’s answer (line 6) first with a repeat of AR’s
answer (line 5) and another receipt token “right”. The high-grade assessment “jolly good”
comes after a micro pause. This seems to show that the high-grade assessment doesn’t actually
address the answer given by AR in the previous turn the same way that the receipt token does. So
here, the high-grade assessment does not seem to be related to the informational content of the
interview (Antaki et al., 2000), but instead it is used to close this question answer sequence
before addressing the next sequence.
This next example is even more convincing, according to Antaki et al. (2000: 241).
FIGURE 2.12 (Antaki et al., 2000: 241)
.hhhh do y’ave a family (.)Jimmy
no:: (.) they don’t comes (..) they don’t see: me now:
they don’t never come and see: you=
= no:(..)
=(they) (2 syll) come: see:
righ:t (.) okay then (..) >brilliant<
(..) done the first [page:
[((pages shuffling))
done the (fir’) page (.) ye:s=
In this extract of an interview, JI complains about the fact that his family never comes to
see him. This is obviously a rather sad situation, to say the least, and not something to cheer
about. Thus, the interviewer‘s assessment “brilliant” (in line 7) obviously is not a response to JI’s
sad familial situation. If that had been the case, this assessment would have been interpreted as
insensitive and offensive (Antaki et al., 2000). In fact according to the authors, there is an
indication in the way the utterance is carried out that eliminates such interpretation. They argue
that the assessment is not related to the information given by JI but rather it “signals that
(whatever the informational content), that answer is now done and over, and it is time for next
business” (Antaki et al., 2000: 242).
In another study Antaki (2002) found that high grade assessments are used to achieve “a
return to closing” (Antaki, 2002: 11) after a closing sequence has been interrupted. But the
author also points out that not necessarily all interrupted sequences resume with high grade
assessments, but it seems that whenever they are found, they “preface a resumption of the close”
(Antaki, 2002: 11). For instance, in the following example Leslie uses a high grade assessment
after Ed’s turn in which he proposes future arrangements (Antaki, 2002).
FIGURE 2.13 (Antaki, 2002: 10)
Ed: [I think she’d like to.
Les: Hm:. hn- [Okay then. [Right
[So[(Yes) I [’ll see you onon Thursday at six thirty then.
Les: .t Lovely.
Ed: [(
) . ]
Les: [ Bah bye then, ]
Ed: Bye:,
In line 3, Leslie states what appears to be a first turn of a pre-closing, but Ed’s overlapped turn
(line 4) is not consistent with a closing sequence. Instead of orienting to Leslie’s pre-closing, Ed
initiates an arrangement sequence (line 5). As pointed out by the author, such arrangement turns
can lead to a closing immediately, or they can be extended letting the speakers move out of a
closing (Button, 1987). Hence in line 6, by producing the high grade assessment “Lovely” Leslie
chooses not to expand it. This seems to have prompted Ed to go back to the closing sequence
(line 7). Even though what is said in line 7 is unintelligible, Leslie and Ed’s terminal exchanges
(lines 8-9) seems to indicate that whatever was produced in line 7 was “consistent with
closedown” (Antaki, 2002: 11) The high grade assessment then prefaces “the resumption of the
closedown” (Antaki, 2002: 13).
2.2.6 Combination of sequence closing third tokens
Some sequence closing thirds tokens can be combined to form composites, with perhaps the
most common one being “oh” plus “okay”. In the following example, Karen uses an excuse as
something that is impeding her from accepting an invitation.
FIGURE 2.14 (Schegloff, 2007: 127)
1 Vic: FPP
Kar: Fins
Vic: Sins
10 Kar: SPP
11 Vic: SCT=
=I called um to see if you want to uh (0.4) c’mover
en watch, the Classics Theater.
Sandy’n Tom’n I,=
=She sto[ops t’Conquer?
[ ( )(0.4)
Mom js asked me t’watch it with her,h=
Oh. Okay,
After the invitation sequence (lines 1-2), there is a silence (line 3) followed by an
insertion sequence (5-8) and then more silences (line 7 and 9), all of which indicate that a
dispreferred answer is going to be produced (Pomerantz, 1984). And indeed, Karen clearly
rejects the invitation (line 10). Thus, in the following turn the use of “oh” marks the receipt of
the information given by Karen, while the “okay” marks that the refusal of the invitation was
accepted (Schegloff, 2007).
Closing a sequence with “anyway”
Park (2010) observed that sometimes talk can reach a point where it cannot continue any
further. This is usually due to the fact that interlocutors cannot establish understanding anymore,
or that there are other troubles impeding the talk from advancing. According to the author, in
such cases, rather than pursuing the talk in vain, participants use anyway to signify “the current
state of affairs as an impasse” (Park, 2010: 3285) and to signal “an abandonment of the search”
(Park, 2010: 3285) and shows the participants’ desire to start a new topic. The author has also
noticed that anyway is used by the person who initiated the unsuccessful talk. By stopping the
extension of the talk in such a way, the speaker shows his executive right to ending the failed
matter (Park, 2010). This is illustrated in the following example. Before this next extract, Hyla
and Nancy talked about a man who was supposed to write to Hyla but never did. They both
joked about how he is taking his time to write. Nancy then remarks that by the time the letter
arrives, Hyla will be married with kids. Her remark was said in overlap. The sequence begins
with some clarification turns (Park, 2010).
FIGURE 2.15 (Park, 2010: 3284)
In line 21, Nancy repeats what she presumably said earlier. Hyla receipts this information
minimally: with an ‘oh’ a change-of-state token (Heritage, 1984) followed by short laughter
(lines 22-23). In line 24, Nancy who was probably expecting a longer response from Hyla,
undermines her comments with “never mind”. By then, she must have realized that her
comments were not funny. The silence in the next line heightens even further this awkwardness
(line 24). This seems to force Nancy to acknowledge the inappropriateness of her remark (line
26). The laughter in her voice indicates that she is trying to take the tension out of the
atmosphere. In line 29, Hyla agrees with Nancy that the remark was not funny, thereby
condemning it. The subsequent silences (line 32 and 34) did not seem to make the atmosphere
less strained. Finally, Nancy gives up on this particular conversation with ‘anyway’ (line 35). In
line 40, Hyla starts a new topic. Hence the ‘anyway’ closed an “intentionally stalled sequence”
(Park, 2010: 3284).
In this section I reviewed some characteristics of closings in the English language. In the
following section we will see some features of French closings.
2.2.8 Closings in French
Mondada & Traverso (2005) studied the sequential organization of the closing of a topic
and of an activity in French. Mondada & Traverso (2005) argue that the closing of a topic and/or
of an activity follows similar procedures as was shown by Schegloff & Sacks (1973) for the
closing of conversations. Both studies (Mondada & Traverso, 2005; Mondada, 2006) looked at
the sequential organization of topics and activities endings in interactions occurring in the work
Mondada & Traverso (2005) analyzed the sequential environment in which all the
participants orient to closing an activity. The following extract is from a meeting in a psychiatry
facility, where a team of doctors is discussing the cases of their patients. (The original transcript
is in French; the word by word translations as well as the idiomatic translation are mine).
FIGURE 2.16 (Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 39-40)
DrD: bo[n
euh donc euh on a
go[od uh so
uh we have not
o[k uh so uh we’re not done
[that’s it\
entendre parler de monsieu:r (.) david
FIGURE 2.16 (cont.)
to of him
of miste:r
hearing about mister (.) david
DrL: °ah non°
°oh no°
DrD: °xx°
(.) david
DrD: alo:rs/(.) monsieur gauthier∖
(.) mister
INT: alors bon moi j’sais pas j’voudrais
well me I know not I would like
so well me personally I don’t know I would like
l’ équipe parce que m- m(oi)
interrogate the team because
m- m(e)
to question the team because
sur le plan euh (0.25) euh moteur/ je le trouve
on the plan uh (0.25) uh motor/ I him find
in terms uh (0.25)of his motor ability/ I find him
pas plus mal qu’
moi∖ même plutôt
not more bad than to the beginning me\ even rather
not worse than from how he was at the beginning
un petit peu mieux/
a little bit better/
I even think he’s a little bit better/
In line 2 Dr. Laurencin initiates a pre-closing with voilà, following a pause in the previous
turn (line 1) which indicates that none of the participants have anything more to add (Mondada &
Traverso, 2005)1. At the same time or in overlap with the previous closing initiation, Dr
Dumarsais initiates another kind of closing: a “common sense-related” expression (relevant du
sens commun) (My translation) (Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 40). According to Mondada &
Traverso (2005: 40) who cite (Schegloff & Sacks 1973), these kinds of idiomatic expressions
It is not clear from the data who was speaking before line 1. However, if DrL was speaking
before the pause (line 1) then the voilà in line 2 indicates that he does not have anything to add.
Thus with voilà, DrL is overtly handing back the floor. In other words, it does not necessarily
indicate that the other participants do not have anything to add, as the authors claim.
which “prompt[s] agreement from the participants” (visant à sucisiter l’accord des participants)
(Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 40) (my translation) are usually deployed in closing sections. Both
closing initiations are followed by tokens of agreement to closing by the other participants (line 5
and 6). These tokens (line 5 and 6) are produced in a lower voice and are rather short; this
indicates that the participants are orienting to closing. The rather long pause in line 7 validates
this orientation (Mondada & Traverso, 2005). In line 8, Dr. Dumarsais initiates the next case
concerning another patient, thereby indicating that the previous case is closed (Mondada &
Traverso, 2005: 40).
The sequential structure could thus be summed up as follows (my translation from
Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 40): “1. Projection of the upcoming closing of the activity. 2.
Alignment by the other participants with the proposed initiation of closing. 3. Introduction of the
next activity (i.e., the next case). 4. Alignment of the participants on this new shift of activity” 2.
However, the authors assert that all the participants don’t always orient toward the
closing. In such cases, the sequential organization is obviously different from the one described
above. For instance, the “misalignment” (désalignement) by participants toward the projected
closing can come “more or less prematurely” (plus ou moins précocement) (Mondada &
Traverso, 2005: 42). The sequential structure can thus be summed up as follows (my translation
from Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 44): “1. Projection of closing/accomplishment of pre-closing.
The French original reads as: “1. projection de la clôture imminente d’une phase, réalisée par
différentes ressources ; 2. alignement des autres participants sur la clôture ainsi initiée ; 3.
introduction de la phase suivante ; 4. alignement des participants sur cette nouvelle phase”
(Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 40).
2. misalignment of the projected/initiated closing. 3. Continuation/re-opening of previous
According to the authors, misalignment in closing a topic can occur at different
sequential moments. Depending on when this happens, participants can project more or less
sooner the upcoming misalignment. This is illustrated in the following figure.
FIGURE 2.17 from (Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 45)
According to the authors, if A and B are two separate activities/topics, then the numbers
1- 4 indicate “the different sequential positions” (Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 45) where a
participant can interrupt and halt the projected shift of topic. Hence, interference can occur as
early as position 1 or as late as position 4 or anywhere in between (Mondada & Traverso, 2005).
According to the authors, the positions where co-participants intervene could be the end of
TCUs, pauses, or TRPs.
Mondada & Traverso (2005: 44) have also noticed the use of different kind “opposition
markers” (marqueurs d’opposition) such as sauf que (except that) or alors que (whereas) used in
misalignment in closing a topic. The authors have also noticed some voice modifications when
the second speaker does not align with regard to closure of the sequence. It seems that such
misalignments are designed in such a way as to be in contrast to the previous turn. However, the
The French original reads as: “1. projection de la clôture imminente d’une phase, voire
accomplissement de la pré-clôture et passage à l’ouverture de la phase suivante ; 2.
désalignement par rapport à ce qui est projeté ou initié ; 3. continuation de la phase précédente,
voire réouverture” (Mondada & Traverso, 2005: 44).
authors clarify that when participants misalign, they don’t necessarily disagree with the
information provided but rather with the structure of the closing sequences.
In this next study, Doehler, De Stefani, & Horlacher (2011) looked at the role played by
left- and right-dislocated constructions in the closing of topics and sequences in French
interaction. (Doehler et al., 2011: 56) define a dislocated construction as “a sentence structure in
which a referential element (e.g., the waiter) is located to the left or to the right of a matrix clause
(he left)”. The authors specify that in English, the pronoun (e.g., he) is a free morpheme, whereas
in French the pronoun is a clitic. Their analyses showed a “complementary distribution” of these
two types of constructions (Doehler et al., 2011: 51). Specifically, there seems to be a preference
for a left-dislocated construction for closing a sequence in the same turn by the same speaker,
whereas a right-dislocated construction is mainly used by the next speaker in a next turn closing
(Doehler et al., 2011).
The following example illustrates the use of left-dislocated constructions (LDs).
FIGURE 2.18 (Doehler et al., 2011: 52)
JOS ((turn continued))y a quand-même un:e
there is still a:
responsabilité de lui apprendre des langues pour que:
responsibility to teach him languages
euh (.) qu' il puisse après se débrouiller l'élève (.)
that he can
then get through
the pupil
un peu partout.
a bit everywhere.
JOS (donc eh) (1.0) apprendre des langues à l'école
learn-INF DET languages at DET school
(so hum)
to learn languages at school
c'e::st quand-même ◦une chose◦ ◦◦ essentielle◦◦.
it is nevertheless a thing
that's still something essential
LIO mhm
FIGURE 2.18 (cont.)
GIS mais je pense que: .h c' est aussi u:n aux
but I
think that
it's also
a up to the
élèves de (◦◦) de se prendre a- un peu a:après
pupils to
to look
a- a little bit a- after
en charge,
In this extract, Joséphine talks about the responsibility of teaching students languages and
the use they can make out of it (1-4). Then she uses a LD to conclude her talk about this topic of
“teaching responsibility” which she qualifies as “essential” (lines 6-7). In this dislocated
construction, the referential element would be apprendre une langue à l’école / ‘to learn
languages at school’, and it is placed to the left of the matrix c’est quand même une chose
essentielle/ ‘That’s still something essential’. This is followed with an introduction of a new
topic by a new participant, who did not participate in the talk up until then (Doehler et al., 2011).
Indeed, Gisèle changes the topic as the authors put it from “school's responsibility in teaching
languages to students' responsibility in learning languages” (Doehler et al., 2011: 52)
The following example illustrates the use of RDs in the next turn by the next speaker.
FIGURE 2.19 (Doehler et al., 2011: 52-53)
mais c' est bien pour la prise de conscience [aussi
but it's
good for the awareness
(0. 4)
de 1' élève?
of the pupil?
(0. 4)
parce que ce qu'il ose dire chez moi il le dit pas
because what he dares say with me he doesn't say it
FIGURE 2.19 (cont.)
à la leçon d'italien.
during the italian lesson.
(0. 6)
10 LIO
right/that’s it.
12 LIO
((clicking noise of tape-recorder))
14 LIO
c'est- c'est- c'est intéressant en tout cas cette
it is- it is- it is interesting in all case this
it's- it's- it's interesting in any case that
[question there
[ ((clears his throat))
16 BRU
(0 .3)
18 LIO
et tout à fait actuelle. .h et
pis Sonia vous- (.) vous
and most
and then Sonia youyou
Diriez que vous êtes bilingue, ou plurilingue, ou :,
would say that you are bilingual or plurilingual or:,
In line 10, Lionel first acknowledges with voilà Bruno's previous lengthy turn (1-8)
which end in a falling intonation. Lionel then goes on to assess Bruno’s last turn in the form of a
RD (lines14-15). He then introduces a new sequence and selects the next speaker by calling her
by name (line 18) (Doehler et al., 2011).
This study showed that the initiation of closings can actually be achieved in the same
turn, even if sometimes the turns are lengthy. Doehler et al. (2011: 55) specify that usually LDs
indicate “the closure of narrative or argumentative sequences”. In addition, the findings reveal
that the majority of closing initiations were followed by new sequence initiations and not
necessarily by alignment or misalignment tokens (Doehler et al., 2011). According to the
authors, this is does not correspond to Schegloff ‘s (2007) description of closing sequences, but
again according to Doehler et al. (2011) this sequential property of the closings may have to do
with the special type of interaction they have looked at; that is, “multi-party conversational
interviews” (Doehler et al., 2011: 74).
The authors acknowledge that other studies (Button, 1987, 1989; Schegloff & Sacks,
1973; Schegloff, 2007, to name a few), have written in detail about the structures of closing
initiations as well as the structure of aborted closing, but according to Doehler et al. (2011) there
are not many studies of “the grammatical resources that are involved in such initiations”.
However, in an earlier study, De Stefani (2007) had already argued that not only do LDs function
as a “syntactic device” for closing down a topic or a conversational sequence, but in addition she
had found that such constructions are often “rhythmically structured” (De Stefani, 2007: 137),
which led her to claim that rhythm functions as an complementary device signaling an
impending closing initiation sequence.
Hence, Doehler et al. (2011) advance our understandings of closing initiations in general
but also of closing initiations in French in particular, as they provide the specific “linguistic
features” deployed to accomplish them (Doehler et al., 2011: 73). As a matter of fact, Doehler et
al. (2011: 73) point out that the use of dislocated constructions as closing initiators may be
specific in French “where dislocated constructions are frequent”. Finally, although LDs and RDs
constructions were not used in all closing initiations, there were enough occurrences to qualify
them, to use their term, as “striking” (Doehler et al., 2011:54).
By looking closely at the use and function of the French discourse marker voilà in
conversation closings, the current study will contribute to the existing literature on French
2.3 Word searches
The current study will look at how French speakers deploy voilà in their word search
activities. Therefore, in this section I will review prior studies on word searches.
Word searches have been studied extensively in conversations between native speakers
(Goodwin, 1983, 1987; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986; Hayashi, 2003; Lerner, 1991, 1996),
between native and non-native speakers (Brouwer, 2003; Park, 2007, Kurhila, 2006) and in the
talk of speakers with aphasia (Helasvuo, Laakso, & Sorjonen, 2004; Wilkinson, 2009). For the
purpose of this study, I will mainly focus on word searches with native speakers.
A word search is often indicated by a “display of trouble with the production of an item
in an ongoing turn at talk” (Brouwer, 2003: 535). One of the characteristics of a TCU is that it is
constructed in a way that permits recipients to know approximately when the TCU will end
(Sacks, et al., 1974; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986, Lerner, 1991). Because of this characteristic, it
becomes noticeable if a speaker self-interrupts a TCU in progress (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986).
Such disruptions may display a word search, which are often indicated by sound stretches,
hesitation markers (“u:hm”s’), repetitions of the last word before the actual word search, selfaddressed wh-questions such as “what's it called,” “what was his name again?”, pauses/gaps and
other non-verbal sounds (Goodwin, 1983; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986; Goodwin, 1987;
Hayashi, 2003; Schegloff, Jefferson & Sacks, 1977). These troubles indicate the “relevant
unavailability” (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986: 55) of the missing word. That is to say, the missing
words are specifically obstructing the talk from going forward (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986).
From a CA perspective, a word search is a kind of self-initiated repair sequence in that by
searching for the missing word, participants interrupt their talk in order to address a problem of
speaking (Schegloff et al., 1977). Such repairs can be self-initiated and self-completed, as in this
following example by Schegloff et al. (1977: 363).
Clacia: B't, a-another one theh wentuh school with me
wa:s a girl na:med uh, (0.7) ◦W't th' hell wz
er name. ◦Karen. Right. Karen.
In this example, we can see that Clacia is searching for a classmate’s name but can’t
remember it. The searches are indicated by the stretch on the words “wa:s”, “na:med” which is
then followed by the hesitation marker “uh” , then by quite a long pause. She then “asks herself”
the name of the person she’s searching for, which is indicated by the lower voice. Finally, when
she finds the name she first says it to herself, which she then approves to be the right one with
“right”, and finally says it aloud to the potential participants in the interaction.
A word search can also be self-initiated and other completed as is illustrated in this
following example taken from Lerner (1996: 261).
L: he said, the thing thet-thet-sad about the uhm black uhm
P: muslims,
L: muslims, he said is thet they don’t realize…
L’s first turn is designed as a “pseudo cleft construction” (Lerner, 1996: 262). According
to Wilkinson (2009), this type of construction projects the form of the upcoming word. This type
of design is usually used when the projected word is a reference to a person, an object or any
other form of entity. The author has also noticed that this type of construction “engenders a
word search” (Wilkinson, 2009: 206). As noted by Lerner (1996: 262) “many turn units that end
up containing word searches are designed in such a way that the search is placed near the end of
the unit, thereby proving a place for candidates which will concomitantly be terminal item
completions”. This is what we notice in this example. At the end of the TCU, L goes into a
search with “uhm”. In the next line, P completes L’s turn by providing the missing word with a
slightly rising intonation, which indicates that the proposed word is not presented as a sure
solution to the searched word. Thus, this construction seems to facilitate the entry by the other
speaker and provide the missing component (Lerner, 1996).
It is precisely the disruption in the progression of the talk that justifies the “conditional
entry by recipients” (Lerner, 1996: 261) to provide candidate solutions. Usually, under these
circumstances “only the searched-for next word” is provided by the recipients, as shown in the
previous example provided by Lerner (1996: 261).
However, when recipients provide a possible solution as soon as the search has begun
their suggestions usually function as “assertedly correct” and not as “try-marked” candidate
solutions, as illustrated in the following example from Lerner (1996: 262).
V: oh, it was funny we were up at Elsinore when they were having an
airplane, uh=
L: =contest
According to Lerner (1996: 262-263) the “early opportunistic completion” is used by the
recipient to create some sort of a “co-membership” rather than a “recipientship”.
The term word search is often referred as an “interactional practice” (Brouwer, 2003:
535) or as Goodwin & Goodwin (1986: 52) put it, it “is not simply a cognitive process” but
rather something that is displayed overtly by the speaker and something recipients can contribute
to resolve, if the conditions allow doing so (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986; Hayashi, 2003). The
following example taken from Goodwin & Goodwin (1986: 52) provides evidence for this
A: Her dress was,
B: Eye [let
[Uh Eyelet. (0.8) Embroidered eyelet
After A pauses in middle of a TCU, B provides the missing word. However, the
completion word is not necessarily always accepted by the first speaker, who ultimately can
decide if he accepts the suggestion as being the word he is looking for. In this case, in the next
turn A does not even “acknowledge” (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986: 52) B’s offer of a solution,
instead A goes on to produce the same solution “eyelet” and after a pause, he even self-corrects
as he describes what kind of “eyelet” it is. A was not just repeating what B said in the previous
line, but was actually claiming an epistemic authority of the subject matter, and this is confirmed
by the fact that A provides additional description (i.e., embroidered). According to Goodwin &
Goodwin (1986) examples such as this one, where the solution of the word search was ultimately
solved by the first speaker, may be illustrative of Schegloff et al’s (1977) argument of the
preference for self-repair over other repair.
Sometimes, though, help from others can be quite welcome, as is shown in this following
FIGURE 2.24 (Goodwin 1986: 53)
A: °What was th’name’v the//place tch!
B: Ho: yeaum.
A: I can’t thi//nk.
04 B: Sir: uh no.
05 A: I know it w//as06 B: Steak’n a:le.
08 A: Yeah r:right.
09 B: In Mount Pleasant.
10 A: r:Right. (0.2) I know it wz someplace out on Fifty One.
12 =But anyway thet he had a rilly good article on that.
In this example, A indicates that he is having difficulties remembering the name of a
given place (line 1). While this may be a way for the speaker to prompt himself to remember, it
can also solicit the recipient’s help, although typically this is the case when the speaker’s gaze is
directed toward the recipient (there will be more on the topic of gaze in the next section). In line
6, B provides a candidate solution, the correctness of which A explicitly acknowledges. In fact
“right” in both lines 8 and 10 does more than “acknowledging”, it shows A’s epistemic authority
over the subject matter. It was A’s telling to begin with, so only A can decide what is right and
wrong. This fact establishes her as the party who provided the outcome of the search. Thus
according to Goodwin & Goodwin (1986: 53), participants’ level or amount of contribution in
word searches is not something that is decided in advance, but it is rather something negotiated
“within the activity itself”.
2.3.1 Gaze in word searches
One of the specificities of a word search is that participants in talk in-interaction put on
hold prior actions to address the disruption caused by the searched word. This modification may
in turn affect recipients’ participation. In other words, they may be solicited to intervene and
contribute to the solution of the searched word (Goodwin, 1983; Goodwin, 1987; Goodwin &
Godwin, 1986; Hayashi, 2003). During a word search, speakers often gaze away from their
recipients. But that does not mean that every time speakers gaze away, they are involved in a
word search. Thus, the question is how participants recognize a gaze away as an indication of a
word search (Goodwin, 1983; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986; Streeck, 1995). According to
Goodwin & Goodwin (1986: 57), those gaze withdrawals that “occur near perturbations in the
talk” display a word search. In addition, speakers typically display a “thinking face” (Goodwin,
1983; Goodwin, 1987; Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986) as they withdraw their gaze. In addition,
close examination of video recordings show that typically, recipients gaze toward the speaker
(Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986).
Recipients do not usually continuously gaze toward speakers throughout an interaction.
Or, to put it in Goodwin’s (1996: 54) words, a gaze is not “simply an accidental type of
alignment but something participants systematically work to achieve”. In other words, the fact
that recipients go from not gazing to gazing toward the speaker indicates that recipients orient
toward something that may need their assistance. Even though as Goodwin & Godwin (1986: 54)
indicated gazing toward the speaker is not the hallmark of word search activity, it is in general
what recipients do “during a face to face interaction” to display “hearership”: It shows recipients’
attentiveness to the talk, even if their help is not needed. However, gaze during a word search is
an indication of a “heightened attention” during which recipients’ intervention may be needed
(Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986: 54). Most importantly if the speaker is gazing toward the recipient,
the speaker is clearly and specifically soliciting help.
During the talk, especially right before the word search, recipients can see from what the
speaker has already produced just about enough of a “phenomenon” (Goodwin & Goodwin,
1986: 56) to allow them to evaluate and provide the appropriate possible solution. The provided
solution may of course not necessarily be the sought-after word (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986).
According to Goodwin & Goodwin (1986: 64), word searches are marked by different
stages. These stages range from a “solitary activity” (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986: 64) in which
speakers try to look for the searched word without any help from recipients, to a stage where
they explicitly solicit recipients’ help, to another “solitary activity” stage (if the speaker is not
satisfied with the suggested outcome), before they go to the last stage where they offer a possible
solution, which they are not quite sure is the sought-after word. All of these stages are
accompanied by several visual and gestural features, all of which show participants the level of
help sought from them. This all implies that throughout the word search, recipients attend
carefully to the signals sent by speakers.
Seen in this way, a word search is a multi-stage social activity in which each stage of the
search “makes relevant a particular form of co participation by the recipients” (Hayashi, 2003:
115). As noted by Hayashi (2003), even a solitary word search activity is a visible signal that
communicates to the recipient that the speaker does not need help as of yet. However, according
to the author a solitary word search activity also asks recipients to keep orientating to the talk
while speakers are occupied looking for the searched word.
In any case, visual features help the search in more than one way. First, they reveal the
word search as a “discrete activity” (Goodwin & Goodwin 1986: 60). Additionally, they unite
different sorts of expressions (e.g., word stretches, hesitation makers, self-addressed questions)
to form one “intrinsic and congruent parts of a single activity” (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986: 60).
Thus, in a word search, both the “vocal and the visual” function interdependently as a “mutual
contextualization of language and the body” (Hayashi, 2003: 120).
2.3.2 Gestures in word searches
In word searches, both speakers and recipients orient to gestures, especially hand
gestures, as they “shift their attention to them” (Streeck, 1995: 99). There can be a succession of
gestures within a single word search, but these do not all occur at the same “spatial location” and
they do not communicate the same things; there are gestures which invite the recipient’s help,
and there are other gestures that do not solicit any help. Hence, gestures are created locally and
as needed by participants; in other words, they are anything but “idiosyncratic”, (Streeck, 1995).
Gestures, especially “iconic gestures” can hardly be separated from word search activities
(Goodwin, 1983, Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986, Streeck, 1995); they usually function as
“projection” of the lexical item to come (Schegloff, 1984a: 276; Streeck, 1995: 100). As
Schegloff (1984a) argues, pre-positioned gestures show that the lexical affiliate involved is “‘in
play’ - is in the ‘projection space’” (Schegloff, 1984a: 278). According to the author, these prepositioned gestures give us an approximate extension of the projection space: they can measure
back “from the production of the lexical affiliate” to the beginning of the “depicting gesture”
(Schegloff, 1984a: 278).
The following example taken from Streeck (1995: 100) illustrates the projection of a
word to come, as two Japanese women discuss car accidents which they both witnessed.
. h nichiyoobi data shi ne(---) kuruma suiteta shi h
but, well, it was a Sunday and,you know,the car was empty and .h
supin shite
it spun around
According to Streeck (1995), Figure 2.26 depicts the gesture made by the speaker (a
circular motion with her fingers) which she attends to and looks at, before she utters the verb
supin. Then she looks up toward the recipients after she utters the verb (figure 2.27). This
example shows that gesture and speech can “share a semantic profile” (Streeck, 1995: 100), the
gesture however projects the profile before the speech is produced.
FIGURE 2.26 (Streeck, 1995: 100)
FIGURE 2.27 (Streeck, 1995: 101)
The following example, taken from the same conversation, is one in which the gesture
and speech don’t quite share the same semantic profile.
FIGURE 2.28 from (Streeck, 1995: 101)
watashi no hoo no seki ga ano hora
the seat on my side, you know, look
aru ja na
(-------------------) are
(------------------) there
(----) gaadoreru
was a guardrail
The word gaadoreru (guardrail) refers to the object (i.e., a rail) as well as the function of this
object (i.e., guard) (Streeck, 1995: 101). However, according to Streeck (1995: 101) the gestures
depicted in figure 2.29 and 2.30 describe only “a part of the object- the pole”.
FIGURE 2.29 from (Streeck, 1995: 102)
FIGURE 2.30 from (Streeck, 1995: 102)
We can thus notice a difference in the representation of the same object both with words
and with gestures. To use Streeck’s (1995: 101) words, while the depiction of the gesture is not a
“salient semantic component of the lexical unit”, it is however relevant in the story telling of the
car accident because only the pole was involved in the accident (Streeck, 1995).
Since they are depicted before their affiliate words, iconic gestures can give “recipients
opportunities for anticipatory understanding” (Streeck, 1995: 102). This is because even if the
gestures are inspired by speakers’ interpretation of the depicted object, they are equally
stimulated by the precise context and the need in which the gestures are depicted (Streeck, 1995).
Streeck (1995) remarks that both speakers and recipients attend to the depiction of
gestures, if they are with the recipients’ field of vision and if they do not involve the actual
touching of the face; according to Goodwin & Goodwin (1986) and Streeck (1995), in such cases
recipients usually avert their gaze. Otherwise, the gestures become for a brief moment the
“primary medium of communication (Streeck, 1995: 103).
2.3.3 Word searches in Japanese
Hayashi (2003) has demonstrated that in Japanese, just as in English, participants orient
to the gazes and gestures displayed during a word search; his study thus confirms the
“generalizability” (Hayashi, 2003: 111) of word searches.
However, Hayashi has shown in addition that unlike English speakers, during word
searches Japanese speakers use the “distal demonstrative pronouns” are (that one) / asoko (that
place) (Hayashi, 2003: 112, Hayashi &Yoon, 2006: 486) as “place-holders” for the searched
word. Place holders can also be deployed in other languages. For example, in American English,
if someone is looking for a name, the use of “whatchamacallit” in the word search functions as a
place holder.
Hayashi (2003) draws a parallel between such a use of demonstrative pronouns and a
“prospective indexical” (Goodwin, 1996: 384 cited in Hayashi, 1996: 121), or the pointing out of
the field to which the sought-after word belongs. The author argues that the use of these
pronouns specifies the areas or fields in which the word being searched for could fit. According
to the author, this use supplies recipients the means to get involved and pay more attention “in
the process of discovering” the word being searched for (Hayashi, 2003: 126).
Finally, Hayashi (2003) indicates there is some evidence that Korean and Mandarin
Chinese speakers use demonstratives in similar ways as Japanese speakers do. In a later study,
Hayashi and Yoon (2006) showed that demonstratives are used in a similar fashion in five other
languages: Russian, Ilocano, Indonesian, Romani, and Maliseet-Passmaquoddy.
2.3.4 Concluding remarks
As I have noted earlier, there have been numerous studies of word searches, and
rightfully so, between non-native and native speakers (mainly native speakers of English).
Several studies have also been conducted in the talk of aphasics. However, most of the studies
among native speakers no matter how extensive are mostly done in English language talk. Very
few studies on native talk beside English have been conducted.
By definition studies between non-native and native speakers cannot be used to show the
words search deployments in the native languages of the non-native speakers. And usually word
searches in non-native speakers are seen as indications of frustrations or lack of vocabulary
(Brouwer, 2003; Park, 2007). The same observation can be applied in the studies of aphasia talk.
Aphasic talk displays usually communicative problems. Therefore, it typically assumed that
word searches deployments in aphasia patients indicate that the searched word is not available
anymore (in their talk).
Most of these studies have used mainly the findings in English language (namely
Goodwin’s works) word searches to conduct their studies. For instance, Helasvuo et al.( 2004)
did not study the word search mechanism in non-aphasic Finnish speakers before they conducted
their research of Finnish speakers of aphasia. The study of non-aphasic word search deployment
would have allowed, regardless of their communicative problems, to see if some word search
mechanism specific to Finnish language are still available to aphasics. Likewise, none of the
studies between non-native and native speakers of English, have looked if there are some
specific features of word searches indications to a specific culture or language observed in the
talk between non-native and native speakers of English
This is not to claim that previous findings in English word searches cannot be used in
other languages, As matter of fact , Hayashi (2003) has confirmed that most of word searches
identifies by Goodwin ( e.g., gaze, gestures, stretch) are also found in Japanese word searches
displays. The same findings would probably be found on other languages native speakers
researches on word searches. But most importantly, researches in other languages native talk,
would allow identifying additional word search mechanism specific to a given language (e.g.,
Hayashi, 2003).
I believe more studies on native talk word searches are in need. The more we know about
word searches in other languages the more we can confirm not only the universality of previous
findings but also identify specific deployments of search in specific cultures and languages.
2.4 Review of voilà
In this section, I will review the prior literature on voilà and voici. I start out with some
difference between voici and voilà. I will then present some of the definitions of voilà as
proposed in some major French dictionaries before I review the different research done from
pragmatic, morphosyntactic and semantic perspectives. Depending on the approach used, we will
see that voilà can be a verb, a preposition, a presentative or a discourse marker. The reviews will
also show however that reviewing voilà is quite challenging; it seems that voilà cannot entirely
satisfy the requirements of any of the (grammatical) categories identified.
2.4.1 The difference between voici and voilà
Etymologically, voici and voilà are the imperative forms of the verb voir/ ‘to see’
combined with the adverbs ci/ ‘here’ or là/ ‘there’ which yielded the forms voici or voilà (Bergen
& Plauché, 2001). Up until the 14th century, the imperative and the adverb were used separately.
But in modern French, the imperative has become an invariable word and is combined with the
adverb to form the single words voilà and voici (Bergen & Plauché, 2001).
Traditionally the adverbs là and ci are used respectively to indicate distance and
proximity, as in the following examples (Bergen & Plauché, 2001: 46):
(a) Tu parles de ce type-là?
(a) Are you talking about that guy there?
(b) Non, de ce type-ci!
(b) No, about this guy here!
Delahaie (2009a) explains that voici is used to introduce a new referent whereas voilà
refers to an already known referent. Thus, a sentence like voici le facteur/ ‘here comes the
postman’ is different than voilà le facteur/ ‘here is the postman’, in the sense that the former
introduces new information to the interlocutor whereas the latter “implies that the coming of the
postman was expected” (est impliquée l’idée que le facteur est attendu) (my translation) and
viewed as a part of “stereotypical events” événement stéréotypiques (my translation) (Delahaie,
2009a: 6). The event could be: Il est neuf heures, j’attends mon courrier, voilà le facteur/ ‘It’s
nine o’clock, I’m waiting for the mail, here’s the postman’ (my translation) (Delahaie, 2009a: 6).
The idea of voici introducing a new event (rheme) and voilà referring back to the already known
(theme) is also stated by Adamczewski (Adamczewski, 1991). This opposition still holds in
formal speech (e.g., in the evening news (journal télévisé) and in written discourse).
But in general, in modern French these two forms are mostly interchangeable and they
don’t usually have significant semantic difference. However, voilà is used more frequently than
voici, especially by younger speakers (Bergen & Plauché, 2001). Hug’s (1995) analysis implies
that in some cases the opposition of voici and voilà is neutralized. The use of voici is more and
more limited to the point that its usage might be lost (Grenoble & Riley, 1996). This is also
confirmed in Porhiel’s (2012) study, who found that in a total of 1291 occurrences of
voici/voilà4, there were 1049 (81%) voilà, and only 242 (19%) voici. According to her, in some
idiolects voici has completely disappeared and has been replaced by voilà (Porhiel, 2012).
2.4.2 Definitions of voilà in dictionaries
Grammarians have always found it difficult to classify voilà, so much so that the
classified categories don’t even show all the meaning of the word (Porhiel, 2012). Thus, Le Petit
Robert (Robert, Rey-Debove, & Rey, 2007: 2730) identifies voilà as preposition/ ‘preposition’
with une valeur de verbe/ ‘verb-like value’, and says that is used to present a person or a thing.
For the corpus, Porhiel (2012) used the comic strips Tintin by Hergé. 22 books in total.
As for Le grand Larousse de la langue française (GLLF 1978, vol. 7 cited in Porhiel, 2012), this
dictionary defines voilà as an adverbe de phrase/ ‘sentence adverb’ (i.e., they have neither a verb
nor a subject for support but the whole sentence (GLLF 1978, vol. 1: 69 cited in Porhiel, 2012).
On the other hand, Grevisse (2007) the prescriptive dictionary on “the good usage” (Le
Bon Usage) of the French language, classifies voilà in the chapter entitled l’introducteur/ ‘the
introductory’. There, the term is defined as follows: Nous appelons introducteur un mot
invariable qui sert à introduire un mot, un syntagme, une phrase/ ‘Introductors are invariable
words used to introduce a word, a phrase, a sentence’ (my translation) (Grevisse, 2007: 1403).
2.4.3 Functional definition of voilà
Grevisse (2007) points out that this notion of introducteur covers in part the class of
presentative. In fact, nowadays voilà is most commonly classified as a presentative (Chevalier,
1969; Moignet, 1969; Porhiel, 2012). Presentatives are usually defined as serving to designate
something or someone. Under this label, grammarians usually also put c’est/ ‘it is’ and il y a/
‘there is’ (Chevalier, 1969; Grevisse, 2007; Léard, 1992; Porhiel, 2012). In contrast to c’est and
il y a, voilà is said to be a deictic presentative, as opposed to an existential presentative which is
the function of il y a and as opposed to an identification presentative which is the function of
c’est (Feuillet, 1986: 116 cited in Porhiel, 2012). Research has shown that voilà does not always
function as a presentative; thus when it is not a presentative, it can function as a preposition or a
discourse marker (Porhiel, 2012).
2.4.4 Voilà: a preposition and an adverb
When voilà functions as a preposition it is “followed by an expression of duration (not a
point in time)” (Porhiel, 2012: 436) as shown in the following examples: Elle est née voilà deux
ans/ ‘she was born two years ago’; voilà deux ans qu’elle est née/ ‘It has been two years since
she was born’. Voilà in this case can be replaced with the preposition depuis/ ‘since’. However,
Moignet (1969: 193) claims that the interchangeability of voilà with depuis does not always
work, and that it is limited to a specific verbal tense and aspect. For instance, according to
Moignet (1969: 193) depuis cannot be exchanged with voilà as shown in the following sentence:
One can say Il travaille depuis huit jours/ ‘He’s been working for eight days’ but not *Il travaille
voilà huit jours. Moreover, while we can say: il est parti ne voilà pas huit jours5, such negation
would not be possible with depuis: * il est parti ne depuis pas huit jours. Thus, for Moignet
(1969), voilà can at best, have prepositional use (emploi prépositionnel)(Moignet, 1969: 192) in
discourse, but that may not be enough to qualify it as a preposition. In addition, voilà doesn’t
even satisfy the basic definition of a preposition which, according to Moignet (1969: 192), is un
mot établissant une relation entre deux éléments d’un énoncé/ ‘a word linking two elements of
an utterance’ (my translation). For Moignet (1969) il est parti voilà huit jours is simply the
juxtaposition of two utterances: il est parti and voilà huit jours. Moignet (1969: 194) rejects also
the label of ‘adverb’ because, according to the author, even if the adverbs -là and -ci “contribute
to the semanticity” (participent à la sémantèse) of voilà, that doesn’t make voici and voilà
adverbs since -ci and -là are part of the words they form. In other words, -ci and -là are not
ne…pas in French is placed around the conjugated verb to negate a sentence. However in this
case, what is negated is not voilà but rather the “temporal indication” (indication temporelle
numérique) (Moignet, 1969: 200) which implies une durée positive numériquement inferieure
“an inferior duration”, i.e. less than eight days, and which is often used to express a surprise or
added to an already identified verb or adjective as in facile (adj.) + ment (adv.) to form the
adverb facilement (Moignet, 1969).
2.4.5 Voilà a verb? A morphosyntactic approach
Indeed, for Moignet (1969) voilà is not exactly either a preposition or an adverb
for the reasons given above. Furthermore, he claims that a presentative is not quite a
grammatical category (Moignet, 1969: 195). He observes however that voilà shares several
syntactic similarities with a verb, and therefore suggests that it should indeed be considered as a
verb in modern French. The author argues that just like a verb, voilà can be used by itself to form
a sentence: voilà! It can be followed by a substantive which designate a person or a thing: “Voilà
Pierre”, “Voilà la difficulté” (Moignet, 1969: 190). It can be preceded by a personal pronoun: me
voilà/ ‘here I am’, les voilà/ ‘there they are’ (Moignet, 1969: 190). It can be followed by another
verb which functions like a substantive: voilà bien instruire une affaire!/ ‘that’s the way to
properly conduct an inquiry!’ (my translation) (Racine, Plaideurs, III, III cited Moignet, 1969:
190). It can be followed by an adverb: voilà évidemment le meilleur moyen/ ‘that is obviously the
best solution’ (my translation) (Moignet, 1969: 191). Voilà can also be negated as we have seen
earlier, and it can even be used in interrogatives. The interrogation is in particular used to express
a “positive exclamation” (une exclamation positive) (Moignet, 1969: 192) as in the following
example: Voilà -t-il pas Monsieur qui ricane déjà!/ ‘Wouldn’t you know it/who would believe it,
but there’s Monsieur sniggering already!’ (my translation) (Molière, Tartuffe, I, 1 cited in
Moignet, 1969: 192).
Hence, voilà has the “syntactical behavior” (comportement syntactique) (Moignet, 1969:
195) of any other regular/irregular French verb. But for Moignet it is mostly voilà’s predicative
function that justifies its categorization as a verb. Having said that voilà does not possess the
morphological inflections of a verb. Moignet (1969) (who recognizes this oddness) likens voilà
to a defective verb with only one form; that is to say, an impersonal verb. This analysis is
adopted by most linguists and some of them qualify his analysis as “obvious” (évidente) (Hug,
1995: 133). As we saw earlier, the dictionary Le petit Robert for instance acknowledges the
verbal value of voilà even if the dictionary classifies it as a preposition (Hug, 1995). But for
Moignet (1969), it is important to point out that voilà is not voir (the verb to see). Indeed, unlike
other researchers, mainly Léard (1992), who relate voilà to the verb voir, Moignet (1969: 201)
thinks that the historical relation with the verb to see “obscures the problem” rather than clarifies
it. In other words, for Moignet (1969) voilà is not an “invitation to look” (invitation à regarder)
(Moignet, 1969: 201), because if it were the case, one could say: voilà une belle symphonie!/
‘look (here) a beautiful symphony!’6(my translation) (Moignet, 1969: 201). It is rather the
expression of one aspect of voilà which is an “existential verb” (verbe d’existence). The phrase
that could semantically translate voilà best would be: il y a ici/là / ‘there is here/there’. And this
is what voilà has in common with il y a (as we have seen earlier, il y a is another word which has
been classified as a presentative).
Hug (1995) who also adheres to Moignet’s (1969) analysis of voilà, points out however
one syntactical aspect that he believes Moignet hasn’t addressed properly. For Hug (1995) the
main problem with voilà is that unlike any other verb, it does not have a subject! Morin (1985)
agrees also that the behavior of voilà is reminiscent of a verb, especially of a present indicative
verb. He mentions nonetheless that voilà is a “defective” verb and a “subcategory of subjectless
verbs” (Morin, 1985: 817). For (Bergen & Plauche, 2001, 2005) voilà has similarities with the
A more appropriate translation would be ‘That’s some symphony!’ (my translation).
syntax of indicative and declarative sentences as well as the semantic of an imperative sentence,
with this being mainly due to its functions of “pointing out” (Bergen & Plauche, 2001: 49).
However, Hug (1995) proposes an analysis that could account for the absence of a
subject in voilà. According to Hug, voilà links on one hand le groupe syntaxiquement dependent
de voilà/ ‘the group syntactically dependent upon voilà’ (my translation) and on the other hand le
segment de contexte auquel on renvoie/ ‘the context to which voilà refers to’ (my translation)
(Hug, 1995: 136). Hug specifically argues that ce contexte remplit semantiquement cette place de
sujet/ ‘this context fills the semantic place of a subject’ (my translation), much like a zero
anaphora (anaphore zéro) (Hug, 1995: 136). Thus, for Hug (1995) the semantic occupies the
place of the subject. For instance someone says: voilà le directeur/ ‘here is the director’, the
subject is the person pointed out by the same person who uttered the sentence. Unfortunately, no
matter how appealing this analysis may be, even Hug (1995) recognizes that his theory does not
apply to all uses of voilà, and furthermore hopes that maybe one of his readers of his findings
would eventually contribute to solving this whole problem (Hug, 1995:140). I should mention
however, that interestingly enough, the subject (impersonal subject il ‘it’) does actually appear in
the interrogative form (cf. the voilà-t-il pas Monsieur qui ricane déjà! example cited earlier;
Moignet, 1969).
2.4.6 Voilà as presentative: Pragmatic approach
Porhiel (2012), who acknowledges the challenges involved in classifying voilà in the
traditional grammar, takes into account (Porhiel, 2012: 441) other criteria including
morphosyntactic, enunciative and textual (discursive) perspectives to analyze voilà using a
pragmatic approach. She identifies in total five components:
(1) “Voilà introduces a referent and attests its existence” (Porhiel, 2012: 442).
In this first category, Porhiel (2012: 442) argues that by definition for a referent to be introduced
it must first and foremost exist. It is this unique condition that allows us to say for instance Ah!
voilà un sceau/ ‘Ah! here is a bucket’ unless there is one around. And again, by definition such
declarative sentences cannot be negated either: *Ne voilà pas un sceau. According to the author
it is this default setting and believed-to-exist condition (Porhiel, 2012: 443) that separates the
presentative voilà from the preposition or from the discourse maker voilà, as either of them can
introduce a referent (Porhiel, 2012: 443).
(2) “Voilà can have a textual function or a non-textual function” (Porhiel, 2012: 443).
In its extra-linguistic (non-textual) function, voilà can point out somebody or something either
physically present or not (Porhiel, 2012: 449), and thus has a deitic value (Feuillet, 1986: 116
cited in Porhiel, 2012: 443). And in its textual function, it refers to “portions of a text” (Porhiel,
2012: 443) the referent is not physically present (Porhiel, 2012: 449) and “it has a phoric
function (anaphor and cataphor)” (Porhiel, 2012: 443). These two functions distinguish two sorts
of views: “a physical (perception) and a discourse/textual level” (Porhiel, 2012: 443).
(3) “Voilà can introduce a discrete or a non-discrete referent” (Porhiel, 2012: 444).
In this criterion Porhiel (2012: 445) differentiates two kinds of views: The referents are either
“perceptible and discrete units and can be spatially located” or they are “non-perceptible and
non-discrete units and cannot be spatially located”. For example, nouns such as ‘desk’, ‘paper’,
and ‘bicycle’ can be examples of discreet referents, whereas nouns such as ‘wind’, ‘sport’,
‘idealism’ etc. convey the idea of non-discreet referents (Porhiel, 2012). However, the author
explains in some cases only “the context and situation” can indicate if it is referring to discrete or
a non-discrete referent (Porhiel, 2012: 445). For example, réponse/ ‘signal’ is classified as a non-
discrete unit in: Ah! Voilà la réponse de la compagnie/ ‘Ah! Here’s the signal of the company’
(Porhiel, 2012: 445), whereas in this following example it is classified as a discrete unit: Et dès
que tu auras reçu la réponse, viens me la porter. Je retourne sur la passerelle. OK, capitaine. (. .
.) Voilà la réponse/ ‘A soon as you get a reply to that, bring it to me on the bridge. OK skipper’ (.
. .) ‘Signal, captain’” (Porhiel, 2012: 445). However “on a textual level the referents introduced
by voilà are always non-discrete” as in this following example (Porhiel, 2012: 444): Et voilà
toute mon histoire, monsieur Rastapopoulos/ ‘So there you are, Mr. Rastapopoulos. That’s my
(4) “Voilà introduces a referent that is linguistically or non-linguistically expressed”
(Porhiel, 2012: 445).
Typically a sentence using voilà as a presentative is formed as follows: “the form presentative +
noun: voici votre manteaux/ ‘here is your coat’ (Porhiel, 2012: 445). However, according to the
author, if such construction is not found this does not mean the voilà does not function as a
presentative. She goes on to state that pragmatically such a view does not hold. For instance, if in
a restaurant at the end of the meal the customer offers money and utters “voilà”, this necessarily
implies that the customer gave or presented money to the waiter (Porhiel, 2012). Hence
according to Porhiel’s (2012: 447) analysis “the referent is situationally and physically present”
but is not “expressed linguistically” hence such situation could exemplify an “anaphoric wordsentence” (Tesnière, 1992: 96 cited in Porhiel, 2012).
On the other hand, and from a discursive point of view, using voilà introduces the text to
come (Porhiel, 2012) and so voilà functions cataphorically since it “creates an expectation” for
what is to come. According to the author, this is indicated by the “tell me more” sort of question
(Porhiel, 2012: 447) as in the following example from (Porhiel 2012: 447). The potential
explanation prefaced by Eh bien, voilà seems to be prompted by Tintin’s question in the previous
Tintin: Et maintenant, capitaine, expliquez-moi comment vous êtes arrivés ici.
Haddock: Ah! oui… Eh bien, voilà…
Tintin: “Now, Captain, tell me how you came to be here.
Haddock: Oh, yes… Right. . . Well…”
(5) “Voici/Voilà can present or represent” (Porhiel, 2012: 447).
According to Porhiel (2012) this last criterion concerns only a non-textual view; that is, when the
referent is physically present. It involves not only the utterances but also who they are addressed
to (themselves or somebody else). In the case of these data, which consist of Tintin’s comic strip
books, some of the utterances are related to what is shown in the images (Porhiel, 2012).
According to the author, in the following example the utterance is directed at the reader of the
book (Porhiel, 2012: 447):
Tintin descend l’escalier
Tintin gets down the stairs
Homme: Le voilà. . . Attention!. . .
Man: ‘Steady!. . . Here he comes’!
2.4.7 Voilà from an integrated viewpoint
Léard (1992) argues that voilà cannot be classified into only one grammatical category.
Moreover the classification of voilà into a single category brings out its defective aspect, in other
words it points out the different constructions that would specifically impede it from being
entirely accepted in that category (Léard, 1992). For instance, earlier we have seen that by virtue
of its syntactic properties, voilà is considered to be a verb or to have verb-like behavior.
However, it was labeled a defective (Hug, 1995; Moignet, 1969; Morin, 1985) verb due to the
absence of morphological variations and a subject.
According to Léard (1992) voilà cannot be just a verb, a preposition, or a discourse
marker, but rather each of these classifications depends on the structure and situation in which
voilà occurs. Indeed, for Léard (1992) each voilà-containing construction has a specific syntactic
structure which is then related to a specific semantic meaning. In his analysis, the author made
use of different linguistic approaches, which for him “are too often isolated” (trop souvent isolés)
(Léard, 1992: 155). His analysis of voilà especially shows the direct link between syntax and
semantics. For instance, the structure voilà + noun phrase (NP) as in voilà ton livre/ ‘here’s your
book’ has a spatial value (Léard, 1992:116). Some constructions could however be ambiguous
(Léard, 1992: 115). For instance, the sentence Voilà Marie can have two different meanings. The
first meaning implies that the person uttering these words is introducing Marie to a third party, so
this point of view has a “deitic and spatial value” (Léard, 1992: 116), whereas for the second
meaning the person saying these words is only stating a fact, so this has an spectual value7
(Léard, 1992).
2.4.8 Semantic perspective
Bergen & Plauché (2001, 2005) also reject the classification of voilà into only one
category. In fact Bergen & Plauché (2005: 4) go as far as to claim that voilà cannot be
categorized in “any existing grammatical class” because “voilà displays both non-prototypical
behavior in terms of traditional grammatical categories and a sufficiently wide range of semantic
As in Voilà Marie, qui se plaint de nouveau! / ‘Here is/there’s Marie complaining again!’
and pragmatic "senses" to defy a monotonic classification of its meaning” (Bergen & Plauché,
2001: 47).
They identify voilà first and foremost as a “deictic demonstrative” (Bergen & Plauché,
2005:1). Furthermore, the authors adopt the concept of “radial categories” as theorized by
Lakoff (1987). Radial categories are defined as “polysemy networks where connections between
senses are created through metonymy, metaphor, and other cognitive processes” (Bergen &
Plauché, 2001: 53). The central sense of voilà can be analyzed through what Lakoff (1987) calls
an “Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)” that involves “Pointing Out’’(Bergen & Plauché, 2001:
47). Lakoff (1987: 490 cited in Bergen & Plauché, 2001: 48) describes the Pointing Out ICM as
“It is assumed as a background that some entity exists and is present at some location
in the speaker’s visual field, that the speaker is directing his attention at it, and that the
hearer is interested in its whereabouts but does not have his attention focused on it and
may not even know that it is present. The speaker then directs the hearer’s attention to the
location of the entity (perhaps accompanied by a pointing gesture) and brings it to the
hearer’s attention that the entity is at the specified location . . .”
Thus Bergen & Plauché (2005: 5) state that “the central sense of deictic demonstrative voilà and
voici in French is a spatial one”, as exemplified in the following examples taken from Bergen &
Plauché (2005: 5): Voilà/voici son sac/ ‘There’s/here’s his bag’; Voilà/voici les clés que tu
cherchais/ ‘There/here are the keys you were looking for’.
Bergen & Plauché (2001, 2005: 5) further argue that all the other meanings of voilà are
either direct or indirect derivations of its central spatial meaning. Interestingly enough, they also
point out similar extensions in English there-constructions. The authors list a number of
extensions, among which they cite first the discourse deictic as being an “important extension”
from the central deictic (Bergen & Plauché 2001: 53). They explain that the discourse deictic is
directly derived from the central sense and via the metaphor: “DISCOURSE SPACE IS
TOWARDS US.” (Bergen & Plauché, 2001: 53, capitalization in the original).
(Grenoble & Riley, 1996) have also argued that the discursive functions of voilà are the
“natural extension” of “the ostensive deictic functions of the presentative demonstratives”
Grenoble & Riley (1996: 820). Bergen & Plauché (2001) have pointed out that voici is used to
indicate an upcoming event: Voici trois questions/ ‘Here are three questions’, whereas voilà
points to an event that has just ended, as in voilà une bonne argumentation/ ‘those were some
good arguments’. As for Grenoble & Riley (1996), voici and voilà are differentiated by the traits
+/- proximal, with voici defined as +proximal (cataphoric) and voilà as – proximal (anaphoric).
According to the authors this seems also to be the case with the English demonstrative pronouns
(Grenoble & Riley 1996: 821):
(1) This is/Here's what I want to say: it's just not going to work.
(2) it’s just not going to work. That's what I mean.
The other extension of the central deictic includes “the time deictic” via the metaphor
“time is space, and points in time are points in space” (Bergen & Plauche, 2001: 54) as
illustrated in the following example: Voilà l’instant que nous attendions tous/ ‘Here’s the
moment we’ve all been waiting for’. The complete extensions of the central deictic can be seen
in the following chart from Bergen and Plauche (Bergen & Plauche, 2005: 22). The arrows going
from the central deictic would refer to direct extension, while the arrows going from the
extensions would be indirect extensions.
2.4.9 The use of voilà in foreign language textbooks
In her doctoral dissertation, Delahaie (2008) advocates a new interpretation of the
relation between spoken French and French as a foreign language (FFL). According to the
author, much too often the spoken French that is taught is a reflection of the written conception
of the language. Part of her study8 focused on the use of voilà in greetings (acte de presentation)
(Delahaie, 2008: 7) and in agreements (acte d’accord) (Delahaie, 2008: 9) in both native and
non-native interaction. The author remarks that some French introductory textbooks: Latitudes,
Forum, Reflets, and Espace for instance, use voici/ voilà as a presentative particle to introduce a
person or an object. Yet her data have shown that native speakers practically never use voilà to
present a person, for which they prefer instead the presentative structure je te présente (Delahaie,
2008; 2009b). The author explains that the confusion is due to the “semantic proximity”
Part of Delahaie’s research was based on the LANCOM corpus; a database which mainly
constituted role-plays recorded in FFL classes non-native speakers of French. The corpus is
accessible through the following link: http://bach.arts.kuleuven.be/elicop/ProjetLANCOM.htm
proximité sémantique (Delahaie, 2008: 123) between the “act of introducing” acte de
présentation and the grammatical class of presentatives9 (Delahaie, 2008).
On the other hand, Delahaie (2008, 2009b) notices the non-use of voilà in its other
functions by learners, mainly in its function as an agreement token. Indeed the author points out
that voilà is the third preferred “marker of agreement” marqueur d’accord (Delahaie, 2009b: 18)
after oui/ ‘yes’ and d’accord/ ‘ok’ by native speakers. (9.5% for native speakers versus 0.8% for
learners of French) (Delahaie, 2009b:23). The author defines, voilà as “the preferred answer to a
confirmation request” (une réponse privilégiée à une demande de confirmation) (Delahaie,
2009b: 24). For Delahaie (2009b), each of these marqueurs d’accord (oui, d’accord and voilà)
have specific uses and functions, therefore they cannot always be substituted one for the other.
2.4.10 Voici and Voilà in discourse
In this section I will review prior studies of voilà from a discursive perspective. My
review will show that the functions of voilà are the interpretations and observations of the
researchers as they understood them (i.e., from an etic perspective). Most importantly, the data
used in most of the studies come from written literature (including comic books), and even
invented sentences. I argue that as a discourse marker, voilà occurs mostly in oral interaction and
therefore should be studied mainly in naturally-occurring conversation; that is, from a
conversation analytic perspective, in which the description of the occurrences of voilà is
meaningful first and foremost to those participating in the exchanges (i.e., from an emic
perspective). All of these reasons justify the relevance of the current study.
Delahaie (2008) has also found the use of c’est// ‘it’s’ in greeting exchanges, which as we have
seen earlier is also categorized in the class of presentative.
Voilà as a discourse particle is considered part of what Adam & Revaz (1989: 66) have
called a marqueur d’intégration linéaire (or MIL)/ ‘markers of linear Integration’ (my
translation). The authors more specifically identify voilà as a marqueur de cloture/ ‘marker of
closure’ (Adam & Revaz, 1989: 70). For the authors, MILs help to organize the text into
coherent sequences. Voilà is also known as a connector (Grieve, 1996; Riegel, Rioul, & Pellat,
1994), more specifically as an “enumerative connector” (connecteur énumératif) which signifies
the closure of an enumeration sequence la clôture de la série (Riegel et al., 1994: 622).
Broadly speaking, two major characteristics stand out concerning the discursive/textual
1. they indicate the shift of topics by opening and/or closing a sequence (Grenoble &
Riley, 1996). In this sense, they function as “metalinguistic presentatives” (Grenoble & Riley,
1996: 821).
2. It seems that the distinction between voici and voilà is still relevant in discourse: voici
introduces text to come (cataphoric or prospective), while voilà refers to or points back to a
previous text (anaphoric or retrospective) (Adamczewski, 1991; Riegel et al., 1994). Voici invite
l’interlocuteur à attendre la suite/ ‘voici invites the interlocutor to wait for what’s to come’ (my
translation) and voilà demande l’interlocuteur de faire le lien avec la situation ou le contexte
avant (ce qui a été dit auparavant)/ ‘voilà asks the interlocutor to make the link with the
previous context/situation’ (my translation) (Adamczewski, 1991: 61). However, this distinction
is sometimes neutralized and voilà can be used instead of voici, that is to say voilà can be used
anaphorically and cataphorically (Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 821).On the other hand, voici never
functions anaphorically and is never used to close a sequence (Grenoble & Riley, 1996).
Porhiel (2012: 439), who states that “voici and voilà delineate topical units and possess
distinctive textual characteristics”, lists some of the main differences as follows:
(a) “It is used as an opening” (Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 829 cited in Porhiel, 2012: 439)
(b) “It introduces a new discourse topic or information”( Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 830
cited in Porhiel, 2012: 439)
(c) “ It is used to narrow a topic and to recall a previous frame of reference” (Grenoble &
Riley, 1996: 931 cited in Porhiel, 2012: 931)
(a) “it closes a topical unit” (Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 829, 833 cited in Porhiel, 2012: 440)
(b) “it can summarize” (Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 835; Grieve, 1996: 499 cited in Porhiel,
2012: 440).
(c) “it identifies a point of significance” in what was said previously (Grieve, 1996: 499 cited
in Porhiel, 2012: 440). As such, its use in such cases is much more forceful than the use
of c’est/ ‘it is’, or to use Grieve’s term it is more “dramatic” (Grieve, 1996: 499).
… les modalités et le progrès de la vie, sous la forme humaine, dans les sociétés,
- voilà l’objet propre de la science historique
…the modalities and the progress of life, in its human form, in societies,
- that’s the main purpose of historical science (my translation)
(Berr, 16 cited in Grieve, 1996 : 449).
In this example, the author of the sentence summarizes his previous utterance with voilà,
but most importantly describes his understanding of what “historical science” is (Grieve, 1996).
The sentence in question would have been far less dramatic if the author had instead said:
L’objet propre de la science historique, ce sont les modalités, le progrès de la vie,
sous la forme humaine.
The main purpose(s) of historical science is/are…
(d) “ it can indicate the end of an enumerative structure” (Adam & Revaz, 1989; Riegel et
al., 1994: 622 cited in Porhiel, 2012: 440)
(e) it ‘‘is used to explain a previous statement, to state how the listener should view
information already given’’ (Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 833–834 cited in
Porhiel, 2012: 440)
To this list we can add:
(f) it has an illocutionary force (Léard, 1992). For instance, it stresses the fact that what was
expected to happen has actually happened: voilà ce que c’est que de mentir/ ‘that’s what
happens to people who lie’ (my translation) (Léard, 1992: 152). Et voilà can indicate the
“satisfaction” of having accomplished a task successfully (Léard, 1992: 151). Voilà (tout)
can be used to react to what has been said previously or to defend one’s position,
especially if the previous utterance implied some sort of a “criticism” (reproche) or
incorrect statements (Léard, 1992: 152). An English equivalent could be “that’s all I’m
saying”. The repetition of voilà voilà can announce that a request will be in compliance
“without further delay” (Léard, 1992: 152):
Tu viens oui?
“Are you coming?”
Voilà voilà. J’arrive.
“Yeah yeah, I’m coming.” (my translation)
(g) It serves as an “opener” marker, (voilà ouvreur) (Delahaie, 2008:313) with some “sort of
theatrical ability” une certaine théâtralité (Delahaie, 2008: 315) in the announcement of
what is about to come.
(h) It can serve as an “agreement token” with what was said previously (Delahaie, 2008,
2009b; Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 836)
(i) it introduces an argument/explanation following a statement, and in so doing it acts as a
“subordinate” to the main act. In this case, voilà is usually associated with either mais/
‘but’ or seulement/ ‘only’ (Léard, 1992: 150):
Il faudrait que j’y aille, mais/seulement voilà je suis pris.
I have to go, but/the thing is I’m taken. (my translation)
When looking at the different functions of voici and voilà, we cannot fail to notice that
voilà seems to have many more functions than voici. This corroborates Grenoble & Riley’s
(1996) observation that voilà indeed is taking over voici and is assuming both voici’s and voilà’s
functions. This is mainly the reason why they labeled voici as “marked” and voilà as “unmarked”
(Grenoble & Riley, 1996: 837). We recall that most researchers had pointed out that the only
domain where the difference between voilà and voici still holds is in written discourse: “In
text/discourse, the ‘historical’ distinction between voici (proximal) and voilà (distal) still holds:
voici introduces text to come (it is cataphoric or prospective) and voilà refers to or points back to
previous text (it is anaphoric or retrospective)” (Porhiel, 2012: 439).
In reality, even in spoken discourse it seems that voici and voilà tend to be neutralized.
Delahaie’s study in fact confirms this finding: Il est intéressant de constater que c’est voilà, et
non pas voici, qui est employé en tant que marqueur d’ouverture, quoiqu’en disent les
grammaires…/ ‘Interestingly enough it is voilà and not voici that was used as an opener marker,
despite what grammarians advocate...’ (my translation) (Delahaie, 2008: 315). She goes on to say
that she did not find actually any occurrence of voici as an opener, and in fact explains the use of
voici would have been odd in interaction (Delahaie, 2008: 315):
C- oui voilà est-ce que i/l y a eu:h i/l y a possibilité d’avoir une vue mer?
yes voilà is-it u:h possible to have a sea view? (my translation)
C- **oui voici est-ce que i/l y a eu:h i/l y a possibilité d’avoir une vue mer?
**yes voici is-it u:h possible to have a sea view? (my translation)
According to the author, the reason why voilà is preferred to voici is because in “an
interaction a topic is usually introduced in reference to what is already known” (l’introduction
d’un thème dans une interaction se fait généralement en renvoyant à du connu) (my translation)
(Delahaie, 2008: 315). For the author, only voilà possesses this capacity.
In the following example, from Porhiel (2012: 447) and seen earlier, voilà here clearly
functions as an opener, as it is about to give an awaited explanation:
Tintin: Et maintenant, capitaine, expliquez-moi comment vous êtes arrivés ici.
Haddock: Ah! oui… Eh bien, voilà…
Tintin: “Now, Captain, tell me how you came to be here.
Haddock: Oh, yes… Right. . . Well…”
As mentioned earlier, however, Delahaie’s data was mainly based on role playing, while
Porhiel’s data come from a written/scripted corpus (i.e., Tintin comic strip books). It would be
important and necessary to see whether this observation still holds and can be verified in
naturally-occurring conversation.
2.4.11 Concluding remarks
This review has shown that the analysis of voilà is quite complex and challenging. To
begin with, researchers, particularly traditional grammarians, are not always unanimous as to
which grammatical class voilà belongs to. It is commonly accepted as belonging to the class of
presentatives, but for most researchers this qualification isn’t satisfactory, for instance for
Moignet (1969) the presentative ne dit rien de la nature du signe/ ‘doesn’t say anything about the
nature of the sign’ (my translation) (Moignet, 1969: 195). In other words, it does not describe the
structure of voilà. In fact, the term “points at the semantic function of presentatives without
saying anything about their syntactic function” (Marchello-Nizia, 2005: 320 cited in Porhiel,
2012). For others, it is a class of “made up of residue” (Bonnard, 1981:144 cited in Porhiel 2012)
which traditional grammar books did not know how to deal with, and in which “we put
everything that is disturbing” (on y a placé ce qui derangeait) (Léard, 1992: 100). Furthermore,
the fact that the class of presentatives contains not only voici/voilà but also il y a/ ‘there is’ and
c’est/ ‘it’s’ could also have been problematic. (Chevalier (1969) for example studied in details
the similarities and differences among these three terms from a syntactic approach. Others such
as Léard (1992) think that voilà should be studied separately, since there are many more
differences than similarities between voilà and the two other presentatives. For others yet,
presentatives are part of a bigger class. Thus, Grevisse (2007) claims they are part of the
introducteurs “introducers”, a broader class than that of presentatives which encompasses voici/
voilà but also est-ce que. . .?/ ‘Is there. . .?’.Thus, one could question such a classification
(presentative/introducer) made up of so many heterogeneous items.
The review has also revealed that voilà is not always defined as a presentative.
Researchers have identified three major categories: prepositions, verbs, and discourse markers.
Some of these categories have received more attention than others. We have seen, for instance,
that most dictionaries (such as Le Petit Robert) have labeled voilà as a préposition (prép.).
However, most researches have mainly focused on the verbal aspect of voilà. Thus Moignet
(1969), Morin (1985), and Hug (1995), among others, have argued that voilà in modern French
should be considered a verb. Despite some syntactic similarities that they share with French
verbs, however, they are uninflected and are subjectless. Léard (1992), who based his analysis on
Moignet’s (1969) work, observes that voilà definitely does not have a verbal value in all cases.
For instance, in a sentence construction such as voilà 10SN qui 11P as in Le voilà qui se met à
dormir au chaud, it does not function as a verb, or to use the author’s words voilà SN qui P a
quitté la zone verbes de perception et qu’il est bien marqueur aspectual/ ‘voilà SN qui P has left
the perceptual verbs zone to become an aspectual marker’ (my translation) (Léard, 1992: 121).
Not to mention that voilà when it is used as a discourse marker or a preposition, it is obviously
not a verb. In short, Léard (1992) suggests “to look at the semantic reasons behind the syntactic
deviances” (my translation) (chercher les raisons sémantiques qui justifient le recours à ces
déviances syntactiques) before classifying voilà in any grammatical category (Léard, 1992: 155).
Nonetheless, the verbal origin of voilà is attested, but in most of its uses, this status is sometimes
questioned. Thus for Grenoble & Riley (1996), voilà is first and foremost a deictic
Most of the authors, and whatever research perspective they adopted, have nevertheless
pointed out that voilà possesses something unifying. Thus for Léard (1992), whether it is seen as
a preposition, a verb, a discourse marker, or an aspectual marker, voilà is performing “a pointing
out from a place or a time of speech” (un pointage à partir du lieu ou du moment de parole) (my
translation) (Léard, 1992: 154). For Bergen & Plauché (2001, 2005) the central sense of voilà is
a spatial one, from which all the others meanings come, especially the phoric (anaphoric and
cataphoric) functions of voilà in discourse. Grenoble & Riley (1996: 820) have also stated that
the discursive functions of voilà are the “natural extension” of the presentative voilà.
SN: Noun Phrase
P: Sentence
Overall, we can undoubtedly say that studies of voilà have essentially “focused on its
morphologic and syntactic properties” (Porhiel, 2012: 439). The discursive functions of voilà
were mentioned in most studies as an “extension” or “derivation” of what appeared to be the
“main” functions or properties of voilà. In doing so, it seems as though researchers were
attempting to fit discursive voilà into one of the categories they had already identified. Hence
there isn’t even a consensus concerning the part of speech it belongs to. This is precisely the
question Léard (1992: 146-147) brings up. In trying to figure out the categorical status of voilà in
discourse, the author poses two hypotheses:
a) In this first hypothesis, voilà in discourse would have the same values as the verb voilà
except that instead of presenting the object, discursive voilà would present the discourse
that it would “bracket” (le borne à gauche ou à droite) (Léard 1992: 146). According to
Léard this hypothesis would justify “two facts”:
1. Morphologically: voici/voilà would have specific and strict roles: voici would
present the discourse to come while voilà would point back to previous discourse
2. Semantically: voici would be labeled cataphoric and voilà anaphoric.
According to the author, this framing brings a major characteristic. Léard points out that
by definition, one cannot indicate “verbally or with gestures an event or an object at the
time they occur”, whereas in discourse the “pointing out can only occur before or after a
discourse”. Let’s look at some examples from Léard (1992: 147):
Vous voulez mon avis. Eh bien (le) voici…
You want my opinion. Well here it is…(my translation).
Je voulais vous expliquer ce choix. Voilà qui est fait et qui devrait vous avoir convaincus.
I wanted to explain this choice to you. Now that it’s done, I hope you’re convinced (my
b) The second hypothesis proposes to put voilà into a new category (different from a verb, a
preposition or an aspectual marker). The main argument for the adoption of this status is
that “the syntax of voici/voilà reveal unexpected characteristics” la syntaxe de voici/voilà
y présente des caractéristiques inattendues (Léard, 1992: 147). Among some of these
characteristics, Léard (1992) mentions the fact that voilà discursive does not have a
complement (e.g., direct object). According to the author, on these grounds alone, voilà
should be disqualified from being considered a verb, as this was the only
morphosyntactic argument used to justify the verbal aspect of voilà is its predictive value.
In addition, Léard (1992) discursive voilà is never followed by an expression of duration,
and therefore cannot be a preposition either.
Nonetheless, Léard (1992: 148) notices that discursive voilà has its own “syntactic
properties”, for instance it can be repeated: Et voilà et voilà! le tour est joué/ ‘There you go,
there you go! It’s a done deal’ (my translation) (Léard, 1992:148). It can be complemented by
tout (that’s all): Je change de domaine, voilà tout. Mais je continue/ ‘I’m just changing the
domain that’s all. But I’m still continuing’ (my translation). It can be preceded by connective
words such as: mais/ ‘but’, seulement/ ‘only’, and et bien/ ‘well’…J’irais bien mais/seulement
voilà…/ ‘I would love to go but here it is…’ (Léard, 1992: 147-148).
Hence for Léard (1992: 148) discursive voilà just like voyons/ ‘let’s see’, tiens/ ‘oh’, has
lost all its verbal aspects and become “isolated on the syntactic level (relation sign-sign) without
any role to play in referencing”. Léard concludes that the only function of voilà in this case, is
that of a discourse marker, in which “the relation between the enunciators dominate” (Léard,
I will indeed adopt the second hypothesis and treat voilà as a discourse marker as well.
After reviewing all these previous studies on voilà, we can unquestionably acknowledge the
challenges encountered in trying to define a seemly simple word; the literature review has shown
that voilà’s categorical and grammatical distributions are based on syntactical, semantic and
pragmatic factors and sometimes all or some of these factors will contribute to an overall,
“combined” perspective.
Voilà in discourse primarily functions as a “connective” (Hansen, 1997: 160). In other
words, voilà is part of a class of syntactically autonomous items that “do not contribute to the
propositional content of their host units” (they belong to that part of the utterance which is
‘shown’ rather than ‘asserted’) (Hansen, 1997: 161). As such, voilà should be first and foremost
studied in terms of its functions and not in terms of the syntactic properties and grammatical
categories it (should) belong to. As Léard (1992) pointed out, they do not relate to a presented
Thus we have seen that studies about voilà have primarily focused on its morphological
and syntactic properties and that its discursive functions have been mostly overlooked. Very few
researchers have pointed out this inequity, to say the least (Grenoble & Riley, 1996; Porhiel,
2012). Nonetheless previous studies were able to identify several discursive functions of
voici/voilà. However, none on the studies were done from a conversation analytic perspective.
The current study will not necessarily undercut or in any way reject any previous findings.
Nevertheless, the methodology we will be using will hopefully corroborate these findings while
identifying and describing new functions of voilà in interaction.
Chapter 3: The use of voilà in closings
3.1 Introduction
In this chapter, after a brief literature review on discourse markers used in closings, I will
discuss the use and functions of voilà in closing sequences. Using data samples from my corpus,
I will first show where in the sequential organization of an ongoing interaction the voilàs of
interest occur; I will then describe the various functions fulfilled in these sequential positions. In
the analyses, I will discuss all turns but will focus in detail on the turns of interest. Finally, I will
summarize my findings and compare the use of voilà with closing practices in other languages.
3.2 Positions
The following are the environments in which voilà closes prior sequences or turns:
1) In sequence closing thirds
A: turn at talk
B: receipt with: ouais/ ‘yeah’, d’accord/ ‘okay’, mm hm
A: voilà
position 1
position 2
position 3
2) In second pair parts (SPP) of adjacency pairs (AP)
A: turn at talk (e.g., a confirmation request/specification/candidate understanding)
B: voilà (“marker of agreement” (Delahaie, 2009b)) (stand-alone/
at the beginning of a TCU)
3) In speakers’ turns at talk. This category could be further divided into two subcategories:
a) Speakers close their own turn in a multi-unit turn and /or turn at talk with voilà
(e.g., voilà, c’est tout/ (c’est tout literally ‘that’s all’)
in longer argumentative talk exchanges.
b) Speakers close their turn before its syntactic, pragmatic ending. This usually
occurs in delicate interactions or when recipients are presumed to know the rest
of the talk or can infer it from what they have already heard thus far.
3.3 Functions
Voilà’s main function in these various sequential positions is to manage shifts in
activities and actions. Shifts in activities and action can, of course, also be accomplished by the
production of a fitted second pair part to a first pair part. My analyses will show however that
shifts of actions are not necessarily systematic and straightforward. Indeed, some sequential
positions may be problematic (e.g., co-participants may not react appropriately to speakers’ ends
of telling). In such cases, voilà may then overtly mark the end of the sequence and indicate the
readiness to move to the next sequence of action. In addition, my analyses will also show how
speakers manage to shift action using voilà in designedly incomplete turns, how speakers use
voilà to mark a shift of action as they react to B-event statements (Labov & Fanshel, 1977).
Finally, I will examine the use of voilà in separating a main telling from a side sequence.
3.4 Prior studies on discourse markers in closings
There are several studies on the use of discourse markers in closings sequences. For
instance, Beach (1993: 326) has shown that okay is deployed to move “from prior to next
positioned matter.” In other words, okay functions as a transition marker from a previous topic to
an upcoming topic or sequence of action. It seems that okay in German business talk also
functions in similar ways (Barske, 2009). The German discourse marker gut (literally ‘good’)
closes the previous sequences and simultaneously opens a next sequence (Meier 2002 cited in
Barske & Golato, 2010). It appears that both gut and okay can be found in pre-closing sequences.
In their study of the use and function of the German discourse marker so, Barske &
Golato (2010) found that in German interaction, so is used as a sequence management device as
it closes the prior sequence and indicates readiness to start a new sequence. According to the
authors, the sequence following the production of a so is usually the ‘‘logical next phase’’
(Barske & Golato, 2010: 245) in a course of action. But unlike gut and okay, so is not found in a
pre-closing sequence of telephone interaction and it’s never found in a second pair part (SPP) of
an adjacency pair.
In Japanese, Hayashi & Yoon (2009) have demonstrated that the deployment of a third
position minimal response (e.g., mhm) can be “closure implicative” (Hayashi & Yoon, 2009:
252). This is the case when speakers utter a minimal response after recipients have responded to
speakers’ first turn at talk with a minimal acknowledgement receipt token (e.g., mhm). In other
words, by uttering a minimal response in sequentially third position, speakers communicate that
they have nothing else to add to the previous topic and propose to move on to a new topic or
In French, Delahaie (2009b) has shown that when d’accord/ ‘okay’ is used in
sequentially third position, it closes the sequence. This is illustrated in the following example
from a conversation exchange in a travel agency:
FIGURE 3.1: (from Delahaie, 2009b: 25) (C stands for “client” and E for “employee”)
01 C: là vous attendez une confirmation d’Aquatour?
are you waiting for a confirmation from Aquator?
02 E: voilà
that’s right
03 C: d’accord
According to the author, when d’accord is used in this position, it has an “acknowledgement of
receipt” value (my translation) (accusé de reception) (Delahaie, 2009b: 25); that is, the speaker
validates the response to his question thereby closing the sequence. Winther (1985: 87) has
shown that bon (literally ‘good’) is used in a debate setting by the moderator to “punctuate” the
end of a speaker’s turn at talk12, before allocating the turn to another speaker. The author
specifies that the use of bon in this closing environment does not necessarily entail a positive
assessment. As a matter of fact, the author points out that a moderator can use bon to close
interactants’ talk that in his estimation has gone on too long. This is what the author calls une
clôture autoritaire/ ‘an authoritative closure’ (my translation) (Winther 1985: 88). The repetition
of bon as in bon, bon, ça suffit/ ‘okay, okay, that’s enough’ (my translation) (Winther 1985: 83)
also reinforces the idea that this-has-gone-on-long-enough-and-must-stop-immediately13. For
Winther (1985), bien and très bien (literally ‘well’ and ‘very well’) are variants of bon; that is,
they can be used either to close the previous turn and allocate the turn to someone else, as in très
bien, Michel Ciment? (Winther, 1985: 88), or to terminate a turn that has gone on too long. This
is usually expressed by the duplication of (très) bien which conveys the intensity of the request
to close: très bien, très bien! tu l’diras ťt à l'heure/ ‘Okay, okay! You can say that later’ (my
translation) (Winther, 1985: 88). In any case, when used in discourse, bon, bien and très bien
lose their evaluative (positive) value, and become closure markers of variable intensities
(Winther, 1985). Barnes (1995) has shown that in argumentative talk, the more influential
participant in the interaction can stop the discussion with a bon prefaced TCU. According to the
author, the sentence following bon expresses a change of topic. Hence for Barnes (1995: 815),
bon is a “marker of transition”, that is, a pivotal device which serves to close the previous topic
and simultaneously open a new sequence. Hansen’s (1998a, 1998b) work corroborates previous
findings on bon, as he affirms that a speaker can use bon to stop an ongoing exchange and shift it
to a more appropriate and relevant subject matter in the ongoing conversation.
No original data were included in the article, so it is not clear where in the turn bon is
Stivers (2004) and Golato & Fagyal (2008) have also shown that repeats of tokens can be used
to stop an ongoing action.
We notice here that markers used to close a sequence in most languages have originally
different semantic meanings, which are lost when they are used as discourse markers. In the next
section, I will show how voilà, another word with semantic meaning (see literature review of
voilà), is also used a as closing device in various sequential positions.
3.5 Analysis of voilà in closings: an action management device
In the following sections, I will first show how voilà is used in sequentially third position
to shift from one activity to another different activity. In the remaining sections I will illustrate
how co-participants manage to accomplish shifts of activity/action even in some problematic
sequential environments.
3.5.1 Shift in activity type
This first example from the CLAPI14 corpus shows how the co-participants go from
discussing a data excerpt to an entirely different activity, namely data listening. In this example,
a group of students (G, D, S and I) discuss an audio recording and data transcription. Before this
extract, the group had experienced trouble in properly understanding one particular word of the
audio data. More specifically, they could not agree on what each of them had heard. I suggests
that the word she heard may be avril/ ‘april’, but the rest of the group thought they heard either
huit/ ‘eight’ or août/ ‘august’. The group listened eight times to the data excerpt before they
resolved the issue. Before this extract, some of participants seem to have agreed that the word
they heard could be avril. They all have excluded the possibility that the word they heard could
CLAPI (Corpus de LAngues Parlées en Interaction) is an online corpus of Spoken French
interactions. The databank is composed of audio and video recordings which were collected in
various situations (e.g., private conversations, institutional talk). The data can be accessed at
be huit or août, because according to their analysis neither of these words would actually fit the
context of the conversation.
01 G: euh: il est question d' avril.
uh: it is question of april.
uh: april is mentioned.
02 S: [oui:].
03 D: [oui] ça
c'est sûr.
[yes] that it’s sure.
[yes] that’s for sure.
05 G: oui (.) et euh (.) bon à mon avis
il le dit
yes (.) and uh (.) good to my opinion
he it said
yes (.) and uh (.) okay in my opinion he said it
mai:s c'e:st (0.8) d'abord j'ai- j'ai compris
bu:t it i:s (0.8) first
I’ve- I’ve understood august
bu:t it i:s (0.8) first
I- I understood august
ensuite j'ai com- j'ai compris
I’ve un- I’ve understood eight
then I un- I understood eight
comme vous aussi (0.5) et euh: c- c'e:st
like you also (0.5) and uh: i- it i:s
just like you did (0.5) and uh: i- it i:s
11 G: bon [ben i-]
good [well i-]
okay [well i-]
12 D:
[c'est] isadora qui a
soulevé le [problème]
[it’s ] isadora who has raised the [problem]
isadora is the one who raised the issue
13 G:
s- e:st (0.6) une transcriptrice phénoménale
s- i:s (0.6) a
s- i:s (0.6) a remarkable transcriber
comme nous l’ savons tous donc on devrait
like we
it know
alle so
one should
FIGURE 3.2 (cont.)
as we all know so we should
faire confiance c'est elle (0.3) qui décide.
to her do
it’s she (0.3) who decide.
trust her she is the one (0.3) who decides.
17 I: merci.
18 G: voilà.
< ((écoute des données)) (68.1)>
that’s it. < ((data listening)) (68.1)>
20 G: est ce qu' elle dit rendre ou prendre
is it that she says return or take
did she say return or take
In line 1, G states the word could after all be avril/ ‘april’, while S and D also seem to
align with him (line 2 and 3). G then summarizes the processes they all went through to figure
out the word they heard (lines 5-8). D acknowledges I’s contribution to solving the transcription
problem (line 11). G compliments I’s transcribing ability and suggests that she should have the
final say on what the word is going to be (lines 12-15). I accepts G’s compliments (line 16),
thereby bringing the compliment sequence to a closure. This also marks the closure of the
overall sequence of identifying the word avril/ ‘april’. After G utters voilà in line 1, he then
clicks on the recording machine. None of the other participants talk, instead they all listened to
more data. When they next stop the audio data recorder to discuss what they just heard, we
notice that they are now trying to figure out a different word (line 19). Thus, here voilà signals
an overt shift to a new activity. In other words, it is placed at a transition place between two
types of activities as it closes the previous data discussion activity, and prefaces the next activity
(i.e, data listening). As such, voilà functions here as a transition marker.
Thus, this data sample exemplifies the use of voilà in this straightforward transition from
one activity/action to another. Note that this use of voilà is very similar to the use of okay in
English (Beach, 1993) and the use of so in German (Barske & Golato, 2010).
However, intersubjectivity in interaction is not always unproblematic, as evidenced by
the fact that co-participants don’t necessarily recognize sequence boundaries. In the following
section, I will illustrate how interactants use voilà in such difficult sequential positions to overtly
mark the end of the previous sequence and indicate their readiness to go on to the next sequence.
3.5.2 Shift of action in sequentially difficult environments
Recognizing the ends of stories or larger tellings can cause difficulties for interactants, as
displayed in figure 3.3. The recipient of the telling can be seen to produce continuers at almost
every turn-transitional relevant place, thus signaling their expectation that the telling continue.
Figure 3 also shows how the utterance of voilà finally prompts the recipient to give an
appropriate response to the rather long telling that the speaker had just ended. The example
comes from a Skype voice conversation between a mother (M) and her daughter (C). While C is
away on study abroad, M is taking care of C’s cat. In this excerpt, M) updates C on the health
condition of C’s cat.
M: eh ben écoute elle était émerveillée devant ton chat,
and well listen she was
before your cat,
well listen she was impressed by your cat,
elle a trouvé en pleine santé, eu:h
that she has found in full
health, uh:
which she found in good health, uh:
FIGURE 3.3 (cont.)
elle était émerveillée.
she was
she was impressed.
C: ah bon.
oh good.
oh okay.
M: elle l’ a
trouvé gra::s, elle l’ a
trouvé attentif, câlin
she him has found fa::t, she him has found attentive, cuddly
she found him chubby::, she found him attentive, cuddly
et le monsieur qui t’
avai:t ts- qui t’ avait dédicacé
and the mister who you ha:d
ts- who you had
and the man who had ts- who had signed the book for you
le livre est v’nu pasque j’ en ai:
commandé un autre pour
the book is came because I some ha:ve ordered an other for
came by because I ordered another book for u:h (.)
eu:h (.)euh la la future euh nouvelle femme de:(
u:h (.) uh the the future uh new
wife of:(
C: mm hm
M: et eu:h il est venu, eh ben impeccable le chat est venu,
and u:h he is came, and well impeccable the cat is came,
and u:h he came, well perfect the cat came,
câli:n (
C: [mm
M: [et constance elle a dit (
[and constance she has said(
[and constance she said (
) c’était a-assez mignon.
) it was e-enough cute.
) it was q-quite cute.
) pour un vieux chat
) for an old
) for an old cat
elle ne revenait pas.
Il faisait
she not coming back not. He was doing all
she couldn’t believe it. he was anything
sauf euh s’
but uh himself bored.
FIGURE 3.3 (cont.)
but bored.
C: ah ouais? hh hh c’est marrant.
oh yeah? hh hh it’s funny.
oh really? hh hh that’s funny.
M: et- oui oui mais et puis toujours euh toujours prêt à
and- yes yes but and then always
uh always
ready to
chatparle:r, toujours euh attentif à
qui se
attentive to that who itself happens=
uh attentive on what goes on around him=
=c’est marrant hein?
=it’s funny
=that’s funny don’t you think?
M: mm mm
C: ‘lors je me
dis tiens encore un mois, tiens
I to me say hold still one month, hold
so I say to myself hang in there one more month,
encore un mois, parsqu’ il est quand même (0.5) il a
still one month,because he is when same (0.5) he has
hang in there one more month, because nevertheless (0.5)
une respiration un petit peu difficile
a little bit difficult
his breathing is a little bit difficult
mais euh il tient très bien.
but uh he holds very well.
but he’s holding on very well.
C: mm
M: voilà.
that’s it.
FIGURE 3.3 (cont.)
C: eh ben c’est [bien.
and well it’s[well.
well that’s [good.
[donc- dans dans le coin
[soin in
the corner of the lakes,
[so- by by the lakes,
c’est-à-dire vers
le jardin
botanique? tu vas aller?
it’s to say towards the garden
botanical? you go to go?
does that mean by the botanical garden? where you’re going?
In lines 1-3, M reports to C the compliments that C’s sister had made about the cat. C
receipts M’s previous turn with a continuer ah bon (line 6). In line 7 M continues to report on
what the sister had said about the cat, and in lines 7-13 M tells C how the cat behaved with
another person. In line 14, C receipts M’s telling with a minimal continuer. In lines 15-17, M
reports the sister’s reaction to the cat, and makes the same assessment she had already made
earlier about the animal. M is probably repeating the assessment because she did not get an
appropriate response, such as an assessment from C on her previous account about the cat.
Having finished her account, M hands back the turn to C with an assessment of the cat. C does
not immediately respond (line 18). In line 19, C starts her turn with an astonishment marker ah
ouais uttered with rising intonation, then finally provides a positive assessment of M’s account.
In lines 20-22, M first confirms C’s request, the oui oui, indicating a “stronger” agreement to the
previous turn (Müller 1996 in Stivers 2004), then she continues to make the same assessment
that her daughter has made earlier about the cat (i.e., in line 19), followed by a confirmationseeking token hein. M’s use of the same assessment indicates that she is now claiming ownership
of the assessment as she uses hein to elicit an agreement from C, who in line 23 agrees with a
minimal token mm mm. In lines 24-27 M first tells C that she begged the cat not to die soon, and
then shares with C her concerns about the cat’s long term health condition. Given that M is
talking about C’s cat, one would expect C to react in some way either at the end of the TCU in
line 26, where M points out a health problem, or at the end of line 27 when M is producing a
reassurance. However, in line 28, C once more receipts M’s previous turn with a minimal
continuer. The long silence in line 29 suggests that M was probably expecting C to say more in
response to the rather long account that M just completed. In line 30, M utters voilà with falling
intonation, thereby recompleting her turn and handing it back to C. In other words, with the voilà,
M indicates that she is done with her turn, thus giving C one more chance to respond to the
telling. After yet another silence in line 31, C finally assesses M’s long telling in line 32. In line
33, in overlap with C’s turn and more specifically at a point when an assessment is projectable,
M starts a new donc/ ‘so’- prefaced topic to resume a subject matter that she and C had talked
about earlier in their conversation. So, the fact that M has started a new topic in line 33 shows
that the voilà in line 30 was clearly used to close the telling about the cat. By uttering voilà in
line 30, M has communicated to C that she did not have anything else to add to her telling. Thus,
this example demonstrates thus that it is the utterance of voilà which prompted C to reorient to
the prior talk not as a telling in progress, but as a telling that has come to an end. Here, voilà
prompted her to give an appropriate response to a longer telling, namely an assessment (line 32).
This next example is similar to the previous example, in that the co-participant is not
providing an appropriate response when it is due. Again, the speaker produces a voilà to overtly
indicate that their telling has come to an end and that thus an assessment is due. The data
example is taken from a telephone conversation between M, a grandmother, and her
granddaughter A. In this excerpt, M updates A on her mother’s (A’s mother) health, since A’s
mother is recovering after some sickness.
donc et ta maman a
été arrêtée pendant toute la semaine,
so and your mom has been stopped during all
the week,
so and your mom was on medical leave for the whole week,
.h[et demain,
elle est au repos.h
[and tomorrow, she is resting .h
[ouais. d’accord.
[yeah. okay.
al-euh parcequ’elle pouvait pas sortir tu comprends?
s- uh because she could
not go out you understand?
s- uh because she couldn’t go out you see what I mean?
et oui::.
and yeah::.
parce que:: à cause de la sécu
.h et:
to reason of the insurance .h and:
that’s because of the insurance and:
elle est de repos, ça
tombe comme ça,
tomorrow she is of rest, that falls like that,
tomorrow she’s resting, that’s how it is,
uh hm=
=alors je- elle m’
dit je viendrai te voir. (.) mai:s
I- she to me has said I will come you to see.(.) bu:t
=so I- she told me I’ll come to see you.(.) but
elle a
tellement de boulot,(
she has so much
of work, (
she has so much work (
=elle a
dormi, elle se
repose pour (
=elle has slept, she herself rest
=she slept, she’s resting (
) a little.
) reposer là
) to rest there
) to rest you see=
tu vois=
you see=
) un peu.
) a little.
bon ben [tant mieux.
good well[much better.
[that’s good.
FIGURE 3.4 (cont.)
[that’s it.
tant mieux.=
much better.=
that’s good.=
M := et:: ton papa
= an::d your dad
M 15 tells A what her mother has been up to for the whole week and what she will do the
next day (line 1-2). In overlap, A receipts M’s telling with minimal receipt tokens (line 3). M
gives additional information on her mother’s status and ends the turn with a comprehension
check (line 4). A confirms her understanding in line 5 with et oui. The pause in the next turn
(line 6) indicates that M was probably expecting more than a claim of understanding; she was
presumably expecting A to demonstrate/articulate her understanding as to why the mother could
not leave the house. When realizing that the explanation is not forthcoming, M ends up giving
the explanation herself in the next turn (line 7). At the end of the TCU, M produces an in breath
and a stretched conjunction, presumably to provide space for A to produce aligning talk.
However, when this is not forthcoming, M repeats information in line 8 that she had already
given earlier (i.e., in line 2). By doing so, M provides A with an opportunity to redo her prior
response. In other words, this is most probably a way for M to elicit a longer response from A
that she did not get the first time around. In line 9, A does not provide a longer response, and
instead receipts M’s telling again with a minimal token. In lines 10-13, M goes on to tell A about
her mother’s promise to come and see her (M), but due to her health condition, M doubts that she
It is not clear if M’s information is ‘news’ to A. If it is indeed news, the reaction is rather
strange, but f it is not, then A’s response may be understandable. But even in the latter case, one
would then expect some sort of explanation from A to M that she does know this already.
would be able to make it. M finishes the turn with downward intonation after repeating again that
the mother is still resting. In line 13, A begins her turn with with bon ben/ ‘well’, followed by
an assessment. The bon ben/ ‘well’ does not necessarily project an assessment or longer turn to
follow. It is at this point that M overlaps A’s turn to utter voilà (line 14). Again, I argue that this
voilà functions to overtly signal a recompletion of the turn and an invitation for M to respond. In
line 15, A does just that by repeating the assessment in the clear. That is, A displays a
reorientation to the prior talk as one in which an assessment and not just a continuer is the
appropriate response. In line 16, M begins a new sequence of action thereby confirming that her
voilà in line 15 has definitively closed the telling or re-closes the telling: having finished the
telling on A’s mother, M has now started a new telling on A’s father. We notice here that voilà is
uttered to recomplete a turn that was already complete, thereby indicating to the co-participant
that more is expected from her (i.e., an assessment), which she provided in overlap in line 13 and
in clear in line 15. This example thus further illustrates the significance of appropriate responses
in sequence organizations.
In the examples above, we have seen instances in which recipients produced continuers to
tellings when other forms of receipts such as assessments were due. As argued above, uttering
voilà serves to indicate that the telling has come to an end, thereby signaling that a different
response than the one given is due. In the next examples, co-participants can be seen to provide
an appropriately aligning response to a telling, but only a minimal one. This apparently can also
be cause for some sequential difficulties that are then managed with the production of a voilà.
The following excerpt illustrates this. The data example is from the CLAPI corpus. In this
excerpt, a group of students (G, D, S and I) discusses the beginning of an audio recording and
data transcription. Right before listening and discussing the data, one of the group members (S)
asks the rest of the group to explain the context of the recording. G and I, who were present
during the recording, explain the context and answer most of S’s questions. Toward the end of
the explanation, the conversation shifts and focuses on one of the participants of the recording. I
explains that the person in question was difficult to deal with, due in part to his frantic
personality. G at some point asks I if she had a fight with that person. The excerpt starts with a
portion of I’s response to G’s question. (The original transcript is all in French; the word by word
translations as well as the idiomatic translation are all mine).
01 I: non non mais je le laissais parler (.)
no no but I him left
no no I let him talk (.)
lui et moi en fait il y
avait pas
between him and me in fact it there was
in fact, I did not have a problem with him
de problème à
résoudre c'est pour ça
of problems to resolve it’s for that
and that’s maybe why u(hh)h
p`t-être eu(hh)h on s'
est pas engueu(hh)lés,(( laughter))
may be
u(hh)h we each other is not figh(hh)t,
I did not have a figh(hh)t with him,
05 G: ah bon, ((laugh tokens))
oh good,
oh okay,
06 I: non mais du
je j- j'aurais pas vraiment vu
no but of the remaining I I- I would not really
no but in any case I wouldn’t know
comment le faire avec lui parce-que justement
it do
with him because
how to deal with him because as I said
il te
laissait pas placer une (0.5) une phrase
he you left not place one (0.5) one sentence
he wouldn’t let you say a (0.5) a sentence
t’ expliquais vraiment euh entièrement quelque chose.
where you explaining really
uh entierly
in which you could really entirely explain something.
FIGURE 3.5 (cont.)
10 G: °ouais°
12 I: voilà.
that’s it.
13 S: hm
14 G: bon
on écoute [un peu].
good we listen [a little].
okay let’s do some listening.
In lines 1-4, I clarifies the situation and explains that she did not really have a problem
with the person in question. Her turn at talk ends with continuing intonation, which projects
there’s more to come. G receipts I’s answer in line 5 with a continuer. I then goes on to
complain about his rude behavior toward G. G confirms and agrees with I’s account (line 10)
with a ouais uttered in lower voice. While this is an appropriate response, it is rather minimal.
The pause in line 11 could probably be explained by the fact that I was presumably expecting
more from G, most probably an alignment with her account or some sort of co-complaint. Finally,
I utters voilà in line 12, after which G in line 14 proposes to start a new activity, that of listening
to the audio data. In fact, G uses bon (“marker of transition”; Barnes, 1995) to shift the topic
from the discussion of a recorded data, to listening to audio data. Thus, this example shows that
by uttering voilà in line 12, I officially closes the previous telling after having made sure that G
has nothing more to add to her account. In contrast to previous examples, G did provide an
appropriate response, as he confirmed I’s utterance. However, it is only a minimal response in a
situation where a co-complaint could have been expected. Specifically, he initiates the next
sequence using the transition marker bon. Thus, G does not display a re-orientation to the prior
talk as in the other instances, but by changing the topic he also recasts his prior turn as complete
(and appropriate).
In the following excerpt, a voilà is again used to manage sequence and topic closure. In
this case, the speaker opts to overtly close their telling with voilà and move on to the next
sequence. The example is a continuation of the conversation between A and her grandmother
(M). In this extract, A asks M what the temperature is like where she lives. The excerpt begins
with M passing the question on to her husband P (lines1-2).
M: euh: ce matin
qu’est-ce qu’ il
uh: this morning what is it what it there
uh: this morning Papi what’s
comme température?
like temperature?
the temperature like?
P: cinq. (((P)Papi’s voice from background ))
M: cinq.
avait papi
A: ah [oui.
oh [okay.
[cinq et main- et maintenant= et demain
il va faire froid=
[five and no- and now=
and tomorrow it goes do cold=
[five and no- and now= and tomorrow it’s going to be cold=
=.h enfin toute la semaine.
=.h well all
the week.
=.h well the whole week.
A: ah:=
FIGURE 3.6 (cont.)
M: =puis on va vers
le froid main’ant, c’est [noël
=then we go toward the cold now,
it is [christmas soon,
=and we’re approaching the cold period now,[soon it’s Christmas,
[ah oui.
[oh right.
A: ouais.
M: voilà.
that’s it.
A: nous-[
we- [
[.h et ben écoute je pense
à toi
[.h and well listen I think to you
[.h well listen I think about you
P answers M’s question in line 416. M then repeats the answer for A’s benefit (line 5). In
line 6 neither A nor M take the next turn. A then receipts M’s answer in line 7 with a minimal
acknowledgement token. In overlap, M starts a new turn and expands her answer (line 8) by
repeating her previous answer (i.e., cinq) as if to link what she is about to say to what she said
previously. A continues receiving and acknowledging M’s telling with minimal
acknowledgement tokens (line 10, 12 and 13). Given that it was A who asked about the weather
in France, it is somewhat surprising that A does not comment further on the information she
received (or contrast it with the weather where she is). After M utters voilà in line 14, both M
and A overlap in starting a new sequence of action in the next turn (lines 15 and 16, respectively).
In line 15, A starts what looks like a “my side telling” (Pomerantz, 1980) while M starts a new
turn, which is presumably a telling of her care and concerns about her granddaughter’s wellbeing. In other words, lines 15 and 16 indicate that both speakers orient to the voilà in line 14 as
In French, although not systematic it is quite common to tell just the number of the
temperature, without specifying with “degrees”.
a means to close the previous “temperature telling” sequence. By uttering voilà, M
communicates to A that she has nothing more to add to her telling, and that she wishes to move
on to the next sequence. In addition, this example shows that after the utterance of voilà either
the speaker or the interlocutor can take the next turn.
This next example shows how the utterance of voilà prompts the recipient to take the
next turn. The example comes from the Skype telephone conversation between M and her
daughter C. Before this excerpt, M made sure that C, who is living abroad, has received the
documentation containing her missing driver’s license number that she had sent her earlier.
01 M: on peut pas- on peut pas- sais pas=
one can not- one can not- know not=
you can’t- you can’tI dunno=
=aller demander un duplicata de
=go ask
a duplicate of
=ask for a replacement of your driving
permis avec ce
numero, je suppose,
permit with this number, I suppose,
license with this number, I guess,
04 C: non, tu peux pas.
no, you can not.
no, you can’t.
05 M: non(◦
no (◦
06 C: mm.
08 C: ts. voilà.
ts. that’s all.
09 M: et donc quelle heure est-il?=il est quatroze heures ici donc
and so what time is-it?=it is fourteen hours here so
and so what time is-it? = it’s two pm here so
In lines 1-3, M inquires if there is a way that C could use the documentation she had sent
her to replace her missing driver’s license. In line 4, C answers negatively to M’s inquiry. In the
next turn, M begins by repeating C’s negative answer. Although what she says in the remainder
of the turn is unclear, it seems that she aligns with C’s explanation given earlier in their
conversation as to why she cannot get her license back so easily (line 5). In the next turn (line 6),
C acknowledges/agrees with her mother’s turn with a minimal token. Neither M nor C
immediately takes the next turn (line 7). In line 8, C utters voilà, while in the next turn (line 9) M
introduces a new topic as she inquires what time it is where C lives. Of note here is that M did
not take the turn after C’s receipt/agreement token in line 6. The rather long pause in line 7 could
possibly be due to M’s expecting C to expand on her answer. By uttering voilà in line 8, however,
C officially closes her previous turn, thereby communicating to M that she has nothing to add to
her answer. This effectively hands back the turn to M, which she takes in line 9. Thus, the
utterance of voilà by C prompts M to take the next turn, thereby repairing the turn taking system
which one could say was momentarily out of service.
Finally, this last example shows how speakers could use the composite et puis voilà (et
puis literally means ‘and then’) to manage another type of difficult situation, namely ending a
dispreferred action. This example comes from the telephone conversation between A and her
grandmother (M). In this excerpt, M mentions to A that her father (A’s father) has enlarged one
of A’s picture for her (M).
A: c’est dommage, enfin
il s’
it’s pity,
at last he himself annoyed,
what a pity, I mean he’s gone through trouble,
pourquoi il m’
pas envoyé un email=
he to me has not
sent an email=
why did not he send me an email=
=Je vous
aurais envoyé par email les photos,
=I to you would sent
by email the pictures,
=I would’ve sent you the pictures by email,
la qualité numérique serait restée
the quality digital
would stayed
The digital quality would’ve stayed the same
parce que
il est entrain
de faire ça
because that there he is in the middle of to do that from to start
because now he’s starting out with
des photos que vous avez, .h que je vous ai envoyées
of the pictures that you have, .h that I to you have sent
the pictures I sent you
donc il y
a: (0.8)[un peu
moins de qualité. enfin
it there ha:s(0.8)[a little less of quality. at last good.
hence it has:(0.8)[a little less quality. well anyway.
ben, tu m’
une autre et
puis voilà.
well, you to me some will redo one other and then that’s it.
well, you’ll send me another one and that’s it.
A: oui::.
M: bon.
A: hh hh hh
M: h. dis moih. tell me-
In lines 1-7, A explains in one long turn why her father would have been better off asking
her for a digital picture rather than enlarging the picture she supposedly had sent to him earlier.
She is thus criticizing the actions of her father. She finishes her turn in line 7 with falling
intonation, before adding another TCU, enfin bon, which marks the end of the explanation and of
A’s turn at talk. In the next turn (line 9), M requests that A send her another picture. Both of
these actions are dispreferred (Pomerantz, 1984). M then closes her turn with et puis voilà. In the
next turn, A accepts the requests (line 10). In line 11 M utters bon, which is a “marker of
transition” (Barnes, 1995), to indicate her readiness to tackle the next topic, which she does in
line 13. I would like to suggest that the et puis voilà in line 9 is used to close the “picture topic”.
Notice that M did not wait for A’s response of acceptance or rejection before uttering et puis
voilà. Instead, M linked et puis voilà to the previous action, and thus does not leave any room for
the request to be granted or rejected. By closing the topic with et puis voilà, M presents the
action as one that does not require an acceptance, and/or will unquestionably be granted. A of
course accepts M’s request in the next turn, with A’s laughter in line 12 possibly expressing her
amused reaction to M’s double dispreferred action. More importantly, however, this example
shows that et puis voilà is used not only to close the turn at talk, but also to communicate the
speaker’s wish “not to talk about the subject matter any further”.
In this section I have demonstrated how the utterance of voilà manages actions and
activities in sequentially problematic positions. In the next section, I will show how voilà
prompts shifts in actions in syntactically and pragmatically incomplete turns.
3.5.3 Shift in syntactically and pragmatically incomplete turns
The following examples illustrate how uttering a voilà in syntactically and pragmatically
incomplete turns can prompt co-participants to react. In such turns, recipients interpret voilà as
an indication that the speaker desires to shift the topic/action. This usually occurs in delicate
interactions, or when recipients are presumed to know the rest of the talk or can infer it from
what they have already heard thus far.
In this first example, voilà is placed before the syntactic ending of the turn. This
placement indicates that the speaker assumes the recipients will not need the missing element in
order to understand the turn at talk as it is. The data sample comes from a talk show broadcasted
every week on national French television. In this excerpt, the talk show host (L), along with his
two co-panelists, reviews the week’s hot topics. One of this week’s hot topics was the widely
spread rumor about the possible return of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to the
political arena. L first went over several newspapers that announced the possible return. He then
turns to one of the panelists (N) and asks her if she too thinks he will return. N responds that the
former president himself is convinced that he will return and she even suggests that he is using
his wife to strategically further spread the rumors of his possible return. In support of this claim,
N cites the former president’s wife’s interview with Atlantico, an online based news website. The
voilà of interest is in line 9.
01 N: elle a
déclaré au
site atlantico, que eu:h
she has stated to the site atlantico, that u:h
she stated on the website of atlantico, that u:h
en deux mille
dix-sept on allait avoir
in two thousand seventeen we going to have
in the year two thousand seventeen there’s going to be
FIGURE 3.9 (cont.)
un second tour marine le pen françois holande,
a second tour marine le pen françois hollande,
a second round marine le pen versus françois hollande,
eu:h et que donc évidemment françois hollande
u:h and that so
obviously françois hollande
u:h and that obviously françois hollande
allait gagner, c’
qui est un- un- un petit message
going to win, this who is a- a- a little message
will win, which is a- a- a little subliminal message
subliminal à la droite pour dire vous voyez
subliminal to the right to
say you see
directed to the (political) party of the right to say
le seul qui peut empêcher ça
((smiling face))
the only who can prevent that
you see the only one who can prevent this
*N slightly opens slightly her hands and arms
it’s? (0.8)
t[hat’s it.
10 L: [nicolas. (0.5) mon raymond.
[nicolas. (0.5) my raymond.
[nicolas. (0.5) mon raymond.
11 N: voi:là
tha:t’s it exactly.
you go:t it exactly.
In lines 1-11, N explains how in her interview the former president’s wife subtly
indicates the president would come back. In paraphrasing the interview, N presents the telling in
a way that highlights the person in question (i.e., the former president) without yet naming him.
She first projects a possible not-so-desirable scenario in the upcoming presidential election (lines
For the use and function of this voilà see section 3.5.4
2-5), then suggests that there is only one person who could prevent this undesirable scenario.
Hence, in line 07, N starts what seems like a left-dislocated construction, as she first states the
matrix clause le seul qui peut empêcher ça , with a stress on seul/ ‘only’ as if to highlight this
element. Then she begins to announce the referent, uttering c’est? with rising intonation and
slightly opening her hands and arms to add a theatrical element to this announcement (line 8).
But instead of the missing name/reference, a pause follows, which heightens even more this
awaited announcement. After a longer silence, she finally utters voilà with falling intonation
(line 9). In overlap with this, L proposes a name (the first name of the former president) to
collaborately complete N’s turn from line 8. After an additional silence, he suggests another
name in the clear with falling intonation as he looks toward N, which suggests that L is instead
requesting confirmation: mon Raymond. (the wife’s nickname for the former president). In line
11, N confirms L’s suggestion, thereby ratifying the president’s name as the one she was
referring to without identifying him in line 8. The stretch in voi:là in line 11 adds one last
dramatic effect to this whole theatrical announcement of the missing name, as it functions as
some sort of a “solution” to this long anticipated yet well-known name. The fact that N confirms
L’s candidate completion also indicates that she (N) claims to have epistemic authority over this
telling. In other words, the pause that followed c’est? in line 8 was not an indication of a word
search, but rather a blank that did not necessarily need to be filled for the turn to be understood
by recipients. In other words, this was an intentionally incomplete turn specifically designed for
the recipient to complete (Koshik, 2002).
The following example illustrates another case of an incomplete TCU closed with voilà.
In this particular case, it seems the speaker did not necessarily wish to go all the way to the end
of the TCU. The excerpt is from the same weekly talk show on national French television as the
one in the previous example. In this particular show, one of the guests was LR, a well-known and
beloved French actress, singer, and activist who, together with her husband, was part of what
might be called a mythical couple. Now in her eighties, LR came to the show to promote her
memoirs, in which she writes about her career which spanned over sixty years, but in which she
also reveals that she was not faithful to her husband. This news was introduced by the talk show
host (L) as being a “surprise” to many French people. Before this excerpt, LR discussed her long
career and life at length, including the alleged extramarital affair. Right before this clip, L shows
an archived clip, a musical/cabaret number that LR did while she was working in Las Vegas
some fifty years ago. After the clip, LR and L briefly commented with humor on her attire and
look at that time before LR says the following:
01 LR: donc je suis partie pour trois mois
I am
for three months
so I went there for three months
je suis restée deux ans.
et c’est là
I am
stayed two years. and it’s there whe:re
and I stayed for two years. and that’s whe:re
[la france me
manquait tellementthat’s it good. [the france to me missing so muchthat’s it anyway.[I missed france so much[
vous avez fauté.
[where you have sinned.
[where you sinned.
04 L:
In lines 1-2, LR starts a donc/ ‘so’ prefaced turn to resume a topic she had mentioned
earlier, namely her life in Las Vegas, and specifies how long she stayed there. In her second
TCU (line 2), LR starts to relate some sort of event that presumably occurred there. She does not
complete her TCU, but instead utters voilà followed by bon with falling intonation. LR then
starts a new TCU on a different topic, specifically the fact that she missed her country very much
while living in Las Vegas (line 3). In line 4, in overlap with the new topic TCU, L repeats the
last word LR used (où/ ‘where’) before uttering voilà and then he completes her turn with a
rather euphemistic expression. Note that due to the downward intonation with which the
completion is uttered, it is not presented as a candidate understanding despite the fact that LR has
epistemic authority on events occurring in her life. LR may have claimed epistemic authority by
confirming it, but given that L’s turn has overlapped with LR prior turn, LR probably did not
hear L’s contribution. However, we can still claim that L has recognized LR’s TCU as being an
incomplete one, for he completed her TCU. Thus, voilà is here used by the speaker to
communicate that she either does not wish to add anything more to this TCU, or that she believes
she does not need to add anything more for the TCU to be understood as it is. In the latter case,
the argument could be that LR has already talked in detail about her extramarital affairs earlier in
the discussion/interview, including the fact that it happened while she was living in Las Vegas.
In such a case, she may have felt she did not need to repeat it again, especially since this is
clearly a somewhat delicate story. As for L, he was not necessarily “outing” her, but he was most
likely doing what might be called “a good talk show interviewer”, that is, he may have felt the
need to complete the TCU for the benefit of the audience and therefore for the sake of clarity.
We notice here that LR also used the transition marker bon (Winther, 1985) to self-censor her
talk from going any further and shift her action and introduce a new sequence of action.
The following example of an incomplete TCU closed with voilà shows how recipients
could infer the rest of the talk from what they had heard thus far. The excerpt again comes for
the same television talk show. Here, one of the guests (V) was on the show to promote an
upcoming film that she had directed. Along with her were two of the actors who had played
characters in the film. Right before the excerpt, the actors profusely complimented V on her
abilities to cope with not-so-easy working and living conditions while shooting the film. Most
probably in an attempt to downplay her “sacrifices”, V addressed the compliments as follows:
01 V: c’est pas la taille de la loge qui
it’s not the size
of the trailer which does
the size of the trailer doesn’t contribute much
la qualité du
film, et je- j’ai déjà
the quality of the film, and I- I’ve already had
to the quality of the film, and I- I’ve already had
gra::nds car-loges où
on pouvait
some bi::g
trailers where one could
some hu::ge trailers where one could
04 B: [.h hh hh hh
05 V: [tenir à cinquante, e:::t voilà.
[hold at fifty,
a:::nd that’s it.
[fit fifty persons in, a:::nd that’s it.
06 V: [◦(.h
e- j-
((V looks down with a smirk on her face))
07 L: [h.. ha ha je crois qu’ on a
la suite,
[h.. ha ha I think that we has understood the rest,
[h.. ha ha I think we can figure out the rest,
écoutez (.) je crois que vous les aimez déjà
tous les troislisten (.) I think that you them love already all the threelisten (.) I think these three have already conquered your heart-
In lines 1-2, V explains that the quality of a film is not measured by the level of lavishing
accommodations provided for actors and directors during film shootings. To illustrate her point,
she starts to relate what seems to be a story from a past experience (lines 2-4). However, V does
not finish the story. She starts by saying that she had large accommodations in which 50 persons
could fit, then she builds on her turn with e:::t / ‘a:::nd’ but does not continue her telling to
explain how this impacted the film. Instead she closes her turn with voilà uttered with falling
intonation. In the next turn, L, the talk show host, first laughs while the audience is clapping and
V is muttering an imperceptible utterance and looking downward with a smirk on her face. L
then asserts that he thinks that everyone understood where the actress was going with her telling
(line 5). L concludes the interview as he looked into the camera and communicates to the
audience his good feelings about his three guests (line 6). We don’t know what exactly V was
going to say or what L thought he understood, however if we follow up the rest of V’s reasoning,
we can arguably claim that the example she began to provide was most likely meant to illustrate
that just because she worked under comfortable conditions on her previous film(s), she was not
necessarily happy with the “quality” of the film(s). By leaving this turn incomplete, V thus
avoided mentioning that she had worked “on not so great films.” She thereby circumvented what
could have been an embarrassing admission. L’s laughter at the beginning of line 5 seems to
highlight this potentially embarrassing and yet avoided admission. At the same time, however, V
had provided enough information for recipients to infer the content of the rest of the talk. This
inference is confirmed by L in the next turn (line 7), whose use of the inclusive on/ ‘we’
indicates that V’s incomplete turn could potentially have been completed not only by L, but also
by the audience. This example shows that even if voilà was used to close an incomplete turn,
recipients are able to infer the rest of the talk from what they have heard thus far. However, note
that L did not complete the rest of V’s talk; in other words, even if he could have inferred the rest
of the talk, he refrained from verbalizing the rest of her thought, and instead moved on to the
next sequence of action (i.e., concluding the interview segment) (Not shown in the transcript).
The following is another excerpt in which recipients do not complete the incomplete turn
closed with voilà. This example is from a telephone conversation between a niece (A) and her
aunt (M). The following exchange takes place right after A and M have exchanged greetings.
A: alors je te préviens je t’ enregistre
I you warn
I you record
so I just want to warn you I’m recording you
un peu,
[.hh ha ha
a little
[.hh ha ha
a little bit[.hh ha ha
[ah bon pourquoi?
[oh good why?
[oh really why?
A: .hh hh c’est pourǝ: une étudian:teǝ ma collègue
.hh hh it is fo:r a
uh my colleague
.hh hh it’s fo:r a student my colleague
qui fait une étude sur la langue
et du
who does a
study on the language and of the sudden
who’s doing a study on language and so
elle voulait que j’lui enregistre des conversations,
she wanted that I her record
some conversations,
she wanted me to record some conversations for her,
en franc(h)ais, hh hh
in Fr(h)ench, hh hh
en français.
in french.
mais eu::h c’était=>voilà.<
but uhhh it was =>that’s it.<
m[m. ouaih.(0.7) et ben, c’es:t mm: (0.5] ts
m[m. yeah. (0.7) and well, it i:s mm: (0.5) ts
[.hh hh
FIGURE 3.12 (cont.)
alorsǝ: stéphanie a
bien reçue
la casquette, merciso:
stéphanie has well received the cap,
thanksso: stéphanie got the cap you sent her, thanks-
In lines 1-2, A informs M that she’s recording the telephone call. M inquires as to why
she is doing so (line 3), and A provides a reason (lines 4-6). In line 7, M produces an increment
to A’s turn, but does so with slightly rising intonation. For this reason, the increment can be
heard as a candidate understanding. A confirms M’s candidate understanding in line 8. After a
brief silence, A starts a new mais/ ‘but’ prefaced TCU, she then hesitates before uttering a
subject and a verb but instead of completing the sentence, she latches voilà to the verb. The voilà
is delivered at a higher speed and with falling intonation (line 10). By adding voilà to an
incomplete turn, the speaker communicates that not only did she not want to add anything more
to the TCU, but more specifically she withheld additional words/information that would have
come out if it were not for the latched voilà. M minimally receipts A’s prior turn, then after some
hesitation markers and other false starts, she starts a donc/ ‘so’ prefaced TCU to introduce a new
topic (line 13). M’s minimal receipt token at the beginning of line 11 shows that she ratifies A’s
incomplete turn and thereby communicates to A that she doesn’t need to add anything more to
her turn, even if it is incomplete. That she has gone on to start the next topic shows that M has
no further inquiries about the topic of recording. Therefore, M has agreed to the recording of the
call, or at least does not express any objection to its recording before moving on to the next topic.
Thus, this incomplete TCU which is closed with voilà did not prevent the conversation between
A and M from going forward. Put differently, the completion of this specific TCU was not
necessary in the local negotiation between A and M.
It is worth mentioning however that this segment is slightly different from the other
incomplete turns we have seen before. In the previous examples, the turn seems to be designedly
incomplete, and the co-participants were in a position to complete the turn themselves. This does
not seem to be the case in this data example. Moreover, it is not clear if the incomplete turn was
going to be about the same topic or about a new topic. Hence, there may be too little information
included for the co-participant to guess what would have come. It seems as if the voilà here is
used for a self-interruption or a cancelling of what the speaker (A) had started to say.
Finally, the next example will show that even if voilà is uttered after a complete turn, coparticipants may view voilà as having come “too soon”, which is to say they may feel that the
action has not come to completion. In other words, even though one participant may want to
transition to a next action, there can be resistance from the co-participants. The example comes
from a daily radio talk show. S is a frequent panelist and has a specific musical segment in the
show: he presents fun music-related stories. For this particular day, S brought two songs with
similar melodies, and he thinks that one of them has plagiarized the other. Usually before S
presents these kinds of segments, he provides some brief background to the music extracts that
he is about to present. After listening to the extracts, the panelists decide if indeed there is a case
of plagiarism. In this particular segment, S presents the usual background story as follows:
01 S: donc la chanson avait été créée
par une certaine
the song
been created by a
so the song was created by a certain
irma thomas, qui était, à l’ époque, paraît-il
irma thomas, who was,
at the era,
seems it
irma thomas, who, at the time, was apparently
la reine du
rhythm and blues, à la nouvelle orléans.
the queen of the rhythm and blues, at the new
FIGURE 3.13 (cont.)
the queen of rhythm and blues, of new orleans.
curieusement (.) h. otis redding a
and curiously
(.) h. otis redding has reprised
and interestingly enough (.) otis redding reinterpreted
pratiquement la même mélodie, les arrangements
practically the same melody, the arrangements
practically the same melody, the arrangements
ont été: bien entenduǝ : changés, et la chanson
have bee:n well listene:d changed, and the song
were of course different, and the song
presque le même titre, ça
has almost the same title, that itself
has almost the same title, it’s called
pain in my heart, ça
été une de ses plus gros tubes,
pain in my heart, that been one of his most big hits,
pain in my heart, that was one of his biggest hits,
etǝ : et voilà18,
j’suis étonné
que otis redding
a:nd and here it is, I’m
astonished that otis redding
a:nd and here it is, I’m surprised to find out that otis redding
ait été plagieur,
puisque euh il a
signé cette chanson
has been plagiarist, because uh he has signed this song
was a plagiarist, because uh he signed this song
ou on
fait signer
cette- cette chanson,
or they to him
has does to sign this- this song,
or someone made him sign this- this song,
que (.) .h c’est un plagiat
nevertheless that (.) .h it’s a plagiary
nonetheless (.) this is flagrant plagiarism.
((écoute morceaux de chansons 35s.)) voilà.
((music listening 35s.))
that’s it.
14 L: ha ha ha ha ah oui on
ha ha ha ha oh yeah we
ourselves waiting
For the use and function of this voilà see next chapter (i.e., opening voilà)
FIGURE 3.13 (cont.)
ha ha ha ha yeah but we were expecting
à une chute=((rire des co-animateurs))
at a
fall= ((background laughter from panelists))
a punch line=((background laughter from panelists))
=bravo serge [pour cette ressemblance. ((rire))
=bravo serge [for this similarity. ((laughter))
=good job serge [for this similarly. ((laughter))
17 S:
[j’ai pas trouvé hh hh hh
[I’ve not found hh hh hh
[I did not find any hh hh hh
18 L: madame lagarde la ministre de l’econiomiemisses lagarde the minister of the economymadam lagarde minister of finance-
In lines 1-3, S introduces the first singer and credits her for originally creating the song
that he is about to present. He then introduces the second singer and mentions that this singer
practically reinterpreted the same song (lines 3-8). S then expresses his astonishment that the
second singer has apparently plagiarized the first singer (lines 9-12). As soon as he has finished
this background story, we hear the two extracts of music, with the alternations of the similar
portions for listeners and panelists to compare and contrast. This listening activity lasts exactly
35 seconds. Right after the music stopped, S utters voilà with downward intonation, indicating
the end of his segment (line 13) and a transition to a next action. In the next turn (line 14), the
first reaction to S’s turn was an outburst of laughter, then L explains that they were actually
expecting some sort of concluding remarks (lines 14-15) then he latches those remarks to the
next line as he compliments S and acknowledges the resemblance between the two songs (line
16). In line 17 and in overlap mid-way through L’s previous turn, S justifies why he failed to
provide any concluding remarks. In the next turn L starts a new topic of discussion (line 18). In
sum, in this example the voilà was an attempt to close not only the end of the listening activity,
but also S’ turn at talk (i.e., his broadcasting segment) as well. But according to the recipients’
expectations, there was a missing element between the end of the activity and the utterance of
voilà. In other words, L and the other panelists were expecting additional talk from S after the
end of the listening activity and before he closed his turn at talk, most probably an “after
listening” remark that would match up with the “pre-listening” talk he provided at the beginning
of the segment. This expectation may be genre-related, i.e., it could be that usually in his
segments, the listening activity is followed up with additional remarks. This would also explain
the speaker’s justification (he attempted to find a funny remark but was unable to). However, in
this specific case, by uttering voilà, S may be indicating “the evidence is so compelling that there
is nothing more to add”. In other words, this specific example does not need any additional
remarks for S to make his point. This observation can be also be corroborated by the fact that
there is no pause between the end of the music and the utterance of voilà.
Here then, voilà did not close an incomplete turn, and as a matter of fact L’s
compliments show that S has successfully demonstrated the similarity of the two songs. Hence
S’s “missing talk” did not impede the panelists from understanding S’s turn at talk and give the
appropriate response to it, even if they “questioned” the placement of voilà in the sequence. So
even if this voilà closed a complete activity, it seems that it was uttered before its pragmatic
ending, or at least it was a turn understood as being “pragmatically incomplete” by the recipients.
To sum up, in this section I have shown how voilà is used to end syntactically and
pragmatically incomplete turns. In doing so, I have demonstrated how speakers communicate
the wish to move on to the next sequence of action. I have shown how recipients orient to this
wish by initiating the next sequence of action. We also notice that recipients systematically
complete the turns, which indicates their orientation to the action fulfilled by the voilà.
In the next section, I will show how recipients use voilà in b-event statements (Labov & Fanshel,
1977) to claim a higher epistemic authority (Heritage & Raymond, 2012) and propose to move
on the next sequential action.
3.5.4 The use of voilà in b-event statements
B-event statements, which are usually formed as an understanding check, can produce
sequentially “tricky” situations mainly because they involve speakers making statementss over
which recipients have higher epistemic authority. Indeed, according to Heddesheimer (1974: 30
cited in Delahaie, 2009b: 24), when a recipient (i.e., interlocutor B) confirms a speaker’s (i.e.,
interlocutor A) prior turn with voilà on matters over which he/she has epistemic authority (i.e.,
B-event), he/she expresses that “he/she could have uttered the same statement as the interlocutor
A” ( […] c’est l’acte verbal par lequel l’interlocuteur B marque expressément qu’il aurait pu
émettre le même énoncé que l’interlocuteur A. La demande de confirmation porte donc sur des
faits que l’on peut appeler A-B : A asserte quelque chose sur un fait B, mais il n’en est pas sûr, B
est le mieux placé pour savoir ce qu’il en est et il interprétera l’énoncé de A comme une
demande de confirmation). In this section, I will thus examine how co-participants claim a higher
epistemic authority by uttering voilà. I will further argue that they also simultaneously close the
adjacency pair formed by the interlocutors’ understanding check turns.
This first example comes from a telephone conversation between a mother (M) and her
daughter (S). In this excerpt, S is trying to identify one of her mother’s friends whom her mother
has been talking about. Before this excerpt, M has told S about this colleague/friend of hers who
will soon be moving to another city because she found a job there. At the beginning of the
telling, S did not seem to know this person, but as her mother discloses more details, S suddenly
seem to have recognized the person.
S: ah:, c’est cette personne qui s’en va=
oh:, it’s this person
who away goes=
oh:, that’s the person who’s leaving=
S: =[c’est tac’est ta p’tite copine en fait=
=[it’s your- it’s you small friend in fact=
=[that was your- that was your friend=
=elle voulait toujours te
parler: et tout.
=she wanted
always to you tal:k and all.
=she always wants to ta:lk to you and everthing.
M: toujours.
S: elle voulait prendre ses déjeuners avec toi, c’est ça?
she wanted to take her lunches
with you, it’s that?
she always wanted to have lunch with you, right?
M: voi:là.
S: ah:: tu vas être:ǝ triste alors.
ah:: you go to be: sad
oh:: so you’re going to be sad.
In line 1, S has recognized the person her mother was talking about earlier. The ah:: at
the beginning of the turn marks this sudden “change-of-state” (Heritage, 1984). S produces the
beginning of a candidate understanding which is completed in lines 3 and 4. M provides a
continuer in line 2. Then, after a brief silence, M confirms S’s understandings (line 6). One could
assume that now the conversation continues as the referent has been identified. However, S
continues with one more candidate understanding (line 7). M confirms S’s prior turn with a
stretched voi:là (line 8), as if to stress the accurate description of S. With the voilà in line 8, M
not only provides a second pair part to the candidate understanding, but she also closes the whole
person identification sequence which started in line 1. The closure of the sequence is also
confirmed by the utterance of S in the next and last turn (line 9): Having understood who the
mother is talking about, S now assesses the situation in terms of its effect on the mother.
A voilà can also close an insertion sequence in a longer telling, as illustrated in the
following example. This excerpt comes from a radio talk show in which one of the guests (P) is
promoting an upcoming charity event she is organizing to benefit her association. Before this
excerpt, P explains how the event works: People would buy tickets online and if they are lucky
enough, they might win a highly prized Picasso painting.
01 P: voua pouvez aller sur ce site et vous avez toutes les infos
you can
to go on the site and you have all
the info
you can go on this website and you will get all the information
évidemment qui expliquent, qu’ il y
obviously who explain,
that it there has only
that will obviously explain, that there’s only
cinquante mille
billets, [donc voua avez beaucoup de chance
thousand tickets, [so
you have lots
of luck
fifty thousand tickets,
[so you have lots of chances
04 C:
[(ah oui
[(oh really
05 P: de gagner, c’est une chance élevée,
to win,
it’s a
to win, the chances are high,
06 L: une chance sur cinquante mille.
one luck
on fifty
one chance in fifty thousand.
07 P: voilà,
alors il faut savoir que
that’s it, so
it must know
have put
FIGURE 3.15 (cont.)
exactly, but you have to know it took us
quand même presque deux ans
à avoir les autorisationswhen same almost two years to have the authorisationsnonetheless almost two years to get the authorizations-
In lines 1-5, P explains how listeners can get more information about the event.
Apparently the number of tickets for sale is low thus the chances to win a painting are very high.
In line 6, the talk show host (L) specifies exactly how likely it is to win a painting. In line 7, P
confirms L’s specification with voilà19 and goes on to specify, with an alors/ ‘so’ prefaced turn,
how long it took her to put together this event (lines 7-8). In this telling, line 6 and the voilà in
line 7 are an inserted adjacency pair. L’s specification turn (line 6) functions as a FPP while P’s
confirmation with voilà (line 7) functions as a SPP. P has epistemic authority over this event and
its procedure, but as a host L could also have accessed the same information as he prepared for
this interview segment. Since L is talking about P’s event, she treats his utterance as a candidate
understanding, thereby claiming a higher epistemic right over L.
This following example will illustrate the opposite scenario, which is when the recipient
confirms a subject matter over which he does not have epistemic authority. The example comes
from a weekly TV talk show. The show host (L) is about to show an extract of a sketch of one of
his guests (S), a standup comedian. In this segment, L says a few introductory words before the
viewing of the sketch.
Here it is worth mentioning that voilà forms its own TCU even if it is uttered in a continuation
intonation. In other words, voilà here does not preface the next TCU. The TCU in question is
prefaced in this case by alors/ ‘so’.
01 L: c’est un extrait d’ un sketch que vous avez fait
it’s an extract of a sketch that you have done
this is an extract of a sketch that you did
à l’
atelier de pierre palmade, avec un camarade à vous,
at the workshop of pierre palmade, with a friend
at you,
at pierre palmade’s studio, with a friend of yours,
03 S: benoît moret.
04 L: voilà,
eu::h regardez c’es:t l’ humour
de sébastien castrothat’s it, u::h look
the humour
of sébastien castroexactly, u::h take a look tha:t’s the humor of sébastien castro-
In lines 1-2, L identifies and describes S’s sketch that he is about to present to viewers. In
his description, L mentions that S’s friend appears in the sketch. In line 3 S identifies his friend
by his name. In the next turn (line 4), L confirms S’s previous turn with voilà and continues his
introduction as he invites the viewers to watch the upcoming sketch. By uttering voilà, L
confirms S’s additional information of the name of his friend. Obviously S has epistemic
authority over the name of his friend and co-worker. L may or may not have known the name
before, or he may have known the name and may have experienced a temporary memory lapse.
But in any case, L did not display any attempt at name searching, and instead simply used a
descriptor to identify the friend in question. S’s turn on the other hand in line 3 is not a
confirmation request but an assertion; that is, an additional specification in L’s telling. Therefore
L could not have replied for instance with oui/ ‘yes’, which is an answer token to a question
(Delahaie, 2009b). However, he could have said d’accord/okay/ ‘okay’. Had this occurred, it
would have meant that L treated S’s assertion as an informative turn. That is, had he ratified S’s
turn with d’accord/okay, it would have been an acknowledgement that this information was
unknown to him before (Delahaie, 2009b). Hence by specifically using voilà, which according to
Delahaie (2009b) is the preferred confirmation marker token to an assertive utterance, L claims
and communicates to S that he has just as much epistemic authority over his assertion20. In other
words, S projected himself as the most knowledgeable one (K+) (Heritage & Raymond, 2012).
However, in his response with voilà, L demonstrated that he is just as knowledgeable (K+), and
thereby communicates that there is no knowledge gap in the “epistemic gradient” between the
two of them (Heritage & Raymond, 2012: 180). In any case, the utterance of voilà closes the
inserted sequence and L goes on to his main telling, namely that of introducing the upcoming
To sum up, what is interesting in these last three examples is that we have seen that
recipients systematically treated speakers’ prior turns as an understanding check. Whether the
turn is a real confirmation request (example 3.14), or a specification (example 3.15 and 3.16), by
uttering voilà the recipient claimed a higher epistemic authority over the subject matter. What is
also interesting is that these utterances of voilà are placed at the boundary of sequentially
positioned actions: That is to say, right after the utterance of voilà either the speaker takes the
next turn of the sequentially next action (example 3.14), or the recipient keeps the turn but shifts
to the next action (example 3.15 and 3.16). The use of voilà within speakers’ turns at talk is
precisely what I will examine in the next section.
3.5.5 Shift in action within speakers’ turns at talk
The following excerpts show how speakers use voilà, more specifically the composite
voilà (i.e., voilà, c’est tout), to shift the course of action within their turn at talk. Speakers of
French use the composite voilà, c’est tout to defend their position in argumentative talk or to
clarify their talk.
According to Delahaie (2009b: 27) c’est ça/ ‘that’s it’ when used as a confirmation token, has
a similar function as voilà, only statistically speaking it is used less frequently than voilà.
In the first example, B and A are having an argument on a radio show concerning
endangered animals. B is a frequent panelist on the show and is known for his grumpy and
grouchy character. A is a journalist and a well-known fervent animal rights advocate. In this
particular show, A was invited to talk about the protection of endangered species. During the
discussion, the issue of wolves and bears came up. Even if wolves and bears may be identified as
endangered species, B does not see the necessity of reinserting these species in the countryside
because according to him, they cause more harm to other animals than good. On the other hand,
A thinks that they contribute to the diversity of species, the maintenance of natural life. He
further mentions that shepherds actually support and value the presence of these endangered
species. B challenges the notion that shepherds would support the reinsertion of wolves and
bears in their countryside as follows:
01 B: vous- vous- vous affirmez
you- you- you are asserting
ici. à europe 1.
here. on europe 1.
02 A: oui.
03 B: àatat-
six heures moins le quart
at six hours minus the quarter
at a quarter to six
((rire du fond de la salle)) un mardi:,
of the evening. ((background laughter))
one tuesda:y,
in the evening. ((background laughter)) on a tuesda:y,
mois de juin, ((rire continue))
at the month of june, ((laughter continues))
of the month of june, ((laughter continues))
que (.) la grande majorité des berges
(.) sont
that (.) the big
majority of shepherds (.) are
that (.) the vast majority of shepherds (.) are
pour la réintroduction
for the reintroduction
de loups, et
of wolves, and
de- et d’ours,
of- and of bears,
FIGURE 3.17 (cont.)
for the reinsertion of wolves and of- and of bears,
08 A: c’est marrant=
it’s funny=
09 B: = dans leurs campagnes.
= in
their countrysides. [yes?
= in their countrysides.
[is that right?
10 A:
[la manière[the way[
la manière dont
vous interprétez les choses.
the way
of which you interpret
the things.
the way you interpret things.
est-ce que
j’ai dit
la grande majorité=
is- it that I’ve said the big
did I say the vast majority=
=jamais de la vie .h
=never of the life .h
=never ever .h
14 B: vous dites [il
une majorité qui votent ça
you say
there has a
majority who vote
you said
[there’s a majority who voted for that
15 A:
[j’ai dit- j’ai dit qu’ il y
avait des ber[I’ve said- I’ve said that it there was
some shep[I said- I said that there are some shep16 B: il y
une minorité qui est contre.
it there has a
minoroty who is against.
there’s a minority who is against it.
17 A: oui, il y
une majorité, il y
eu des
yes, it there has a
majority, it there has had some
yes, there’s a majority, there were some surveys
sondages qui
ont été
faits dans les pyrénées notamment,
surveys that have been done in
the pyrenees specifically,
done in the pyrenees specifically,
une majorité de gens,
there has a
majority of people, of whom
FIGURE 3.17 (cont.)
there is a majority of people,
[des bergers
qui souhaitent la présence des
[some shepherds who wish
the presence of the bears
[some of whom are shepherds who want the the presence of bears
21 L: [alain
22 A: voilà,
c’est tout. mai:s il y
that’s it, that’s all. bu:t it there has here it is
that’s it, that’s all. bu:t there are voilà
qui sont opposés.
[of the people who are opposed.
[some people who are opposed.
24 L: [a- alain ne vous laissez pas faire.
[a- alain not you leave
not to do.
[a- alain don’t let him push you around.
on a
un seul [ours
we have one only [bear
he’s the only
[bear we have
26 A:
[non non je me laisse pas faire.
[no no
I not leave not to do.
[no no I’m not letting him push me around.
27 L: on
un seul ours [autour de cette table,
we have one only bear [around of this table,
he’s the only bear
[we have at this table,
28 A:
[oui, je tombe sur lui.
[yes, I fall on him.
[yes,I had to bump into him.
29 L: on- o(hh)n essaye de le sauvegarder, on se
we- w(hh)e try
to him protect,
we ourselves
we- w(hh)e’re trying to protect him, let’s
re(hh)trou(hh)ve après la pu(hh)b.
after the publ(hh)icity.
m(hh)eet again after the br(hh)eak.
For the use and function of this voilà see the next chapter.
In lines 1-9, to the delight of the panelists and audience, B confronts A in a rather
theatrical manner on what he supposedly said earlier in their discussion. A refutes B’s claim and
accuses B of distorting his words (lines 8 and 10-13). B rephrases A’s earlier claim (in line 14
and 16). In line 15, A first starts to remind B of what he said earlier, and then drops out to
address B’s rephrasing (lines 17-20). A starts by acknowledging having mentioned some portion
of the claim but goes on to defend the claims as he clarifies what he exactly meant to say (lines
17-20). This clarification is followed by voilà, c’est tout delivered with falling intonation (line
22). A then starts a new TCU prefaced with mais/ ‘but’ to mitigate what he just defended in the
previous TCUs (lines 22-23). In this instance, voilà, c’est tout is positioned between the end of
the clarification sequence and before the mitigation sequence. It thus separates two courses of
action within the same topic. Finally, the talk show host (L) takes the next turn to end this
argument with humor before there is a commercial break (lines 24-30).
This next example of argumentative talk comes from a weekly TV show, in which
various guests (e.g., artists, politicians, and writers) participate. The show is hosted by one main
host and two journalists (NP and AP). The court-like setting usually frightens the guests and the
journalists are known for asking challenging questions. In this particular show, CH was one of
the guests; he is a journalist/TV radio host turned musician. Other guests include GD and FD,
both of whom are artists. CH came to the show to promote his new CD. Neither of the journalists
likes the CD and they were both extremely critical of CH’s artistic ability. Before the beginning
of this segment, there was a very heated discussion which lasted for about twenty minutes, at the
end of which CH finally decided to leave the show. This extract is part of the exchanges that
took place after GD went backstage and convinced CH to come back. The other guests, GD and
FD, thought that the journalists were harsh toward CH.
GD: non mais vous pouvez admettre être
no but you can
to be clumsy
no but you can admit to being clumsy
et blesser parfois
les gens.
and to hurt sometimes
the people.
and being hurtful to people sometimes.
FD: la difficulté [c’est quand c’est blessant.
the difficulty [is when it’s hurtful.
[c’est possible? [ça
existe non?
[it’s possible?
[that exists no?
[is that possible?[you can do that, can’t you?
[on peut donner son avis
[one can give
his opinion
[you can give your opinion
mais il faut (.) un p’tit peu (
but it must (.) a lit’le bit (
but you have (.) to be a little (
AP: mais alors [qu’ est-ce qui était blessant dans son avis.
but so
[that is- it who was
hurtful in
her opinion.
but then
[ what was hurtful in what she said.
[je n’ avais aucune volonté de ble[sser, j’essayais
[I not had
hu[rt, I was trying
[I had no intention to be hurtful, [I was trying
[eh ben,
[and well,
c’est raté.
it’s failed.
you failed.
NP: d’ analyser cette démarche qui
est quand même étonnante,
to analyse this step
which is when same surprising,
to analyze this approach of yours that I find quite surprising,
FIGURE 3.18 (cont.)
me semblait dans la droite
ligne de toute
which me seemed
the straight line of all
and which in my opinion, reflected the
la façon que vous avez construit votre carrière.
the ways
that you have built
your career.
way you built your career.
CH: [(
NP: [.h et après
je faisais
savoir que moi
[.h and after
I was doing to know that me
[.h then I was mentioning
je trouve (.) étonnant en fait d’ avoir ce
b- ce
I find
(.) surprising in fact to have this n- this
the fact that I find (.) surprising this n-
besoin de sortir en permanence de ce
to leave in permanence of this role
need of yours to constantly step out of your
d’ ani[mateur voilà,
c’est tout.
of ho[st(TV) that’s it,
it’s all
talk s[how host function. that’s it, that’s all.
[oui mais vous pouvez(.)pos[yes but you can
(.)pos[yes but you can (.) as-
CH: po[sez des
po[se of the questions,
as[k questions,
[je n’vois du tout
en quoi c’était humiliant.
[I not see of the all in what it was humiliating
[excuse me but I don’t see how this was humiliating.
[excuse me
24 CH: [vous pos- c’est pas humilant,
mettez-vous à la place[you as- it’s not humiliating, put
you at the place[you as- it’s not humiliating, but put yourself in the place-
Both GD and FD accused NP of being hurtful (lines 1-6). In line 7 AP defends her fellow
journalist as she questioned the “hurtful” nature of the interview. In line 8, NP first states that her
intention was not to be hurtful and goes on to justify her interview as she explained the lens
through which she was looking at CH’s career move (lines 12-19). In line 19, NP finishes her
explanation, and then utters voilà, c’est tout with falling intonation. In overlap with NP’s prior
turn, CH seems to be telling NP what she should have or could have done, but he does not
complete his TCU (lines 20-21). In lines 22-23, NP challenges the description of her interview as
“humiliating”. In the next turn (line 24), CH first starts by repeating part of the argumentation he
started in lines 20-21, then he drops out to address NP’s challenge in the prior turn. The line of
interest here is line 19: up to the utterance of voilà, c’est tout, NP was defending herself as she
justifies her interviewing process, but her action has changed after voilà, c’est tout, for she is
now challenging her co-participants to prove her wrong. This example shows thus that voilà,
c’est tout is placed at a sequential boundary, between the defense and the challenge.
In this section, I have shown how speakers use voilà to shift from one action to the next
and thus manage sequences of actions within their turn at talk. In this last section, I will examine
how co-participants manage sequences of actions whenever their interactions involve side
The use of voilà in the closing of side sequences
Side sequences are turns that are inserted either by the speakers in their own turn at talk,
or by the co-participants in the speakers’ turn at talk. In the following examples, we will see
how voilà is used to manage sequences of actions, by first closing the side sequence and then
shifting to the next course of action.
This first excerpt is taken from a telephone conversation between M and her
granddaughter (A). Right after the greeting exchanges, the two of them talk about what the
weather is like where M lives.
M: =ça va=
tu veux que je t’envoie le soleil de- de
=it goes= you want that I you send the sun
=I’m fine=do you want me to send you some sun from–from
b[onjour mami:e?
g[ood day mami:e?
g[ood morning mami:e?
[bonjour phanie.
[good day phanie.
[good morning phanie.
comment vas-[tu?
go- [you?
how are [you?
[ça va?
[it goes?
[how are you?
ça va bien=
it goes well=
I’m fine=
ah oui, si tu en
oh yes, if you some have=
oh yeah, if you have some=
M: =il fait froid.
=it does cold.
=it is cold.
ha ha ha [ha ah
[froid et il y
a de la neige, enfin pas chez nous
[cold and it there has some snow, well not at
[cold and it’s snowing, well not here
[mais du côté
de périgueux, et puis dans le nord
[but from nearby of périgueux, and then in
the north
[but near périgueux and in the north of france
FIGURE 3.19 (cont.)
de la france c’est plein de neige, il fait très très froid.
of the france it’s full of snow, it does very very cold.
there’s a lot of snow and it’s very very cold.
ah mince.
oh shoot.
that’s it. [(◦h◦)
[il fait quelle température exactement, il fait[it does which temperature exactly,
it does[what is the temperature, it’s-
Lines 1-6 constitute a regular telephone opening with a greeting and how-are-you
sequence. In lines 6-7, M brings up the topic of the weather by offering to send along some sun,
an offer which A accepts in line 8. M then starts a more specific side sequence on how cold the
weather is where she lives (line 9). M’s weather telling is delivered progressively: she first
makes a general comment about the weather being cold, and stresses each word she utters as if to
highlight the level of coldness (line 9). A receipts M’s remark with laughter (line 10), then M
goes on to specify that it is also snowing but then adds/corrects that is not snowing where she
lives (line 11). A receipts this specification with a minimum token (line 12), in overlap with A’s
turn. M then specifies where exactly, geographically speaking, the cold areas are located (lines
13-14). A receipts M’s additional information with an assessment (line 15). In line 16, M utters
voilà with downward intonation. I argue that this voilà serves to close M’s side sequence on
“how cold the weather is”. The next turn (line 17) provides support for this reading, as A now
asks about the temperature. In other words, by saying voilà, M communicates that she has
nothing more to add to this side sequence. As a consequence, A, who has been receiving the
telling with minimal tokens, orients to the voilà having closed the side sequence about the
weather in other areas in France. She can be seen to return to the topic prior to the side-sequence
by asking about the specific temperature where M lives.
The following example illustrates a side sequence inserted by a co-participant in the
speaker’s turn at talk. In this excerpt from a radio talk show, before saying goodbye, the host (L)
tells his audience, as he always does at the end of his Friday shows, about some events and other
happenings during the weekend. He announces the first event as follows:
01 L : au
théâtre sylvia-montfort, ça c’est beaucoup plus connu,
at the theater sylvia-monfort, that it’s lots
more known,
at silvia-monfort theater, that’s more popular
02 G: ah,
03 L: amedée ou comment s’
en débarrasser de
eugene ionesco,
amedée or how
itself some get rid
from eugene ionesco,
amedée or how to get rid of it22 by eugene ionesco,
mise en scène par roger planchon, ça
c’est quand même
put in scene by roger planchon, that it’s when same
staged by roger planchon, planchon is nonetheless
un des
rois du
théâtre planchon, amedée d’ionesco
one of the kings of the theater planchon, amedée d’ionesco
one of the kings of theater, amedée by ionesco
théâtre sylvia monfo:rt,
at the theater sylvia monfo:rt,
at silvia-monfo:rt theater,
07 T: moi il y
le: il y
le festifemme,
me it there has the: it there has the festifemme,
for me there’s the: there’s the festifemme,
c’est à marseille, c’est un festivalǝ: humoristique
it’s at marseille, it’s a festival: humoristic
it’s going be in marseille, it’s a humoristic festival
Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It (original French title: Amédée ou comment s'en débarrasser)
is a play written by Eugène Ionesco in 1954.
FIGURE 3.20 (cont.)
et dont
j’ai souvent été le
and of which I’ve
often been the sponsor,
and for which I often acted as a sponsor,
et il y
que des des des::
des jeunes femmes
and it there has only some some some:: some young women
and only uhm uhm uhm young female comedians
comiques qui participent. euh comme son nom l’ indique. voilà.
comedians who participate. uh like its name it indicate. that’s it.
participate in it. uh as the name suggests. that’s it.
12 L: signalons
les zolalet’s signal also
the zolalet’s also mention les zola-
In lines 1- 6, L announces the name of the play, the author, the stage manager and the
place where this event is going to take place. In line 6, L finishes the turn with slightly upward
intonation and by stretching the pronunciation of last word. But in line 7, T, a panelist on the
show, takes the next turn to announce his event, so to speak (lines 7-11). T finishes his turn at
talk with two successive TCUs delivered with downward intonation, followed by voilà delivered
with downward intonation as well (line 11). This closes off his contribution. In line 12, L picks
up where he left of in line 6 and continues relaying more announcements for the weekend to
We notice that T’s turn at talk (lines 7-11) is actually closed before the utterance of voilà,
so the utterance of voilà re-closes the telling. T’s turn is actually prompted by L’s telling (i.e.,
his relaying of weekend events). By self-selecting with a moi/ ‘for me’ prefaced turn, T has
interrupted L’s main sequence to insert an aside telling. Accordingly, by uttering voilà after an
already closed turn, T communicates to L that he can now take back the turn and carry on with
the main sequence of action that he started in line 1. In other words T’s insertion sequence is
“marked” by virtue of its position. By this reasoning, it is only appropriate to end such a
turn/sequence in an overtly marked manner as well.
The next example comes from the same radio show. In this extract, the talk show host (L)
is interacting with a guest (A) over the phone. A is a casting director for singers who perform in
Paris’s subways. L interviews A on how he chooses the contestants, what prizes the winners of
the contest receive, etc. Before ending the conversation, L thanks A for being on the show and
seemed to be prepared to close the conversation. However, A has an idea to suggest to L and for
this reason stops the closing sequence from going any further. The voilà of interest is in line 13:
01 L: on vous remercie [monsieur nasauwe you thanks
nasauwe thank you [mister nasau[
02 A:
[mais mais j’avais juste une question pour laurent.
[but but I had
just one question for laurent
[but but I just have one question for laurent.
03 L: oui.
04 A: laurent qui: justement c’es:t un adepte
laurent who: precisely it’i:s a supporter
laurent who: by the way is a supporter
des- des- des comedies musicales et des- des artistes,
some- some- some comedy
musicals and some- some artists,
of of- of-comedy musicales and artists,
06 L: merci à
partir [du
(.) deux octobre
thanks from to go [of the (.) two october
thanks starting (.)[on (.) october second
07 A:
[thursday evening
[thursday evening
08 L: c’est la premiere d’ aznavour,
is the first
of aznavour,
we will debut aznavour,
FIGURE 3.21 (cont.)
09 A: voilà.
alors moi j’avais [une idée à- à- àexactly.
me I had
[an idea to- to- toexactly. so I had this idea
10 L:
[au gymnase.
[at the gymnasium.
11 A: soumettre à laurent c’est peut-être d’écrire
to laurent it’s maybe
to write
to submit to you laurent maybe you can write
une comédie musicale sur les artistes du
comedy musical
on the artists of the metro.
a comedy musical on subway artists.
13 L: [◦ah
14 A: [on
sait jamais. voilà.
knows never. that’s it.
never know. that’s it.
15 L: ah c’est pas bête
oh it’s not stupid that.
oh that’s not a bad idea.
In line 1, L thanks A, which indicates that he’s ready to end the call. However, in the next
turn (line 2) and in overlap, A stops the closing sequence with a pre-announcement on what he’s
about to say. L gives him the “go ahead” in line 3. In lines 4-5, A starts first by complimenting L
on his artistic abilities. L accepts the compliments and takes the opportunity to plug his
upcoming comedy musical (lines 6, 8 and 10). A first agrees with L’s account with exactement in
line 7 and with voilà23 in line 9, then he resumes the telling with an alors/ ‘so’ prefaced turn as
he suggests to L that he create a musical comedy based on subway singers (lines 9, 11, and 12).
L receipts A’s telling minimally in the next turn (line 13). In Overlap (line 14), A mitigates
somewhat his telling and finishes this first TCU in his turn with downward intonation followed
We notice here that A used voilà (line 9) to claim an equal epistemic authority (see section
3.5.4) over the subject matter concerning L’s domain.
by voilà also delivered with falling intonation. L receipts A’s suggest with a somewhat positive
assessment (line 15).
Once more we notice here that voilà re-completes the speaker’s turn at talk, which was
syntactically and pragmatically complete before the utterance of voilà. In this particular case, just
like in the previous example, A’s turn at talk is a “marked” sequence, inserted interruptively
during the closing of the conversation. The sequence itself was introduced with a preannouncement, and is therefore a sequence which necessitated the recipient’s licensing to even
occur. By re-closing an already closed turn with voilà, A communicates to L that he can now
resume the closing sequence he had started before the beginning of the sequence.
The next example is another instance of an inserted side sequence. The excerpt is from a
radio talk show in which P participates frequently as a panelist. He regularly presents a segment
in which he pays tribute to recently deceased personalities. On this day, P is remembering an
internationally known African singer and activist. Before his tribute, P starts his sequence with
an aside story as he reminds the audience how the activist died:
P: le public
eu:h l’ a
applaudie à tout rompre
the audience u:h her has applauded at all to break
the audience u:h applauded her wildly
quand elleǝ s’
est retirée en coulisse,
when she: herself is retired in backstage,
as she went backstage,
il l’ a
qu’ elle revienne etcetera,
it her has called back, that she come back etccetera,
the audience called her back, so that she come back etcetera,
et puis eh ben pour une fois elle n’ a
pas répondu
and then and well for one time she not has not responded
then well for once she did not respond
parce queǝ: aussitôt
sortie d’scène elle s’
immediately left of stage she herself is
FIGURE 3.22 (cont.)
becau:se as soon as she left the stage she
écroulée en coulisse, avec uneǝ crise cardiaque,
collapsed in backstage, with a:
crises cardiac,
collapsed backstage, with a heart attack,
et pendant son transport
à l’ hôpital, plus
and while
her transportation to the hospital, more
and she was on her way to the hospital, more
exactement (.)elle a
été transportée à l’ hôpital
(.)she has been transported to the hospital
specifically (.) she was transported to the hospital
elle est morte euh à l’ hôpital voilà.
.h donc c’estshe is dead uh at the hospital that’s it. .h so it’sand she died uh at the hospital that’it. .h so it’s
c’est là,
en italie, euh pour- pourǝ protester,
it’s there, in itlay, uh
to- to:
it’s there in italy, uh to- to: protest,
ou pour sout’nir un-un-un- un auteur condamné
or to
support a- a- a- an actor sentenced
à mort
par la mafia, donc condamné à l’ exile,
to death by the mafia, so
sentenced to the exile,
to death by the mafia, in other words in exile,
que, euh elle est v’nue chanterthat, uh she is came to singthat, uh she came to sing-
In lines 1-9, P narrates the last minutes of the singer’s life. He presents the news
progressively, explaining in lines 1-2 how the audience clapped when she left the stage, then in
lines 3-6 explaining the reason why she did not come back from backstage to salute the audience,
and finally announcing where exactly she died (lines 7-9). At the end of this telling, he utters
voilà with downward intonation. Then, in lines 9-13, P explains the reason why she came to sing
in Italy in the first place with a donc/ ‘so’ prefaced TCU. Thus, here voilà closes the side telling
on how the singer died and donc introduces the main action (i.e., the beginning of his tribute).
To conclude, we have seen in this and in previous sections how voilà is used at the
boundary of actions to close the previous and indicate readiness to tackle the next sequence of
actions. In the next section I will summarize my findings.
3.6 Summary of findings and discussion
In this chapter, I have demonstrated that voilà’s main action is not so much to close the
previous sequence, but rather to manage sequences/courses of actions. It is used in drastic action
shifts (e.g., example 3.2), when the speaker doesn’t recognize the end of a telling and provides
continuers instead of other more fitted talk, such as assessments, etc. (e.g., example 3.3), when
asides or insertion sequences were used that were topically related to the main sequence (e.g.,
example 3.20), and in incomplete turns (e.g., example 3.10).
Voilà is used by both speakers and recipients. Speakers use voilà to close their talk in
sequentially third position, to close their TCUs in a multi-unit turn. When voilà is a stand-alone
token or the last element in the turn/TCU, it is always uttered by the speakers with falling
intonation. When speakers use composite voilàs (i.e., voilà, c’est tout; et puis voilà), they
function as one unit and carry an additional illocutionary meaning, as they close the previous
sequence in specific sequential environments. My analyses have also shown that voilàs are used
by recipients as responsive tokens. They are used by recipients in second pair parts to perform
three specific actions: to agree with the prior speaker, to confirm the prior speaker’s candidate
understandings, and to mark the end of their answer. If voilà is the only element of the second
pair part (i.e., the agreement/confirmation token), then it is uttered with falling intonation. If
however the adjacency pair was an inserted sequence, then the voilàs were mostly uttered with
slightly rising intonation. In other words, the recipients put the main action on hold to address the
inserted sequence, after which they uttered voilà and then returned to main action. This
presumably explains its being uttered with continuing intonation (e.g., data example 3.15 and
3.16). However in data example 3.21, the recipient closed the speaker’s first pair part with a
voilà uttered with a falling intonation, before resuming the ongoing main sequence with a donc/
‘so’ prefaced TCU.
Both recipients and speakers recognized voilà as a closing marker, as they both orient to
its closing feature as they take the next turn/TCU to start the next sequence of action. My data
collection shows that if the speakers use voilà within their own turn at talk, then their next move
is to start a new action of the same topic rather than start a new topic. This is mainly exemplified
by the composite voilà, c’est tout. For instance, in data example 3.18, voilà, c’est tout is placed at
a point in the conversation when the speaker moves from defending herself to challenging the
co-participant. Another example which illustrates the use of voilà separating two sequences of
actions would be data example 3.22, in which the speaker uses the marker to separate a side
telling from a main telling.
Regardless of who speaks after the voilà has been uttered after the prior sequence has
been closed, a new action is started. If the prior speaker continues, the action is topically related
(e.g., example 3.4) whereas if the co-participant continues, then it is not necessarily related.
Indeed, when speakers close their turn at talk with voilà, they specifically propose to move on to
a new sequence of action unless the recipients have something to add to the sequence. For
instance, in data example 3.19, after the speaker has closed her turn at talk on the topic of the
weather elsewhere in France, the recipient returned to the main sequence by questioning the
speaker about the current outside temperature where she lived.
When speakers use voilà they look backward and make some sort of statement in
reference to it. For instance, when voilà is used as a transition marker, it looks backward and
forward at the same time. When speakers close with voilà an incomplete turn, they communicate
that they don’t wish or need to add anything more to the previous turn. Likewise, when recipients
use voilà as an agreement marker they communicate they could have said what the previous
speaker has just said. To sum up, it seems that the use of voilà in closings is directly linked to its
semantic meaning which is spatial-deictic (Bergen & Plauché, 2001).
One could assume that because voilà is used in closings, then it is also used in
environments in which conversations are closed. This, however, is not the case. In other words,
voilà does not pre-close the conversation, nor does it invite recipients to close the conversation. I
did not find an example in my telephone data in which voilà triggered terminal exchanges
(Schegloff & Sacks, 1973). In my data corpus the telephone conversations were mostly preclosed with d’accord/ ‘okay’, okay, bon/ ‘okay’ and allez (literally, allez is the imperative form
of the verb ‘to go’ (formal)). For instance, this is how M and her granddaughter (A) concluded
their telephone conversation:
01. A:
[et(.) au week [end prochain.
[and(.)to week [end next.
[and(.)talk to you next[week.
02. M:
[à bientôt.
[to soon.
[talk to you soon.
03. A: à bientôt mamie.
to soon
talk to you soon granny.
04. M: d’accord.
FIGURE 3.23 (cont.)
05. A: gros bisous.
big kisses.
06. M: d’accord d’accord.
07. A: [bye
08. M: [allez
09. M: au revoi::r
10. A: au revoir mami:e, bye.
grann:y, bye.
Allez is commonly used in French conversation closings. In this particular case, we can
observe that it was used to initiate the closing sequence as it served as a “go ahead” for the final
exchanges. However, I do not have a great number of telephone conversations in my corpus
(only 5 hours’ worth); therefore, these preliminary remarks regarding the placement of voilà in
telephone closings would have to be confirmed with a larger corpus.
Co-participants in French interaction do not wait for voilà to take the next turn; the
transition from one speaker to another is governed by the turn taking rules (Sacks et al., 1974),
just as in every other language. But there are a couple of environments in which voilà plays a
defining role in turn taking. The first environment concerns syntactically incomplete turns. As
my analyses have shown, only the utterance of voilà signaled the ending of those turns and
prompted recipients to take the next turn of action. The other environment is when recipients do
not take the next turn immediately, or when there is a long enough pause between the end of one
speaker’s turn and the beginning of the next speaker’s turn. For instance, in example 3.7, only
C’s utterance of voilà, which came after a long pause, prompted M to take the next turn, and thus
repaired the turn taking system, which we can say was momentarily out of service. By the same
token, co-participants can also question the utterance of voilà if they estimate that it came too
soon (e.g., in a pragmatically incomplete turn, as in example 3.13). All of these observations
indicate that French speakers have an additional device available to them in their interaction to
regulate and adjust the turn taking system.
Most of the actions fulfilled by voilà in closings are not exclusive to the French language.
For instance, the use of voilà as a transition marker device is similar to the use of so in German
(Barske & Golato, 2010) and okay in English (Beach, 1993). Sequentially third position closing
responses are also used in others languages (e.g., Schegloff, 2007; Hayashi & Yoon, 2009). In
French, Delahaie (2009b) has also shown how speakers deploy d’accord/ ‘okay’ in sequentially
third position to close their turn. Besides its use in sequentially third position, d’accord is also
used as an agreement marker by recipients (Delahaie, 2009b); however, it is never used to close
speakers’ turns at talk/TCUs nor is it used to close recipients’ answers. Concerning the practice
of closing syntactically incomplete turns, it is again not restricted to the French language;
Hayashi & Yoon (2009) have shown how co-participants co-orient to close syntactically
incomplete turns in Japanese and Korean. Nevertheless, whether it is in French or in any another
language, the same closing marker is rarely used in so many sequential positions as is voilà. For
instance, the German closing marker so is not a responsive marker, and therefore it is never used
in a second pair part of an adjacency pair (Barske & Golato, 2010). Usually in other languages,
most of the functions performed by voilà are fulfilled by various markers.
Schegloff (2007: 213) has pointed out that successive sequences, in which the second
ones follow closed sequences, are related to one another with at least two types of relationships
which he identifies them as follows: “One kind of relationship is another sequence of the same
type but with reversed participatory alignment; the second kind of relationship is another
sequence of the same type, with the same participator alignment but a different item/target/topic”.
My analyses have shown that the use of voilà at sequence boundaries illustrates each of these
two types of relationships.
To conclude, in this chapter I have demonstrated how co-participants in French deploy
voilà to negotiate meaning, epistemic authority, turn taking, and in sum negotiate action and
topic boundaries and thus manage the organization of sequences of actions. Its occurrence in so
many different closing positions and its use in performing so many different actions establishes
the fact that voilà is a ubiquitous discourse marker and a rather prevalent device in French.
Chapter 4: The use of voilà in openings
4.1 Introduction
In this chapter, after a literature review on hypothetical talk/direct quote, I will investigate the
use of the discourse marker voilà in presenting upcoming utterances. In my literature review
chapter, I extensively discussed the use of the presentative voici to introduce new and upcoming
referents (both cataphoric and prospective ones). However, as my data examples will show, it is
voilà, and not voici, that is used to introduce an upcoming utterance. In other words, the
presentative voici, unlike voilà, does not extend into the realm of the discourse marker. I will
thus explore and discuss the interactional value of voilà that is lacking in voici. Using data
samples from my corpus, I will first show where in the sequential organization of an ongoing
interaction the voilàs of interest occur. Following this, I will then describe the various functions
fulfilled in these sequential positions. The data will show that depending on its position, voilà is
used to present an upshot (e.g., an assessment of previous talk), and to present hypothetical direct
quotes. Finally, I will summarize my findings.
4.2 Positions
The following are the environments in which voilà presents upcoming talk. It is used in
the middle of a speaker’s turn at talk to:
1) present an upshot (with or without other discourse markers (e.g., enfin voilà)
and with the grammatical conjunction mais (i.e., mais voilà)
2) present a hypothetical direct quote
4.3 Literature review on upshots and on hypothetical talk
4.3.1 Literature review on upshots
A long stretch of talk can sometimes be confusing and ambiguous, hence a re-wording or
formulation of prior talk can be helpful in that it can clarify or sum up prior talk (Heritage &
Watson, 1979). According to Heritage & Watson, reformulations of prior talk can be performed
by both speakers and recipients as illustrated in the following example:
FIGURE 4.1 (Heritage & Watson, 1979: 125)
C calls E to inform her that he will not be able to make it to it to a trip planned
presumably at an earlier time. In line 4, C first tells E the reason why he is calling, then he
explains why he cannot make it to this trip (lines 8-10). Finally in line 14, he presents the upshots
of his prior talk.
In line 16 E re-words C’s formulation. According to Heritage & Watson, C’s upshot turn
“formulates materials which are conventionally ascribable as known to C and formulated by him
as part of his delivery of news” (Heritage & Watson, 1979: 125), whereas E “formulates
materials furnished to her as a news recipient”. Hence E does not have the same stance as C in
regards to this news, which explains the rising intonation she uses to formulate her candidate
understanding of C’s prior turn. By re-wording and keeping key features of prior talk,
formulations thus assure intersubjectivity between co-participants (Heritage & Watson, 1979).
Speakers very often use ‘so’ to present upshots of prior talk and thereby close complex
turns (Raymond, 2004). However, speakers can also deploy a stand-alone ‘so’ to project an
“unstated upshot” (Raymond, 2004: 190). The following example illustrates how ‘so’ (line 6)
uttered with a continuing intonation clearly projects an upshot, which here the speaker never in
fact produces.
FIGURE 4.2 (from Raymond, 2004: 189-190)
01 Mark:
[It’s a religious: (0.3)thing we’re gonna have.
03 Mark: I d’know why:, °b’t
05 Mark: Uh::m, (•) No- her ex boyfriend’s getting married en
she:’s:gunnuh be depressed so:,
We do not have much information in this data example, but it seems that Mark is
presumably giving an account about someone. The ‘so’ in line 6, uttered with continuing
intonation. seems to imply that the upcoming upshot is obvious and self-evident, hence Mark
doesn’t have to verbalize it.
According to Raymond (2004), a stand-alone ‘so’ is by design incomplete and is
supposed to invoke an upshot without being verbalized. As a matter of fact, it is meant to prompt
the recipients to produce the relevant next action. A recipient’s failure to provide the next action
could be considered as “a missed opportunity for collaboration” (Raymond, 2004: 211). Hence
the stand-alone ‘so’ is deployed by the speaker to prompt the recipient to produce the
sequentially next action.
French speakers use also donc/ ‘so’ to present an upshot. However, in my data examples
speakers never use donc by itself; rather, they deploy it in combination with voilà to present the
upshot and bring to completion a long stretch of talk. Besides donc, speakers also use mais and
enfin in combination with voilà to present upshots. I will thus explore the exact function of
donc/mais/enfin and the function of voilà when they are used in combination to present upshots.
4.3.2 Literature review on hypothetical talk
Hypothetical quotes can be defined as talk that has never been uttered before, and that is
used by speakers to accomplish several interactional functions (Golato, 2012). These
hypothetical quotes are typically introduced as direct quotes through modal verbs (e.g., can,
could, should, etc.) or conditional verbs (Golato, 2012). By using these verbs, “speakers tend to
open up alternative worlds” (Golato, 2012: 30) and thereby indicate that the direct quotes are
fictitious. The use of hypothetical quotes is practiced in several other languages (e.g., Danish,
Dutch, French, and Russian) but little is known of the interactional functions accomplished by
these hypothetical quotes in these languages (Golato, 2012).
In German, speakers use hypothetical quotes in their talk 1) to model talk that one could
say in a given situation, 2) to illustrate entertaining stories, or 3) to illustrate prior talk/claims
(Golato, 2012). According to the author, in the first case, speakers produce the hypothetical
quotes typically in reaction to the co-participants’ actions (e.g., complaints). In the last two cases,
speakers make their claims then illustrate them with hypothetical quotes. The following example
from Golato (2012: 9) illustrates a model hypothetical quote. Before this extract, A had
complained to T how she disliked overhearing people’s private talk when she is put on hold
when calling a doctor office. T tells A what she should say if this were to ever occur again
(Golato, 2012).
In line 2, T first gives A advice on what she should be doing (i.e., bellow very loudly)
then in line 3, she demonstrates how she should say it (i.e., use of loud voice) and in line 5, she
explains that this is one utterance among other possible utterances thereby communicating that
this is only model talk (Golato, 2012).
Goodwin (1990) has also looked at the use of hypothetical direct quotes in her extensive
study of the structure of one type of gossip/dispute talk (i.e., “he-said-she-said”) that occurs
specifically among young African American girls. The author observed that two young African
American girls used hypothetical direct talk as a way to visualize a much dramatized and
fantasied exchanges between an offender and offended party. This is illustrated in the following
example from Goodwin (1990: 276).
Prior to this exchange, Bea had informed a girl named Barbara concerning offensive talk
about her by another girl named Kerry. In response to this reporting, Barbara promised to
confront Kerry. In this exchange, Bea meets with yet another girl, Martha, and tells her about the
meeting she had with Barbara including the upcoming confrontation between the offender (i.e.,
Kerry) and the offended party (i.e., Barbara) (Goodwin, 1990).
FIGURE 4.4 Goodwin (1990: 276)
In lines 1-2, Martha expresses that this future confrontation is an event she is looking
forward to. In the remainder of the exchange, Bea and Martha act out the future confrontation
between Barbara and Kerry (lines 3-22) in the form of direct hypothetical quotes (e.g., lines 6-7,
12-13 and 15-18) (Goodwin, 1990). In imagining what the two girls would say to each other, Bea
and Martha used exaggerated language, which included personal insults (Goodwin, 1990). The
author confirms that in the confrontation between the offended and offending person, which
occurred sometime after the above exchange, neither the guilt admission nor exchanges
involving insults actually occurred (Goodwin, 1990). According to Goodwin (1990: 277)
“hypothetical future stories provide a way for instigator and peripheral party to talk about absent
parties and play with speech actions which are generally taboo in female interaction”. The
hypothetical talk was thus used in anticipation of a much fantasied and dramatized exciting
According to Goffman (1974, 1981), participants can play various roles in storytelling.
Hence a teller can be the animator who produces the utterances or the “sounding box in use”
(Goffman, 1981: 144), the principal that is “someone whose position is established by the words
that are spoken, someone whose beliefs have been told” (Goffman, 1981: 144) and/or the author
that is “someone who has selected the sentiments that are being expressed and the words in
which they are encoded” (Goffman, 1981: 144). When speakers willfully and directly pronounce
their own utterances in an interaction, they then become the animator, principal and author of
their own utterances; however, whenever speakers quote other speakers or characters, they can
then no longer be characterized by all three features at the same time (Goffman, 1974, 1981). In
other words, the combination of these three features will vary depending on whether speakers are
Hypothetical talk of this kind has not only been observed in everyday interaction, but also in
classroom talk (i.e., planning activities/tasks) (for more on this see Kunitz, 2013).
quoting other speakers’ actual quotes or whether they are quoting fictional characters (e.g.,
staged play). In the latter case, they may or may not be credited for authoring these quotes. In
any case, when speakers quote other speakers, they systematically shift “footing” (Goffman,
1981) to adopt the stance of the quoted person or character. According to Goffman (1981: 128)
“A change in footing implies a change in the alignment we take up to ourselves and the others
present as expressed in the way we manage the production or reception of an utterance. A change
in our footing is another way of talking about a change in our frame for events”.
In this chapter, I will argue that when speakers use voilà to present a hypothetical direct
quote, they are much like stage characters in that they pronounce statements that have never been
uttered before but could/would/should be uttered in a projected imaginary space/world. In this
fictional space, speakers become the “authors” and “animators” of the “principals”/ “originators”,
to use Goffman’s (1974, 1981) terminology. Using examples from my data corpus, I will
demonstrate how voilà is used to project hypothetical quotes in this alternative stage-alike
imaginary space that the speakers set up.
4.4 Analysis of voilà in openings: A discourse structuring device
In the following sections, I will show how co-participants in French interaction use voilà
to structure and organize their talk. Briefly, speakers use voilà mainly to give an upshot of their
previous talk, and to incorporate direct hypothetical quotes into their current talk. When used in
an upshot, voilà gives the gist/summary of prior talk, assesses the prior talk, or presents the
consequence or the outcome of the prior talk.
4.4.1 Voilà in upshots
In an interaction, an upshot can be presented in the form of an outcome, an assessment, a
result/consequence, or as the gist of speakers’ prior talk. In other words, there is a cause and
effect relationship between speakers’ prior talk and the following upshot. In this section, I will
specifically show how speakers use voilà to link their prior talk to the upcoming upshot. Most of
the examples come from the same radio talk show.
This first example comes from an interaction between L, the show host, and B, a French
actor who came to the show to promote his latest film. In this excerpt L goes over B’s
filmography and the highlights of his career.
01 L: les voleurs (.) daniel auteuil, catherine deneuve,
the thieves (.) daniel auteuil, catherine deneuve,
thieves (.) daniel auteuil, catherine deneuve,
un de vos premiers grand succès, si on oublie
one of your first
success, if we forget
one of your first biggest successes, if we don’t count
évidemment la vie est un long fleuve tranquille,
obviously the life is a long river quiet,
of course life is a long quiet river,
vous étiez gamin, h. (.) là
c’est vraiment le premier
you were kid, h. (.) there it’s really
the first
you were a kid, h. (.) but this téchiné ’s film is really
grand succès, le film de téchiné.
success, the film of téchiné.
your first big breakthrough.
06 B: oui disons
que j’avais fait euh ben j’avais fait
yes let’s say that I had
done euh well I had
yes let’s say that I had done uh well I was in
André Téchiné is a leading French screen writer and movie director.
FIGURE 4.5 (cont.)
les films de chatiliez, les films de christine lithe films of chatiliez, the films of christine li-
lipinska, pardon
j’avais douze
quatorze ans,
lipinska, excuse me I had
twelve thirteen fourteen years,
lipinska, excuse me I was twelve thirteen fourteen years old,
après j’ai fait (
after I’ve done (
then I was (
pas mal de gens,
et puis là
c’est le retour
not bad of people, and then there it’s the return
lots of people, and then there was this come back
cinéma (
at the cinema (
to the cinema (
) de marcel bluwal, avec (.)
) of marcel bluwal, with (.)
) of marcel bluwal, with (.)
) avec téchiné,
) with téchiné,
) with téchiné,
12 L: ◦ouais.◦
.hhh voilà,
c’était un c’ était un grand moment.
.hhh here it is, it was a it was
a big
.hhh here it is, it was a it was a big deal.
In lines 1-5, L mentions two of the films which played important roles in B’s filmography.
L assesses the first film (i.e., les voleurs) as being one of his biggest successes (line 2) and the
second film as his biggest success (i.e., the film with the director Téchiné) (lines 4-5). In the next
turn, B starts by agreeing with L’s assessment, then he goes on to elaborate his response as he
cites several other films in which he played, presumably before his film with Téchiné (lines 610). He then explains that the film he did with Téchiné marked his comeback to the cinema (lines
10-11), before he utters voilà followed with a positive assessment of this comeback (line 13).
B starts by agreeing with L’s assessment about Téchiné’s film being his breakthrough (line 6),
but by first listing all the other films he was on before, then introducing Téchiné’s film as his
comeback to the cinema, he manages to put in perspective this particular film and thereby
highlight it even further. The assessment introduced with voilà concerns thus this specific film.
B designed his turn in a way that what he said prior to voilà leads to what he said after voilà. In
other words, there’s a causal relationship between his talk before voilà and his talk after voilà.
This observation is also corroborated by the intonation pattern. Voilà is positioned between two
units uttered with continuing intonation. It thus bridges the highlight of B’s filmography with the
assessment of this highlight. The upshot is thus presented as the concluding part of B’s turn at
talk. B’s assessment in line 13 simultaneously validates L’s statement in lines 3-5 as much as it
functions as the upshot of B’s prior talk. However, even though both L’s and B’s assessments are
positive, by choosing a different positive assessment, B claims ownership and entitlement over
his performance in this specific film.
In this next example, P, a choreographer and dancer, came to the show to promote his
latest show. In this excerpt, the host (L) lists some of the attractions featured in P’s show.
01 L: les kaléidoscopes, matrix, j’vous
donne quelques noms
the kaleidoscopes, matrix, I to you give some
the kaleidoscopes, matrix, I’m listing a few examples
attractions ça donne envie, la galerie
of the attractions it gives want, the gallery
from the attraction numbers it’s quite appealing,
gla:ces, les capteurs d’ ombre, la pièce déformée,
of the i:ces,
the sensors of shade, the room distorted,
the i:ce gallery, the shade sensors, the distorted room,
la boîte à lumière, .h la roue stroboscopique, les carrousels
the box
at light, .h the wheel stroboscopic,
the carousels
the light box, .h the stroboscopic wheel, the merry-go-round
d’ images, la tapisserie d’ yeu, voilà,
c’est vrai
of images, the tapestry
of yeu, here it is, it’s true
of images, the tapestry of yeu, here it is, it’s true
FIGURE 4.6 (cont.)
que c’est un truc pour emmener les enfants en fait.
that it’s a thing for to bring the children in fact.
that it’s something intended for children in fact.
07 P: ouais, c’est ça vous pouvez emmener les enfantsyeah, it’s it you can
to bring the childrenyeah, that’s right you can bring your children-
In lines 1-6, L lists several examples from among the attractions featured in P’s show,
and then utters voilà before he qualifies the show as primarily intended for children (lines 5-6).
The listing in line 6 ends with a slightly rising listing tone, followed by voilà which is also
uttered with continuing intonation. Hence voilà is positioned between two elements uttered with
continuing intonation, and is thus used to link the listing with the assessment. In other words, the
assessment is presented via voilà in reference to the previous talk. The two actions are thus
related: L uses voilà to present an upshot of his prior talk: i.e., what follows the voilà is a
characterization of the show based specifically on the types of attractions featured in P’s show.
In the next turn, by stating that one can bring children, P implies that the show is also for adults
(line 7).
In the remaining examples, the upshots are presented with composite voilàs or with voilà
in addition to another grammatical conjunction or discourse marker (i.e., enfin, donc and mais).
My analyses will show that when speakers use voilà in addition to another discourse marker
(i.e., enfin and donc), the actions seem to be performed specifically by those discourse markers
and not necessarily by voilà. In such cases, voilà seems to present and thereby highlight the
upcoming upshots. However, when voilà is used in combination with mais, the upshot is
presented by voilà and not by mais.
Speakers most commonly use enfin (literally ‘at last’) voilà to sum up their prior talk.
Enfin by itself is a frequently used oral discourse marker which performs several actions
(Beeching, 2002). One of its functions it that of “a discourse marker signaling the end of
enumeration or to flag “in short, “to sum up…” (Beeching, 2002: 151). In other words, it
summarizes prior discourse, as illustrated in the following example: Il est intelligent, travailleur,
enfin il a tout pour réussir/ ‘he is intelligent, hardworking, in short he has everything he needs to
succeed’ (Beeching, 2002: 128). However, this example doesn’t seem to be an authentic
utterance but rather an invented sentence. In my data samples, the use of enfin voilà in upshots is
highly systematic. When introducing a summary or the gist of their prior talk, speakers hardly
ever use just enfin by itself, especially if the prior talk consists of a rather long stretch of
discourse, as illustrated in the following examples. Instead, enfin is always used in combination
with voilà.
This first example comes from the same radio show as the last example. Every day at the
beginning of this radio show, P, a journalist, gets assigned some reporting tasks. In this excerpt,
the show host (L), tells P about one of the topics that he wants him to investigate.
01 L: autre grand évènement du
weekend, le l’eurovision,
other big
of the weekend, the the eurovision,
another big event of the weekend, the the eurovision,
alors là
mon cher paul, [que vous fassiez
there I would like my dear paul, [that you do
now here my dear paul I would like you [to do
03 S:
[quel évènement (.)
[what event (.)
[what an event (.)
[h. oh là
[h. oh there there
[h. oh boy.
[un p’tit résumé géopolitique [de c’
qui s’est passé
[a little summary geopolitical [of this who has happened
[a little geopolitical summary [of what really happened
FIGURE 4.7 (cont.)
06 C:
[.h ha ha ouais.
[.h ha ha yeah.
07 L: pendant les votes. pa’ce que moi j’fais partie
during the votes. ‘cause
me I do
during the votes. ‘cause personally I’m one of
de ceux qui ne regardent pas le classement
of those who not watch
not the classification and
of those who don’t watch the ranking and
les votes pa’ce que je trouve ça
trop long,
the votes ‘cause
I find
that much long,
the votes ‘cause I find that too long,
donc j’ai pas eu les détails. moi j’aurais
aimé savoir
I’ve not had the details. me I would’ve liked to know
so I don’t have the details. what I would like to know
justement, puisque tout le monde nous dit que les choix
because all the world to us say that the choices
specifically is, everybody keeps telling us that the choices
et le::s [et les notes sont données pour des raisons eu:h
and the:: [and the grades were given
for some reasons u:h
and the:: [and the points were attributed for reasons u:h
13 P:
[bien sûr.
[of course.
14 L: souvent euh euh extra on va
chansons mais plutôt
uh uh extra we goes to say songs
but rather
often times uh uh let’s just say for reasons not really
politiques, alors est-ce qu:e effectivement, eh ben
political, so
is-this th:at effectively,
and well
related to music but rather for political reasons, well
i’ y
des pays
ont favorisé
it there has some countries who
some have favored
are there countries which favored some other countries,
autres, quels sont les pays
qui nous ont donné
some others, which are the countries who to us have gave
what are the countries which gave us some points
FIGURE 4.7 (cont.)
des points ceux qui nous ont pas donné, enfin voilà
some points those who to us have not gave, at last here it is
those who did not give us any points, in short here it is
est-ce qu’ on peut déc’ler les copinages,
where is -it that one can detect the cronyisms,
can we detect some sort of cronyism somewhere,
pleins d’ exemples, c’est ça
que j’voudrais.
to us lots
of examples, it’s that that I would like.
give us some examples, that’s what I would like.
In lines 1-7, L requests that P investigate the voting in the “Eurovision26”, one of the
major events of the weekend. In lines 7-10, L provides an account for this request stating that he
did not watch all the details (e.g., the votes, ranking). He further accounts for this by assessing
this part of the show as tedious. He then continues with the request stating that he specifically
wants to know how the votes were attributed. He accounts for this additional request by reporting
on hearsay: L has heard that the votes were strategic (lines 10-15). In lines15-18, L provides P
with some possible questions that may be asked to find out if countries cast political votes. He
utters enfin voilà before he sums up the other questions in one final question, namely if there is
any cronyism (line 19). L then further requests that P give the panelists specific examples to
support his findings (line 20). The question in line 19 may be considered as a general question
which sums up L’s prior questions (lines 15-18). In addition, if all previous questions were
answered with ‘yes’, and if examples could be found, then one would indeed have a case of
cronyism. Therefore when L utters enfin/ ‘in short’ at the end of line 18, he communicates to P “I
don’t need to give you anymore example questions”. In other words, with enfin L stops the
listing of possible questions and presents with voilà what might be called a more global question
The Eurovision is an annual song competition held among and broadcasted live in all
European countries.
which indicates the bigger picture of the whole investigation. Hence, L uses enfin voilà to give
an upshot of his prior talk summed up in one question. Thus, the summing-up action is
performed by enfin and not voilà. Instead, voilà is used to present and thereby highlight the
upcoming upshot.
The following example illustrates a similar case. In this segment, the show host (L) asks
the panelists a soccer game related question. More specifically, he asks them if they can think of
any pattern that seems to be occurring every time the team of France plays soccer against the
country that is organizing the soccer tournament. After multiple attempts by the panelists, (F)
one of the panelists, gives the following answer.
01 F: à chaque fois qu’
on a
contre l’ organisateur
at each times that we has played against the organizer
every time we played against the organizer country
à l’
euro, on a
at the euro, we has lost?
for the euro, we lost?
03 L: excellente réponse de ((nom de chroniqueur)),
excellent answer from ((name of panelist)),
excellent answer by ((name of panelist))
on n’
jamais gagné contre le pays ((applauds))
we not has never won
against the country
we never won against the organizer
organisateur le pays
hôte. voyez par exemple
the country host. see
for example
country the host country. see for example
en afrique du
on a
perdu contre l’ afrique
in africa of the south, we has lost against the africa
in south africa, we lost against
l’ afrique du
the africa
of the sou:th,
south africa:,
FIGURE 4.8 (cont.)
08 T: on n’ a
pas joué.
we not has not played.
we did not play.
((the panelists laugh))
10 R: on a
perdu contre tout le monde
we has lost against all the world
we lost against every country
en afrique du
sud. ((the panelists laugh))
in africa of the south.
in south africa.
12 L: .h hh en argentine quand le mondial
était en argentine
.h hh in argentina when the worldwide was
in argentina
.h hh in argentina when the world cup was in argentina
on a
perdu contre les argentins,
en angleterre contre
we has lost against the argentinians, in england
we lost against the argentinians, in england against
les anglais .h enfin
on fait match nul
the english .h at last here it is, we do
match nil
the english .h in short here it is, we either tie
ou on perd mais on n’
a jamais gagné.
or we lose but we not has never won.
or we lose but we have never won.
In lines 1-2, panelist F gives a possible answer; the rising intonation indicates that F is
not sure about his response. In the next turn, L accepts F’s response as he assesses the answer as
“excellent”. Then L goes on to elaborate on the answer. First, in lines 4-5 L reformulates F’s
response (i.e., the fact that France never won against an organizer country), and then in lines 5-7
and in lines 12-14 he illustrates this reformulated answer with various examples before he utters
enfin voilà and presents the upshot of the prior talk. We notice here what is presented after enfin
voilà is the gist or the summary of his prior detailed talk. Enfin voilà is positioned between the
various examples and the commonality of these various examples. In other words, L used enfin
voilà to link the various examples to the point he was trying to make by citing these examples.
We notice here that L does not finish the listing of the various examples with falling intonation
and then open up the upshot. Rather, L linked the examples to the upshot with continuing
intonation in a way that implies the upshot is made in reference to the various examples cited
before enfin voilà. Just like in the previous example, the end of sample examples and the
readiness to introduce the upshot is communicated primarily by enfin, hence voilà is mainly used
to present and highlight the forthcoming upshot.
In the next two examples, the upshots are presented with voilà in combination with donc/
‘so’. Donc as a discourse marker has been the subject of various and detailed prior studies (e.g.,
Hansen, 1997; Pellet, 2005, 2009). According to Hansen (1997) donc is used to mark a result or
a conclusion. As for Pellet (2009: 165), donc as a discourse particle “marks topic continuity
through the indexing of a consequence”. In my data corpus, donc appears to have a similar
function in that it presents the upshot of the prior talk. When used in combination with voilà,
donc indicates the concluding nature of the forthcoming upshot while voilà presents the outcome
of the speaker’s prior talk overall.
In the following example, the speaker utters donc followed by voilà to present the upshot
of her prior talk. In this excerpt, the show host (L) is interacting with a caller (F).
01 L: vous faites quoi dans la vie fabienne?
you do
what in
the life fabienne?
what do you do for a living fabienne?
02 F: alors en ce
moment, je:: je fais une pause
in this moment, I:: I do
so right now, I:: I’m taking off some time
dans mon travail, puisque j’attends un bébé,
my work,
because I wait
a baby,
FIGURE 4.9 (cont.)
from work, because I’m expecting a baby,
04 L: très bien.
very well.
05 F: donc voilà
je: je me
here it is I: I
myself rest.
so here it is I: I’m getting some rest.
06 L: et il va
quand à peu
près le bébé?
and he goes to arrive when at little near the baby?
and when approximately is the baby due?
In line 1, L asks F about her professional occupation. In lines 2-3, F explains that she
does not work for the time being and gives an account as to why she is not working. In line 4, L
receipts and simultaneously minimally assesses F’s response. In line 5, F reformulates her
answer with a donc followed by voilà and provides an upshot of her previous turn. By uttering
donc, F indicates that she is ready to introduce the outcome/consequence of her status. She is
expecting a child, therefore the consequence is that she has to stay at home and not work. The
voilà is thus there to present the forthcoming consequence and the reformulation of F’s answer in
lines 2-3.
In this next example, the speaker utters voilà followed by donc/ ‘so’ to present the upshot
of her prior talk. In this excerpt, the radio show host (L) is interacting with a former French
minister (C).
01 L: c’est un bon souvenir, ministre?
it’s a good memory,
was it a good memory, being a minister?
03 C: ou:i, oui et non, oui c’est le
ye:s, yes and no, yes it’s the
souvenir d:e pouvoir:ǝ
memory t:o be abl:e
FIGURE 4.10 (cont.)
ye:s, yes and no, yes I have the memory of having been
changer un certain nombre de choses, modestement,
change a certain number of things, modestly,
able to change some things, in all modesty,
mais enfin
quand même d’avoir fait quelqu::es
but at last
when same to have done so::me
but nonetheless of having done so::me things
choses auxquelles je suis très
things to which
I am
dear to my heart, bu:t
c’est aussi d’ une pression absolument terrible,
it’s also of a
pressure absolutely terrible,
it’s also a terrible pressure,
d’une vieǝ personnelle pas facile, euh
of a life personal
not easy,
a not easy personal life, uh
de moments pénibles, voilà
donc c’est comme
of moments painful, here it is so
its’ like
difficult times, here it is so it’s like
toutes choses de la vie, vous savez il y
things of the life, you know it there has
everything in life, you know there are
de:s (.) choses sympathiques et puis d’
so:me (.) things nice
and then some others
so:me (.) nice things and some
qui le sont moins.
who it are less.
less nice things.
attachées, mai:s
attached, bu:t
In line 1, L asks C if she enjoyed being a minister. In line 3, C answers the question after
some silence (line 2). The pause can probably be explained by the fact that C is reflecting on
how to answer this question which seems to be potentially complex. This observation is
confirmed in C’s answer: she first gives an affirmative answer, but then goes on to mitigate her
answer as she gives both an affirmative and negative response tokens, which implies that she has
both good and not so good memories of being a minister. In lines 3-6, she explains what she has
accomplished while she was a minister, then in lines 6-9 she lists all the inconveniences that
came with her status of being a minister. In lines 9-12, she first utters voilà followed by donc/ ‘so’
and then compares her experience with life experiences in general. That is, she states the
commonplace observation that life is filled with both good and not so good things. She thereby
implies that her experience of being a minister is similar to other life events which have positive
and negative aspects. Note that the actions before and after the utterance of voilà are related:
before voilà she lists the pros and cons of her experience, and after voilà she qualifies and
assesses the overall experience in general terms. In this example, the speaker utters voilà first,
and then donc before she introduces the upshot of her prior talk. The voilà presents the upcoming
assessment, while donc prefaces the assessment. Both voilà and donc work together to
accomplish the same action (i.e., presenting an upshot). Although the action of presenting the
assessment is performed mostly by donc, by virtue of its position in the ongoing turn at talk,
voilà contributes to communicating the same action. In terms of the overall accomplishment of
the upshots, it would appear from these data that it makes no difference whether voilà is uttered
before or after donc. However, a larger data corpus would be needed in order to verify the
interchangeability of voilà and donc in upshots.
In the next two examples, the upshots are presented with mais/ ‘but’ followed by voilà.
This first extract comes from a Skype conversation between A and her aunt M. In the extract
below, A and M are talking about clothing and clothing stores. Before this excerpt, A had
expressed her displeasure with the clothing stores where she lives.
A: on a
un gro:s euh-(0.8) on a
un grand
we have a
uh-(0.8) we have a big
we have a bi:g uh- (0.8)we have a big mall
centre commercial un peu
comme à van cap?
center market
a little like in van cap?
FIGURE 4.11 (cont.)
much like in van cap?
M: mm mm
A: plan de campagne mais il y
comme habits en fait
plan de campagne but it there has nothing like clothes in fact
plan de campagne but there aren’t any clothes in fact
[.hh hh hh
M: [ah bon?
[oh really?
A: .enfin il y
a des magasins mais c’est pas beau du tou(hh)t .hh
.well it there has some stores but
it’s not nice at al(hh)l .hh
.well there are some stores but they’re not nice at al(hh)l .hh
M: mm:::
A: .et ils ont pas zara ni H&M,
.and the have not zara nor H&M,
.and they don’t have zara nor H&M,
M: mais ça c’est des marques euh un peu
ah ben en europe hein,
but that it’s some labels
uh a little well in europe huh,
but those are designer stores uh well like in europe you see,
A: ben à chicago
ils ont zara.
well in chicago they have zara.
M: [m[
A: [mai:s voilà
il faut aller à chicago.
[bu:t here it is one must go
to chicago.
[bu:t the thing is you have to go to chicago.
M: mm.
In lines 1-7, A gives an account as to why she could not buy her clothes where she lives.
She explains that even though there is a big shopping mall, she does not really like the clothes
they have there. In line 9, A gives examples of stores that are missing where she lives. In the next
turn, M disputes and challenges A’s information. She explains that the stores mentioned by A are
high fashion stores found mainly in Europe (line 10). In line 12, A expresses her disagreement
with M’s explanations with a ben/ ‘well’ -prefaced turn. In other words, according to A, the
stores mentioned do exist outside of Europe. To support her claim, she gives an example of a city
where at least one of the stores can be found. This also indicates that she is (indirectly) again
complaining about the stores in the town where she lives. In line 14, A self-selects to elaborate
more on her previous turn. She starts a mais/ ‘but’-prefaced turn which indicates some sort of
restriction/condition. The condition in this case is: if A wants to shop at Zara’s, she has to go to
Chicago, since the store does not exist where she lives. The utterance is prefaced with mais
followed by voilà and finally the statement of the requirement. The upshot in this example is the
consequence of A’s complaints. Thus mais voilà here prefaces an upshot TCU, that is, it sums up
A’s reasoning up to the point where she utters it.
This next segment will also illustrate another use of mais voilà. In this short extract, the
radio talk show host (L) announces which one of the two callers, Marion (M) or Julien (J), is the
winner of the game they just played. Right before this extract, L acknowledges and congratulates
M for giving the right answer to his question and the audience applauds and M minimally
receipts the good news.
01 L: marion et julien, vous étiez sympathiques l’ un
marion and julien, you were sympathetic the one
marion and julien, you were both nice
et l’ autre, mais voilà,
c’est marion qui a
and the other, but here it is, it’s marion who has won
but here it is, it’s marion who won the gift basket
on va
envoyer à
we goes send
marseille le fameux filet garni
marseille the famous net
FIGURE 4.12 (cont.)
we will send to marseille the famous gift basket in which
avec entre
autres le dernier de philippe djian,
with between others the last
of philippe djian,
you will find among other things, the last book of philippe djian,
In lines 1-2, L compliments both M and J and in line 2, he extends his turn with the
conjunction mais followed by voilà to announce that M is the winner and will therefore be the
recipient of the gifts (lines 3-4). The upshot introduces the consequence of L’s prior observation
before mais voilà. Put differently, L acknowledges that while both contestants were agreeable,
the designation of the game winner is not based on personality appeal but rather on who has
given the correct answer. Based on this specific criterion, only one of them could have been
selected as the winner of the game. Thus, the upshot presents the outcome of the overall game
The upshots in the last two examples clearly introduce the consequence of some sort of
restriction or constraint in reference to the talk before mais voilà. The mais does the restriction,
but this restriction is an upshot from the prior talk that seems to be communicated by voilà. In
other words, the upshot could not have been accomplished just by mais and without voilà. Thus,
when voilà is combined with mais, it seems to function differently than when it is combined with
discourse markers (i.e., enfin, donc).
In this section I have shown how speakers use voilà or a composite voilà to present the
upshot of their prior talk. The upshot could be presented in the form of an outcome/consequence,
an assessment, a characterization, or a summary of prior talk. My analyses and the intonation
patterns have shown that speakers do not close their prior talk to open an upshot TCU; rather,
they link their prior talk via voilà/composite voilà to the upcoming upshot, thereby illustrating a
cause and effect relationship between prior talk and the following upshots. When voilà is
combined with enfin and donc, the upshots are mainly introduced specifically by these discourse
markers (i.e., by enfin and donc). When voilà is combined with mais, however, the upshot is first
and foremost accomplished by voilà. In the next section, I will show how voilà is used to present
hypothetical direct quotes.
4.4.2 Voilà in hypothetical direct quotes
In this section, I will show how speakers use voilà to incorporate hypothetical direct
quotes into their telling. The use of voilà in hypothetical story telling is a highly systematic
feature. In my corpus, all hypothetical quotes are systematically introduced via voilà, whereas
when speakers report actual utterances pronounced at some point in the past, they do not use
voilà to present them, especially if the direct quote is presented as verbatim quote27. I would
argue that by using voilà in hypothetical quotes, speakers project these direct quotes in a fictional
and imaginary space. This hypothetical talk is always presented in the form of a direct quote
(Golato, 2012; Goodwin, 1990). Golato (2012) has demonstrated that speakers use hypothetical
direct quotes for several reasons (i.e., to present model talk, for entertainment reasons, and to
illustrate prior claim). She further shows that in Germany, these quotes are usually introduced
through modal verbs. My analyses of French data will show some similarities and differences
with these findings.
Before quoting the hypothetical citations, speakers first set the context in which the
hypothetical quote will be uttered, after which they introduce the hypothetical quote with voilà,
thereby shifting footing (Goffman, 1981) to adopt the role of the character whose talk is quoted.
What is introduced with voilà is not the whole hypothetical situation but rather the hypothetical
If speakers use voilà to quote actual utterances that had been produced sometime in the past,
then their reporting is not presented as verbatim but rather as some sort of re-wording of the
quotation. In short, in hypothetical direct quotes speakers present what one might/could/should
The first extract comes from the same radio show as some of the other examples in this chapter.
L, the show host, speaks with a caller whose job it is to invent names for new car models. Before
this excerpt, L and the panelists expressed interest in this caller’s uncommon job as they asked
her several questions related to it (e.g., they asked her the names of the cars for which this
caller’s company was responsible), In the excerpt, L asks the panelists what they would do if
they had an assignment where they would have to invent names for cars.
01 L: alo- alo- réfléchissions, là
sslet’s think,
sslet’s see, there’s
on estwe is-
02 M: bien sûr.
well sure.
of course.
03 L: franchement on est (.) on va
we is (.) we go
really there’s (.) let’s say
to say
six hein,=on compte pas pierre. alorssix uh, =we count not pierre. sothere’s six of us ok,= we don’t count pierre. so-
((laughter from panelists
06 L: on est si:x,=
we is si:x,=
there’s six of u:s,=
07 J: =ouais,
08 L: admettons
on nous confie,
let’s admit one to us entrusts, renault
let’s just say we have an assignment, renault
FIGURE 4.13 (cont.)
09 M: ouais,
10 L: nous appelle, hein la régie
renault, ils nous
the company renault, they to us
calls us, you know the company renault, and they
disent voilà
on a
une nouvelle voiture, une p’te
here it is we has a
say here it is we have a new car, a small
voiture, plutôt destinée à la clientèle féminine,
rather intended at the clientele feminine,
car, intended for a female audience,
13 F: la dsk.
the dsk.
14 L: .h ha [hah ha ha ha ((audience laughter))
15 J:
[pas mal.
((audience laughter))
[not bad.
In lines 1-12, L presents the scenario in which they might participate to perform the task
of car naming. The scenario set-up up is reminiscent of a theatrical set up. First, by saying
réfléchissons/ (literally ‘let’s think’) (line 1), L clearly indicates that what he is about to say is a
product of his imagination and not some recollection of past events. He goes to act as a casting
director for this potential assignment as he selects the potential actors and excludes some (i.e.,
Pierre, one of the panelists) (lines 4-6). Then L visualizes Renault, the French car manufacturer
contacting them to take on this special assignment (lines 8 and 10). By saying admettons/ ‘let’s
say’ (line 8), L communicates to the panelists “let’s pretend this is happening” thereby
compelling them to visualize and picture this hypothetical world. The panelists seem to be
captivated by this developing story as they provide continuers to encourage L to tell them more
about it (lines 7 and 9). Once L has built up the context, he then imagines some representatives
from the company Renault telling them what to do (lines 10-12). This hypothetical quote is
presented as a direct quote, and describes what these potential company representatives would
say. The description includes the size of the car and that it would target a female audience. L
introduces this potentially possible utterance with voilà. Voilà separates here the quoted talk
form L’s talk. In other words, L uses voilà to shift his “footing” (Goffman, 1981: 128) into
adopting the stance of these hypothetical potential interlocutors. Thus, voilà indicates what L’s
own talk is and what the talk of the quoted individuals is. This shift systematically changes the
speaker-recipient positions. L is no longer the speaker but the recipient of this hypothetical quote,
much like the other panelists; in other words, L is now the author and animator of these
originators/principals (i.e., the representatives of Renault) (Goffman, 1974, 1981). Therefore, in
addition to being a casting director and an animator/actor, L is also acting as the screen writer of
this hypothetical quote.
This quotation is provided by L to prompt the panelists to provide possible names for this
potential car. The description turn did not end with falling intonation, which suggests that there
is more to add to this hypothetical and potential car depiction (line 12). Nevertheless, in line 13,
F, one of the panelists suggests a name (i.e., DSK28), which prompts L’s laughter (line 14) and
the positive assessment of this suggestion by J (line 15) in addition to the audience’s laughter.
The laughter seems to indicate that the suggested name is funny, but in any case, this is not a
name that could be seriously considered for a car (see footnote 27). As for J’s positive
DSK stands for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the name of the former Director of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and former French minister. Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who is commonly known
by his initials (i.e., DSK), is also very often mocked by French comedians for being a
womanizer, to say the very least. In addition, at the time this specific radio show was being
broadcasted, multiple and highly publicized accusations of sexual assaults and other sexual
misconducts had been made against Mr. Strauss-Kahn. He was thus very much in the news. It
therefore seems that what prompted F to offer the name “DSK” is most probably related to the
mention of “female clientele” in the car description.
assessment, it seems to address F’s quick-witted creativity. In the remainder of the talk, they
commented more on this specific name, and suggest other more or less amusing names before
moving on to another topic. Therefore, it seems the whole purpose of this segment was rather
humoristic and not necessarily a realistic brainstorming for a car name. By setting up some sort
of “picture this” hypothetical context, the panelists managed to create a playful theatre/comedylike entertaining game.
The next example also seems to illustrate a humoristic story. In this segment, a listener (I)
calls in to the radio show and tells the host (L) that he has actually found a job thanks to the
show. Then, L playfully says that all listeners should say they listen to this show if they want to
be hired. In the following extract, L explains what listeners should say to their potential
01 L: quand vous postulez pour un emploi,
vous dites
when you apply
for a employment, you say
when you apply for a job, you say
euh écoutez si vous m’prenez, j’enverrai
here it is uh listen if you me take, I will send
here it is uh listen if you hire me, I will send
un mail [à ((nom d’animateur)), et je ferai
a mail [to((name of host)),
and I will do
an email[to((name of host)), and I will do
04 I:
[.h ha ha ha
de la pub
pour votre entreprise.
some publicity for your
some advertisement for your company.
In line 1, L first sets up the context in which the potential listeners/job seekers would
utter this “conditional job bargain talk” (line 1). Then, in lines 2-5 L uses voilà to introduce what
these potential jobs seekers/listeners would have to say in the form of a hypothetical direct quote.
Since the voilà is positioned right before the direct quote, it is used to shift footing and to assume
the stance of the potential job seekers/listeners. By doing so, L goes from being the speaker to
being the animator of these potential job seekers (Goffman, 1981). However, in this case L is not
the recipient but just an actor. The écoutez/ ‘listen’ in line 2, establishes the beginning or the
setup of the new speaker-recipient hearership. Put differently, in this hypothetical projected
space, the job seekers are now the speakers and the hiring agencies/employers are the
listeners/recipients. In line 4, laughter from I (who is one of the panelists) seems to indicate that
L’s reasoning and suggestion is amusing but not necessarily serious. Indeed, the likelihood of all
listeners, no matter their backgrounds and job qualifications, to be hired just because they would
promise to make advertisements for the potential companies on this particular show is next to nil.
In other words, the gap between the portrayal of this hypothetical job interview and the reality of
job search process creates the comical effect. In depicting a hypothetical and somewhat
improbable world, L creates a comical story. It is specifically in this implausible world that the
voilà is used to project the hypothetical utterance.
Unlike the two previous examples, the next example illustrates a rather serious
hypothetical context. In this excerpt, the show panelists discuss the case of a young man who has
been in a coma for a long period of time. The parents of this young man have always refused to
terminate the life of their son. The case had captured the attention of French people for a long
time. This subject matter was brought up and discussed on this particular day of the radio show,
because the doctor who had been treating the son was publicly pleading in a newspaper for the
termination of the life of this young man. E, one of the panelists, expresses her feeling as
01 E: un corps qui continue de marcher tout seul,
a body who continues to walk
all alone,
a body which continues to function all by itself,
même si,[il n’ est pas autonome,
same if,[it not is not autonomous,
even if,[it’s not autonomous,
03 C:
c’est quand même assez compliqué, quand on est
it’s even
same enough complicated, when one is
it’s quite hard, for a family member
la famille, ou quand on est le la femme de se
the family, or when one is the the wife to oneself to say
or the the wife to say to herself
je vais
de mettre fin, à
here it is, I am going to choose, to put
end, to
here it is, I’m going to choose, to put an end, to
cette vie, qui est, bien sûr est horriblethis life, who is, well sure is horriblethis life, which is, of course horrible-
In lines 1-5, E acknowledges the delicate nature of the subject matter. To illustrate her
point, E imagines and visualizes a context portraying a similar case (i.e., a body in a coma)
(lines1-2). Thus E is not referring to the specific case the panelists were discussing before, but
rather to another possible and plausible case in which one could/would face a comparable
difficult situation (i.e., a hypothetical scenario). By relating the body in question to hypothetical
family members, E has now created a compelling and compassionate context (lines 3-4). Once E
has established this sensitive background, she goes on to introduce what one particular close
family member (i.e., a hypothetical wife) would potentially and hypothetically have to say to
herself in deciding the fate of her spouse under such difficult circumstances (lines 5-7).
Voilà is used to project this hypothetical direct quote in the hypothetical and imaginary
world that E has just created. Thus, voilà also separates E’s talk from the hypothetical wife’s
talk that is quoted by E. Put differently, E shifts footing to adopt the identity of this imaginary
wife. Therefore, E becomes the author and animator of this fictional originator (Goffman, 1981).
The quote itself (i.e., je vais choisir de mettre fin à cette vie/ ‘I’m going to choose to put an end
to this life’) is used to highlight the sensitivity of the subject matter. The stress on je shows the
responsibility the wife would have to face in making such an important decision. This
hypothetical quote therefore exemplifies how difficult it would be for a hypothetical close family
member to utter these words, and most importantly how hard it would be for her to make such a
difficult decision. E appears to have used this hypothetical situation to illustrate and defend her
point, which is that one does not easily decide to end the life of a loved one.
Obviously, French speakers could also report direct actual quotes in their telling, but in
such cases, the utterances are not introduced with voilà. Let us consider the telling of this next
story. In the excerpt, the panelists discuss the recent travel of the president of France to the
United States. During the discussion, one of the panelists (G) mentions that the president speaks
terrible English and deplores the fact that as a president, he did not make an effort to learn better
English. To illustrate his point, G reports to the rest of the panelists a TV segment that he had
watched and in which the president was interacting with some Americans.
01 G: on le voit sur le une terrasse, avec
we him see on the a
terrace, with
you can see him on the a terrace, with
des chefs d’ entreprise, et il commence
some chiefs of company,
and he starts
some company heads, and he starts
FIGURE 4.16 (cont.)
à saluer les mecs et il leur
to salute the guys and he to them
greeting the guys and he says uh
ditǝ euh
says uh
good morning chais pas quoi, et après
good morning don’t not what, and then
good morning whatever, and then
il est emmerdé pas’que les gars
he is troubled because some guys
he got stuck because the guys
parlent pas français, .h et il y
un type,
not french,
.h and it there has, a guy,
don’t speak french, .h and someone told him
dont on lui
dit qu’ il allait
which we to him has say that he was going u::h
that there was this guy who is preparing u::h
préparer un projet pour aller sur mars.
there prepare a project to
on mars.
a project for his travel to mars.
09 I: [hh hh hh
10 G: [et il lui
dit euh you go on mars? ((with a french accent))
[and he to him says uh you go on mars?
[so he asks him you go on mars?
11 I: [ha ha
12 G: [bon déjà
[good already (
[ok already (
) tu vois ((background laughter))
) you see
) you see what I mean
et le gars dit yes ((followed with gibberish talk))
and the guy says yes
et hollande enchaine en disant with the fusée?
and hollande goes on in saying with the fusée?
and hollande goes on to say with the fusée?
FIGURE 4.16 (cont.)
((uproar of laughter from audience and panelists ))
16 L: c’est p(h)as vrai.
it’s n(h)ot true.
I can’t be(h)lieve it.
17 G: je vous
jureI to you swearI swear-
In lines 1-2, G sets the background in which the interaction between the French president
and the Americans took place. Then in lines 3-4, G goes on to tells how the French president
greeted the Americans. Then in lines 5-6, G explains that the French president was not able to
carry on the conversation in French as his interlocutors did not speak French. In lines 6-13, G
reports the specific interaction that the French president carried out in English with one specific
person. G builds up the story up to the point when he delivers the punch line (line 14) much to
the amusements of the co-participants. When shifting footing, G does adopt the stance of the
quoted principals and animates them as well (e.g., with accent imitation) (Goffman, 1981);
however, none of the direct quotes are introduced with voilà, but instead are introduced with
other verbs of saying. The fact that G did not use voilà to introduce the direct quote shows that
the loci of these quotations are implied and understood as having occurred sometime during the
described meeting and in the context and location specified by G beforehand.
To sum up, in this section my analyses have shown that speakers use voilà to introduce
not actual direct quotes, but rather hypothetical direct quotes of what somebody could, would or
should say in a hypothetically projected and imaginary space. Consequently, it seems that the
non-use of voilà to present actual direct quotes is the default practice. In other words, when past
What seems to the source of amusement here is probably the fact that the president has used a
French word (i.e., fusée, which means ‘rocket’) in his interaction in English.
utterances are reported in the form of direct quotes, they are systematically understood as having
been uttered sometime in the past, in the context and location that speakers specify in the telling.
In the following section I will summarize and discuss the findings of the entire chapter.
4.5 Summary of findings and discussion
In this chapter, I have shown how speakers of French use the discourse marker voilà to
present an upcoming utterance. Speakers use voilà to present an upshot of their talk in the form
of an assessment (e.g., example 4.5), a summary of prior talk (e.g., example 4.7) or a
consequence of prior talk (e.g., example 4.9). Typically, prior to the upshots, speakers produce
long stretches of discourse which can include listings of assertions. They then utter voilà or voilà
in combination with another discourse marker (i.e., enfin, donc) or with a grammatical
conjunction (e.g., mais) before they present the upshot. When speakers use voilà in combination
with donc and enfin, it seems that the action is mainly performed by the discourse markers donc
and enfin and not necessarily by voilà. However, in such cases, voilà still presents and thereby
highlights the upcoming upshots. By contrast, when voilà is combined with mais, the upshot
seems to be presented by voilà and not by mais. Moreover, when voilà is used by itself to present
the upshot (e.g., example 4.6), it is mainly by virtue of its position that we can understand and
interpret its function. Hence, it is worth mentioning that there is only a functional similarity
between voilà and donc/ ‘so’ and that the functions of donc/ ‘so’ are otherwise different from
voilà and vice versa.
In any case, when speakers use voilà before presenting the upshot, they do not close the
prior talk and open an upshot TCU; rather, they use voilà to link the prior talk to the following
upshot thereby suggesting that talk before voilà entails the talk following voilà (i.e., the upshot).
In the previous chapter (i.e., the use of voilà in closings), I showed how speakers deploy voilà to
close an action and open the next one. Voilà in closings thus separates two sequences of action
which are not necessarily related to one another. In other words, in closing one action, speakers
indicate they are ready to move on to the next action. On the other hand, in the present chapter I
have shown that when deploying voilà to present upshots, speakers clearly communicate that
there is a cause and effect relationship between the upshot and the prior talk. This is also
evidenced by the intonation contour; in all my data examples, voilà is either positioned between
two utterances with continuing intonation (e.g., example 4.5 and 4.6), preceded by an utterance
with continuing intonation (e.g., example 4.7), or is uttered with continuing intonation (e.g.,
example 4.8).
In addition to presenting an upshot, speakers also use voilà to present hypothetical direct
quotes into their telling (e.g., example 4.13). My analyses have shown that when speakers use
voilà to present hypothetical quotes, they project these quotes into a fictitious and imaginary
space. Speakers do not use voilà to present actual direct quotes that had been uttered sometime in
the past. Hence, when speakers quote other speakers’ actual talk, the loci of the quotations are
understood as having occurred sometime in the past. In other words, unlike in the case of
hypothetical and imaginary projected spaces, speakers need not deploy a device (i.e., voilà) to
locate the quotations as having been uttered at some point in the given context/situation.
Consequently, when speakers deploy voilà to present hypothetical quotes, they mark the
quotations as not having been uttered in the past, and rather as something that
could/should/would be uttered somewhere in an imaginary projected space. Therefore, when
speakers use voilà to preface these quotes, they are not just presenting a piece of talk, but are
instead picturing some sort of theatrical stage in which one could envision these characters
taking shape as they are animated through the speakers.
The use of hypothetical direct talk in speakers’ telling is practiced in other languages as
well (Golato, 2012; Goodwin, 1990; Goffman, 1974, 1981). It seems that in German and English,
the hypothetical direct quote is indicated mainly by the use of modal verbs. By contrast, French
is a language without a distinct grammatical class of modal verbs. Nonetheless, by using voilà to
preface the quotes, speakers project the quote out of the real world into somewhere in the
imaginary space. Based on my data examples, speakers use hypothetical direct quotes to
illustrate a point of view or for entertainment reasons. However, my examples were very limited;
a larger data corpus and/or the use of other data sources might yield additional interactional
Hence, whether it is to present upshots or project hypothetical talk, it is clearly the
“deictic-spatial” (Bergen & Plauché, 2001) feature of voilà that is in play. Prior studies have
established that voici (and not voilà) is used to present upcoming discourse (Delahaie, 2008,
2009a; Adamczewski, 1991; Bergen & Plauché, 2001; Grenoble & Riley, 1996; Porhiel, 2012).
However, in my data I did not find voici used as a marker of upcoming discourse. This finding
corroborates Delahaie’s (2008) prior findings. Delahaie (2008: 315) indeed observed that it is
voilà and not voici that was used in presenting upcoming utterances. The author explained that
the absence of voici as an ouvreur/ ‘opener30’ (Delahaie, 2008: 315) to an upcoming utterance is
mainly due to the fact that voici, unlike voilà, does not have the capacity to look forward and
backward at the same time. My analyses have indeed shown the capacity of voilà to be
Delahaie (2008) looked at voilà at the beginning of a turn, as in: alors en fait voilà je voulais
vérifier parce que j’aurais éventuellement une personne qui souhaiterait se rajouter/ ‘so in fact
here it is I wanted to know because there would be someone who would like to be added’ (my
translation) (Delahaie, 2008: 313). Her data corpus comes from interactions in a travel agency.
cataphoric and anaphoric at the same time. The talk that is introduced with voilà is linked to the
previous utterance before voilà. For instance, the upshots are made in reference to what speakers
have said prior to uttering voilà.
Adamczewski (1991) demonstrated that the only difference between voici and voilà is not
the proximal versus distal distinction, but rather the fact that voici is used to present a new
referent and voilà to refer to the already known referent. For Adamczewski (1991: 59) a news
broadcaster who says voici nos informations / ‘Here are the news’ (my translation) by definition
is presenting new information, while when the same person utters voilà toutes les informations
dont nous disposons pour le moment/ ‘that’s all the news we have for now’ (my translation) is
referring back to the news which just ended. Therefore, according to the author, this same person
could not have said voilà nos informations at the beginning of presenting the news. In my corpus,
voici is also used exclusively as a presentative of a new referent as illustrated perfectly in the
following example.
In this excerpt, the radio talk show host (L) is getting ready to ask a question to two
listeners who called in the show to play a game. Before this extract, L explains what they would
win if one of them answers the question correctly. He then goes on to introduce the question as
01 L: voici
la question max et caroline.
here is the question max and caroline.
03 J: (
) faut la poser hein,
) must it ask
) how about asking it huh,
FIGURE 4.17 (cont.)
04 L: voici
la question max et caroline.
here is the question max and caroline.
06 J: on vous écoute max et caroline vous avez
we you listen max et caroline you have
we’re waiting max and caroline you have
dix secondes pour répondre.
ten seconds to
ten seconds for the answer.
08 M: [hh hh hh hh
09 C: [ha ha ha ha
10 L: voici
la question max et caroline.
here is the question max and caroline.
12 C: et alors qu’ est-ce[qui s’passe.
and so
what is it [who happens
but what is[ going on.
13 L:
[pourquoi ils réagissent
they react
[why don’t they react
pas quand je leur
dis ça?
not when I to them say that?
when I say that?
15 J: ils sont concentrés?
they are concentrated?
they’re staying focused?
16 C: mais oui.
but yes.
of course.
17 L: (
)on dit
oui, on est prêt, chais pas moi
)one says yes, we is ready, don’t not me
)one says yes, we’re ready, I don’t know
FIGURE 4.17 (cont.)
un truc quoi .h voici
la question max et caroline.
a thing what .h here is the question max an caroline.
something .h here is the question max and caroline.
19 M: on n’ attend que ça.
we not wait
only that.
that’s all we’re waiting for.
20 L: voi:::là.
dites donc ça était long à v’nir
the:::re we go. say
that was long to come
the:::re we go. that was long coming hh hh hh.
hh hh hh.
hh hh hh.
L uses voici to announce an upcoming question (i.e., new and unknown information)
(lines 1, 4, 10 and 18). We can see in this rather comical exchange that L was actually waiting
for the ‘go ahead’ (Schegloff, 2007) to ask the question from the two contestants. By definition,
a ‘go ahead’ is provided to prompt the delivery of new and informative talk. The ‘go ahead’
finally came in line 19, and was recognized by L in the next turn with a stretched voilà to
indicate the coming of a long-awaited response (line 20).
Delahaie (2009a) had also established that voilà is systematically related to something
expected, whereas voici is used to introduce a new referent. Hence voilà la question to introduce
a question for the first time would actually not have been possible. The use of voilà la question
would have implied that the arrival of the question was expected at some specific time (Delahaie
2009a) or that some sort of search activity was going on. As a matter of fact, throughout my data,
L systematically introduces his questions to listeners with voici and never with voilà. In any case,
the use of voici in my corpus is actually limited to its presentative function whereby voici is
syntactically linked to the rest of the talk (Moignet, 1969). This limited use of voici (i.e., as the
presentative of a new referent), combined with its inability to be cataphoric and anaphoric at the
same time, explains the overtaking of voici by voilà in modern French interaction (Grenoble &
Riley, 1996; Delahaie, 2008). Participants’ talk in an interaction is mostly a reaction to previous
talk, thus, the ubiquity of voilà over voici in a conversation is not so surprising. Thus, all of these
observations establish the fact that it is voilà (and not voici) that is overwhelmingly found within
the realm of discourse and as such is used as a discourse marker in naturally occurring French
To conclude, in this chapter, I have shown that French speakers use voilà not so much to
open an utterance, but rather to structure and organize their tellings by presenting and
highlighting part of their talk. This use of voilà also demonstrates that the rules underlying the
grammar of interaction are not reflections of written prescriptive grammar.
Chapter 5: The use of voilà in word searches
5.1 Introduction
In the prior two chapters, I have analyzed voilà in closings and voilà in presenting
upcoming utterances. A third environment in which voilà routinely occurs in my corpus is in
word searches. As the analytic section of this chapter will show, there are three positions in
which voilà is used in a word search activity.
5.2 Positions
Voilà in word searches either
a) prefaces the searched-for word,
b) follows the newly found searched-for word, or
c) is placed in the middle of a search for the word
As the discussion will show, in each of these positions voilà fulfills a different
interactional function. In the first case, speakers indicate with voilà that they have found the
searched-for word, in the second case, with voilà they confirm that the found word is what they
were looking for, whereas in the last case, speakers indicate that they are on the way to finding
the searched-for word. As such, it is used as a ‘place holder’ until the missing word is found.
This chapter starts out with a brief review on the use of place holders and fillers in word search
activities in other languages, followed by the use and function of voilà of in searches for real
objects. Then, using examples from my corpus, I explore and discuss the use and function of
voilà in word search activities in mundane French interaction. Finally, I will summarize my
5.3 Prior studies on word searches
In my literature review chapter, I extensively discussed the features of word searches. In
this section, I will discuss more specifically the use of place holders in word search activities. I
will also discuss the prior work done on voilà in relation to (word) search activities.
5.3.1 ‘Place holders’ across languages
Place holders are different from what are commonly known as fillers (e.g., hesitation
markers, sound stretches), for they occupy the syntactic space of the missing word and substitute
for it (Hayashi & Yoon, 2006). For instance, in American English the expression
“whatchamacallit” functions as a place holder, whereas “uhms” and “uhs” are just fillers.
Hayashi & Yoon (2006) have also distinguished between two types of demonstratives: are/asoko
(placeholders) and ano (interjective hesitator) in Japanese. For the authors, an interjective
hesitator is just a delaying device; unlike a place holder, it does not pinpoint any particular
referent. This next example from Hayashi & Yoon (2006: 490-49) shows the use of the Japanese
distal demonstrative placeholder asoko/ ‘that place’ in a word search activity.
1 T: indo iki tte yuu no ga a-- aru no?
India for QT say N SP
exist FP
‘Is there ((a direct flight)) to India?’
2 R: eeto ne:: doko haitta kke::. iki
well FP
where entered Q
the.way.to TP
‘Well, where did ((I)) fly into… On the way to ((India)), …’
3 → asoko::
°kara haitta n ya (asoko)°
(1.5) °shuto.°
‘((I)) entered ((India)) through asoko [=that place], (°asoko°)
(1.5) °the capital°’
4 → (0.5)
‘(0.5) Delhi(h)’
We notice here that the second instance of asoko in line 3 is used as a place holder until
the searched-for word is found, which the speaker (R) eventually provided in line 4 (i.e., Delhi)
(Hayashi &Yoon, 2006). The use of demonstratives as placeholders is also found in other
languages (e.g., Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian and Russian) (Hayashi & Yoon, 2006).
In addition, Podlesskaya (2010) explores the use of the Russian proximal demonstrative
pronoun place holder eti, marked for accusative plural, to project a sought-for plural noun.
Amiridze (2010) on the other hand discusses the use of a fully inflected filler verb with its
suppletive root -svr as a place holder in modern Georgian.
Unlike a demonstrative, voilà is not referential and thus might not be defined as a place
holder. However, I would argue that voilà indicates some sort of indexability and projectability
mainly due to its sematic meaning. Hence in this sense it is more than a hesitation marker or
filler. In light of this observation, I will specifically explore the function of voilà in the middle of
word searches activities.
5.3.2 The use of voilà in real object search
Bruxelles & Traverso (2006) have observed that the presentative-deictic voilà is used to
mark the finding of an object. According to Bruxelles & Traverso (2006: 76), this voilà is uttered
“at the end of a search activity and more specifically at the moment the object of interest is found”
(à l’issue d’une activité locale de recherche d’un objet, au moment où l’objet est “trouvé”) (my
translation). The authors labeled this voilà the “eureka voilà” (voilà eurêka) (Bruxelles &
Traverso, 2006: 71). The following examples from Bruxelles & Traverso (2006: 76) will
illustrate this usage of voilà. Their data come from discussions/interactions during architects’
In this first excerpt, three architects (C, L and M) discuss the modifications of a first draft
of a hotel construction project. Before the meeting, the architects had submitted the draft
documents to the main sponsor of the hotel, who faxed it back with his comments, questions and
requests for modifications. The main task of the architects in this meeting is to go through the
questions and see if the requests and modifications could be granted. One of the questions of the
sponsor concerns room 33; the sponsor wanted to know if the room had windows. In order for
the architects to answer this question, they first had to locate the room in question on their maps.
FIGURE 5.2 (Bruxelles & Traverso, 2006: 76)
The original transcript is in French, the idiomatic translation is mine.
PL: stands for Plan/ ‘project draft’; D stands droite/ ‘right’; ---- > indicates that the gesture
continues; G stands for gauche/ ‘left’
C: où est-ce que t’as mis ((rires)) (…) où est-ce que tu
where did you put ((laughter))(…) where did you
((tout le monde est penché et cherche sur le PL531))
((everybody looks down and searches on PL5))
nous a fait une chambre trente-trois/
put room thirty three/
*C se penche à D et cherche dans la pile de D*
*C looks down and searches in the pile on the right side (D)*
C: [là-bas
[over there/
L: [mm mm mm (
[mm mm mm (
) ça doit être là
) it must be in there
------> C tire PL4 de la pile de D
------> C draws PL4 from the pile on the right (D)
dans cette aile là je pense euh
in this aisle here I think uh
((L pose sa main sur PL4; L pointe sur PL4))
((L puts his hand on PL4; L points toward PL4))
The drafts seem to be identified by the number associated to them.
FIGURE 5.2 (cont.)
C: ah voilà trente trois
oh here it is thirty three
L: trente-quatre trente-cinq::
thirty four thirty fi::ve
10 M: ah oui
oh right
11 C: *c’est au rez-de-chaussée alors*
*so it’s in the basement*
((*C déplace PL4 sur pile de D*))
((*C puts Pl4 back on the pile on the right*))
*(3.0)((*M tire PL4 vers elle*))
*(3.0)((*M draws PL4 toward her*))
((C cherche dans la pile de G))
((C searches in the pile on the left*))
13 M: non ca (.) non (,) ça c’est trente (..) quatre
no that’s (.) no (.) that’s thirty (..) four
((C essaye de tirer plan 3 du pile G))
((C tries to draw the map 3 from the pile on the left (G)))
14 M: [trente cinq
[thirty five
16 C: [(
((L qui était accoudé sur la pile G se recule))
((L who was resting his elbows on the left pile has now moved back))
((M ramène ses mains dans la pile de G))
((M puts her hands back on the left pile))
18 C: ça doit être celle la trente-trois
this one must be thirty three
((C dégage PL3 de la pile et le pose sur la pile))
((C draws PL3 from the pile and puts it on the pile))
(1.0) voilà/ trente-trois/(.)((C scrute, C pointe))
(1.0) here it is/ thirty three/(.)((C scrutinizes, C points))
20 L: a-t-elle une fenêtre/((rire))
does the room have a window/((laughter))
mm (0.2) eu::h oui y en a pas encore maismm (0.2) u::h yes not yet but-
At the beginning of the transcript, all architects seem to search for the room in question
(i.e., room 33) on PL5/ ‘map 5’ (lines 1-5), then C draws PL4 towards himself (line 6) and utters
ah voilà when he thought he had located room 33 (line 8). In lines 8-12, the architects tried to
verify the information given by C concerning the location of room 33. In line 12, M draws the
same map towards her (i.e., PL4) and differs with C’s affirmation (line 13). In lines 17-18, they
all seem to be mobilized for another search as they tried to locate room 33. C now draws another
map closer (i.e., PL3), affirms having located the room, and utters voilà as he points towards the
located area (lines 18-19). Once the search activity has ended and they have located the room on
their map, they now answer to the question by looking on the newly found map (lines 20-21)
(Bruxelles & Traverso, 2006). In sum, in both instances in which C locates the room on the map,
he precedes his utterance with a voilà.
According to the authors, the utterance voilà occurs at the end of a local activity (i.e., at
the end of a search) but it also contributes to the overall and global structure of the interaction as
the finding of the searched-for objects triggers the next activity (Bruxelles & Traverso, 2006: 7778).
In my own data corpus, I have observed that voilà, specifically the composite ben voilà,
can be used to mark the finding of a solution to an interactional problem and the finding/locating
a person as illustrated in the following examples. This first example comes from a Skype
conversation between a mother (M) and her daughter (C). The conversation occurred a few
weeks before Christmas. C lives abroad and is expected to come home for Christmas. Right
before this extract, her mother (M) asks C what she would like her sister give her for Christmas.
C first explains that she doesn’t need anything specifically and then she goes on to exclude some
potential gifts. Among the potential gifts, she excluded any gifts having to do with
home/apartment decorations. Her mother asks her daughter how she would feel about
pharmaceutical/cosmetics related objects, but C rejects the offer. The following is part of C’s
explanation for the rejection.
C: j’aime pas trop les (.)les coffrets
I like not much the (.)the boxes
actually I do not like (.)make up
en fait, parce que la moitié
in fact, because
the half
sets very much, because you do not get
dont tu
sers pas.
which you yourself serve not.
to use half of what’s inside.
M: ◦mm◦ (.) [◦bon◦
[◦ouais◦ tu vois donc euh
[◦yeah◦ you see so
[◦yeah◦ so you see uh
C: les les crèmes pour les main:s et tout,
the the creams for the han:ds and all,
hand crea:ms and things like that,
je peux en acheter ici=
that I can some buy
I can buy them here=
c’est vraiment pas cher,
it’s really
not expensive,
they’re really not expensive,
donc eu:h
hm:: non, peut-et’ ehhm:: no, maybe
FIGURE 5.3 (cont.)
elle p- elle pourrait peut-êt’
she c- she could
aller du
un: un pyjama.
to go of the side
to see a: a pyjama.
go for so:me some pajamas.
M: ah ben voilà,
c’est plus ◦utile◦ tout ça [(
oh well here it is,
it’s more ◦useful◦ all that [(
oh there you go, that’s more ◦useful◦ [(
C explains why she doesn’t like make up sets (line 1-3). The silence in line 4 probably
belongs to M as C is expecting her to react to the information she just provided her. M receipts
the explanation minimally (line 5). C goes on to give further account as to why she doesn’t like
make up sets (line 6-9). Then C suggests a possible gift (i.e., pajamas) with a donc/ ‘so’ prefaced
turn (line 11-13). The silence in line 14 belongs here once more to M as C is expecting her to
receipt the information she just provided. In line 14, M accepts and approves the suggestion and
goes on to make a positive assessment of the object in question. M first deploys the change-ofstate token (Heritage, 1984) ah to mark the prior utterance as informative and as news. Then she
used the composite ben voilà to mark the finding of a possibly suitable gift, after they had gone
through an extensive exchange of talk and negotiations over possible and potential gifts. The
ben voilà thus marks the resolution of the interactional problem that C and M were having (i.e.,
finding a suitable gift). Once both have identified the pajamas as a potential gift, C explains to
her mother what kind of pajamas she would like to get (not shown in the transcript).
The next example shows that ben voilà marks the finding or mention of a person name
within a specific category of individuals. The extract comes from a radio talk show. Usually, the
host (L) asks callers to the show who their favorite panelists are. Callers’ favorites of course
vary, but apparently one of the panelists is rarely mentioned as being one of the callers’ favorites.
In fact, callers usually mentioned him as being their least favorite panelist. All that is done
playfully, and even the panelist in question takes the comments good-naturedly and with lots of
humor. On this day, as he usually does, L asks one of the callers (M) who her favorite panelists
M: je vous aime beaucoup tous.
I you love lots
I like all of you very much.
L: même gérard miller?
even gérard miller?
M: même gérard miller.
even gérard miller.
B: ET BEN VOILÀ. ((background cheers))
L: ah ça
oh that there is=
oh finally/there we go=
B: =on a
trouvé une ha ha ha ha
=we have found one ha ha ha ha
In line 1, M answers the question by saying that she actually likes everybody
In line 2, L requests a confirmation as he asks M if her answer included Gérard MiIler. In line 3,
M confirms by repeating L’s question with downward intonation, thereby turning his question
into an assertion. By asserting and not simply affirming L’s question, M actually displays a
higher epistemic authority over her claim (Heritage & Raymond, 2012). In the next line B, one
of the frequent panelists, receipts this information with ben voilà uttered in higher voice, which
is then followed by background cheers. In line 6, B goes on to say on a trouvé une/ ‘we have
found one’, referring to this person (M) who happens to like this specific panelist. This line thus
confirms that B used ben voilà in line 4 to mark the finding of this person. This confirmation
functions also as a post-mortem verbalizing of the action (Schegloff, 2007). Moreover, the ça y
est/ ‘finally’ (line 5) by L implies repeated failures in the past to finding a person who actually
likes this panelist.
In this last example, ben voilà is used to mark the location of a person in the audience.
The excerpt comes from a radio talk show. At the beginning of the show, the host (L) regularly
reads letters that listeners have sent in to the show. In this extract, L reads one of these letters.
L: on
appelle brigitte j’aimerais
they myself call
brigitte I would like
my name is brigitte I would like
la présence de mon fils
to signal
the presence of my son
to inform you of the presence of my son
dix-huit ans
tristan, .h dans le public
ten-eight years tristan, .h in
the audience
eighteen years old, tristan .h in the audience
aujourd’hui, malgré son âge c’est un
despite his age it’s a
today, despite his age he’s an
fan incontesté de pierre benichou,
fan undisputed of pierre benichou,
undisputed fan of pierre benichou,
est tristan dans le public,
where is tristan in
the audience,
ah ben voilà
oh well here it is
[il est là
[he is there Tristan
FIGURE 5.5 (cont.)
oh there there he is [he’s here tristan
[◦il est là◦
[◦he is there◦
[◦he’s here◦
tristangood morning tristan-
In lines 1-5, L reads a letter from a mother in which she notifies the show’s host of the
presence of her son Tristan in the audience. In line 6, L searches for the person in question in the
audience. In the next line, L marks the location of Tristan by first deploying the change-of-state
token (Heritage, 1984) ah, then by uttering ben voilà, then finally by stating that he was indeed
in the audience. The pause at the end of line 7 seems to indicate the time that it took L to locate
Tristan. His presence in the audience is also indicated by C, a panelist on the show. Once L has
identified and located Tristan, he greets him (line 9).
In the last three examples, I have shown how co-participants deploy the composite ben voilà to
mark the finding of a person or mark the resolution of interactional problems. In these last three
examples we have seen that there was some sort of search going on as the co-participants
collaborate to finding the solution. As soon as the solution is found, they utter ben voilà to mark
the finding of the solution. The ben voilà is thus placed between the search and the finding of the
solution. The use of ben voilà is thus similar to the use of voilà in real object searches, in that
they both mark the finding of the element of interest.
In the following sections, I will demonstrate that the utterance of voilà in word searches plays the
same exact function as in the above examples. I argue that the cognitive mechanisms of a search
for an actual object are the same as the cognitive mechanisms displayed in a word search.
5.4 Analysis of voilà in a word search
In the following sections, I will demonstrate how co-participants use voilà in word search
activities. My analysis will show that they can deploy voilà right before the found word, in the
middle of the search, or after they have found the word.
5.4.1 Voilà prefacing the searched-for word
In this first section, I will analyze the use of voilà before the sought-for word is found.
The first examples illustrate how speakers recycle part of their utterance after they utter voilà and
before they complete the projected sentence. This first example is from a national French weekly
TV talk show. In this week’s show, one of the invitees (S) is a former presidential election
candidate and a former minister in a prior government. In this segment, L and S talk about the
current minister of justice, who has been the victim of vicious racist attacks from several people
in the country. The incidents had captured the attention of the French people who have expressed
their indignation. In reaction to these attack and to honor what the current minister of justice has
accomplished over the year, the magazine ELLE, a leading French feminine magazine, has
chosen her as the woman of the year. L asked S what she thinks about the choice.
01 L: vous aussi j’imagine qu’ vous êtes touchée par ce
you also I imagine that you are touched by this choice?
you too I guess you’re touched by this choice?
02 S: oui, en plus elle l:e mérite,
mais au-delà
yes, in plus she i:t deserves, but beyond
yes, plus sh:e deserves it, but beyond
de de son cas personnel, c’est toute une cause,
of of his case personal, it’s all
this this personal case, it’s about a whole cause,
FIGURE 5.6 (cont.)
c’est tout un enjeux, c’est c’e::t voilà
it’s all a stake, it’s i::t’s here it is
it’s about what is at stake, it’s i::t’s here it is
((slightly extends hand)) c’est savoir c’que
it’s to know th’what
it’s about knowing what
c’est vraiment la france,
th’what it’s really
the france,
what france is really all about,
la france n’ est n’ est pas un pays racistethe france not is not is not a country racistfrance is not is not a racist country-
In line 1, L asks S an agreement-seeking question, as evidenced by the use of j’imagine/
‘I guess’ to indicate that L is expecting an affirmative response to this question. In the next turn,
S confirms the question with oui, then goes on to upgrade her answer as she affirms that the
person in question deserves the nomination. In lines 2-7, S expands her answer as she explains
what this award means beyond the nomination of a single person. In line 3, she starts by listing
the bigger implications of this nomination, i.e., what this nomination is all about as she lists what
it entails. S uses a listing tone and starts each TCU with c’est/ ‘it’s’ as she cites the implications
of this nomination. We notice that in line 3 and 4, S did not have any difficulty completing the
c’est -TCUs. However, as she starts her second c’est TCU in line 4, S goes into a word search:
She repeats the word twice and stretches the second repetition. Immediately thereafter, she utters
voilà and recycles c’est before she completes her TCU (lines 5-6). In line 7, S elaborates even
more as she explains what she thinks of her country. We notice here that S did not use voilà after
the first two c’est prefaced TCUs (lines 3-4), but the fact that she used voilà after she
experienced word formulation difficulties demonstrates that voilà is indeed used to preface the
newly found word. This example thus illustrates, unlike the prior three examples, the solution to
a word search. Speakers typically do not use composite ben voilà to mark the finding of the word.
However, the voilà, just like in the prior examples, is positioned between the search and the
finding of the sought-for word.
This next extract in this series comes from an interaction between a radio talk show host
(L) and S, a casting director for singers who perform in the subways of Paris. In this excerpt, L
closes down their conversation as follows:
01 L: on vous souhaite en tout cas un bon casting,
we you wish
in all case a good casting,
anyway we wish you a good casting,
pa’sque après tout tous ce
qui nous écoutent
‘cause after all
all that who us
‘cause after all our listeners
qui prennent le
pourǝ ::
and who take
the subway, some will do forǝ::
who take the subway, will get thei::r
feront pour leur frais.
here it is some will do for their expense.
here it is will get their money’s worth.
c’est eux qui seront eu:h les futurs spectateurs
it’s them who will be u:h the futures audience
they’re the ones who will be the potential audience
de vo:s futures chanteurs. [merci
m’sieurof you:r future singers.
[thank you m’ster/sir[
07 S:
[ah oui, le métro
[oh yeah, the subway
c’est quand même plus cinq millions de voyageurs
it’s when same more five millions of travelers
nonetheless it’s more than five million travelers
[donc c’est
[so it’s
you know, [so it’s
FIGURE 5.7 (cont.)
10 L:
[ouais ouais
[right right
In line 1, L wishes S a good casting and goes on to build his turn as he explains how the
success of this casting operation would impact his listeners who take the subway (lines 2-3).
Midway through his explanation, L goes into a word search (at the end of line 3). The search is
displayed specifically on the word pour/ ‘for’. L extends the word by first adding a schwa32 (ǝ)
then by stretching the vowel he just added. The addition of the schwa increases the number of
syllables of the word: pour initially is a one syllable word, but with the schwa it is pronounced in
two syllables. The extension and the lengthening of the word indicate that L is experiencing
difficulties finding the next word. In the next turn, L utters voilà then recycles part of his
utterance and completes his TCU with falling intonation as he explains that listeners/subway
takers will be the first to benefit from this operation (line 4). We notice here that the second pour
(line 4) is neither lengthened nor stretched. We notice that the words following voilà are uttered
without any hesitation or any word search-indicating markers. This indicates that voilà was used
to preface the newly found word. In lines 5-6, L goes on to credit these subway users as the
future audience of the future singers before he thanks S for being on his show. Hence, this
example is similar to the previous example in that the speaker recycles part of his utterance after
According to Candea (2002), the difference between the e d’appui / ‘epithetical e’ and the e
d’hésitation/ ‘a hesitation marker’ is that the former is a stylistic marker which is usually
associated with Parisian French people if it’s added to the previous word (e.g., bonjour_ǝ), and
the latter functions as a hesitation marker if it is pronounced after the word. In such cases, it is
usually transcribed euh/ ‘uh’. Throughout my data, whenever the schwa is pronounced in the
same intonation contour of the word it is attached to, and it appears in a word search context, I
transcribed it with the ‘epithetical e’/schwa and not the hesitation marker euh. It is possible in
this specific case (i.e., epithetical e in a word search context) that the schwa may be functioning
as a hesitation marker.
voilà, and we can see that the repeat is uttered without any indication of word formulation
The following similar example comes from the same radio talk show. In this extract, the
show panelists are discussing the life of Mata Hari, the Dutch courtesan convicted of being a spy.
In the following excerpt, the show host (L) asks the other members a question concerning Mata
01 L: donc elle a
été espionne au
she has been spy
at the service
so she was a spy in the service
de l’ allemagne. c’est ça?
of the germany.
it’s that?
of germany. right?
03 I: .h oui, enfin c’est c’qui se
dit, il parait
.h yes, well it’s th’who itself says, it seems
.h yes, well that’s what they say, it seems
c’est pas plus prouvé que ça,
it’s not more proven than that, th’th’they tell
that it has never been proven, they also say
aussi, c’est qu:e comme son procès a
été un p’tit
also, it’s tha:t as
her trial has been a li’l
that her trial has been a little
peu:::: voilà
un p’tit peu rapidement expédié,
fe::::w here it is a li’l few quickly
bi:::t here it is a little bit swiftly expedited,
.h so::n son avocat lui avait fait croire
.h he::r her lawyer her had done to believe that
.h he::r her lawyer let her believe that
c’était une simulation d’ exécution elle est allée
it was
simulation of execution she is gone
it was a simulation of an execution she went there
eu::h elle est allée se
faire exécuter euh m::u::h she is gone oneself to do executed uh m::-
FIGURE 5.8 (cont.)
she got executed uh m::-
10 L: sans
sa[voir qu’ elle mourrait.
without to[know that she would die.
without kn[owing that she was going to die.
11 I:
[apparemment courageusement et tout ça,
[apparently courageously
and all that,
[apparently courageously and everything,
.h pa’sque en fait on
lui avait dit que
.h ‘cause in fact they her had
say that
.h ‘cause in fact they told her that
les balles étaient chargées à blanc,
the bullets were
at white,
the bullets were blanc,
et qu’ après elle pourrait repartir.
and that after she could
go back.
and that afterwards she would leave.
In lines 1-2, L requests confirmation that Mata Hari was a German spy. In the next turn,
I answers the question: First she confirms L’s confirmation request, but then goes on to mitigate
her answer with an enfin/ ‘well’ prefaced TCU (lines 3-4). I then elaborates her answer even
more as she specifies the condition of Mata Hari’s trial and execution (lines 3-14). She first
starts by characterizing her trial, but mid-way through her TCU, she experiences trouble finding
her words (lines 4-6). She stretches peu:::: then utters voilà, recycles part of her utterance and
completes her TCU as she explains how Mata Hari’s trial was expedited swiftly (line 6). In the
remaining lines she gives a detailed account of her execution (lines 7-14). In this example as in
the previous one, we notice that voilà prefaces the newly found word together with some
recycled words. Once more, the repeated word is now uttered without any hesitation.
This next example portrays a similar case. The extract comes from a TV documentary
about the presidency of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. In the documentary,
people who worked in his government testify and talk about their experiences, their failures,
successes, etc. In this excerpt, V, one of the former ministers, blames the global crisis for the
economic failure in France during Sarkozy’s presidency.
01 V: la vérité, moi je le pense, si on avait su
the truth, me I it think, if we had
the truth is, I think if we had known
que la crise allait
that the crisis was going to be as much hard
that the crisis was going to hit us that hard
violente, .h qu’ elle allait
quasiment euh
as much violent, .h that she was going virtually uh
that aggressively, .h that it was going to virtually uh
fracasser nos banques, nos pmeǝ :, notre
to shatter our banks,
our sme:s, our
shatter our banks, our small businesse:s, our
industrie automobile, euh et j’allais
industry motor-car, uh and I was going to say
car industry, uh and dare I say
l’ europe, on:::: on aurait
the europe, we:::: we would have without doubt
europe, we:::: we would’ve certainly
été euh plus économes, eu:h au
been uh more thrifty, u:h at the start
been uh more thrifty, u:h at the beginning
of the five-year term, we would have without doubt
of the five-year term, we would’ve certainly
été plus dans la réduction du
been more in
the reduction of the deficit
worked on the deficit reduction
at the beginning of the five-year term,
FIGURE 5.9 (cont.)
on aurait
doute été
plus plu:::sǝ ::
we would have without doubt been more mo:::reǝ::
we would’ve certainly been more mo:::reǝ::
((makes a grimace)) voilà
on aurait
here it is we would have
doute sans
doute fait plus attention.
without doubt without doubt done more aware.
certainly certainly been more cautious.
V explains that the Sarkozy government would have done things differently had they
known the crisis would be as severe and damaging (lines 1-13). In lines 1-6, V lists the if-clauses,
and then in lines 6-14, V explains what they would have done specifically to prevent the
economic collapse. V goes into a word search while mentioning the things she would have done
differently (lines 11-13). V started the same way when mentioning all the things that they or the
government would have done differently: on aurait sans doute été plus/ ‘we would’ve certainly
been more’ (lines 6-14) and she did not have any problem completing the TCUs that she started
this way, except for the last one in line 11. In this last TCU (line11), V starts her TCU the same
way as she did the previous TCUs but right after plus/ ‘more’, she experiences difficulties
retrieving the word that she is looking for: first she repeats plus, then she stretches the vowel,
lengthens the word with an epithetic schwa (Candea, 2002), and stretches this additional schwa.
She then utters voilà, recycles on aurait sans doute, repeats sans doute, and completes the TCU
with the newly found missing part as she explains that they would have been more careful (had
they been able to assess the magnitude of the crisis). In this example, again the speaker recycles
part of her utterance after uttering voilà to mark the finding of the solution.
The last example of this section shows that speakers do not necessarily recycle previously
uttered words after voilà. The excerpt comes from a TV documentary about the former French
president Nicolas Sarkozy. In this segment T, a former adviser of the former president, speaks
about one of Sarkozy’s personality traits.
01 T: il est fabriqué
comme ça.
he is fabricated like that.
that’s how he’s built.
il faut qu’ il s’
it must that he himself self-motivate, so
he has to self-motivate, so
il faut qu’ il se
donne entièrement
it must that he himself give entirely
he has to commit himself entirely
eu::h voilà
à sa nouvelle vie, qu’ il
u::h here it is to his new
life, that he
u::h here it is to his new life, that he
vive dans le présent au
maximum,live in
the present at the at the maximumlives in the present to the to the full extent-
As we can observe, after a stretched hesitation marker in line 4, T utters voilà before he
completes the projected utterance before voilà.
In this section, I have shown how voilà is used to preface an upcoming word search
resolution. We have seen that upon finding the searched-for word, speakers typically utter voilà
then recycle part of their utterance without any hesitation markers before they complete the
projected turn. The last example shows that speaker can also complete the projected utterance
right after voilà. In the prior section my analyses have shown that speakers utter ben voilà to
mark the finding of the person of interest or to mark the resolution of interactional problems.
Therefore, even though in both situations a prior search is involved, the practice of a word search
is different from the practice of a search for a real object or person. In the next section, I will
analyze data examples in which voilà is uttered after the just-found word.
5.4.2 Voilà after the finding of the searched word
In this section, I will show how speakers use voilà to mark the newly found word after
that word has been uttered. In the first example, the guest of the radio talk show is D, an author
of a book about the lives of some famous/infamous dictators’ wives. Right before this extract,
the host (L) tells the author that she may have to write a third volume to include all remaining
dictators’ wives. The author (D) explains that this is the second and last volume on the subject
matter. The extract begins with L trying to provide a name of a person who he thinks
could/should have been in the book, but then L cannot remember her name.
L: par exemple la femme euh euh de- de- euh
for example the wife uh uh of- of- uh
of the:
chef d’état,
head of state,
son nom
m’échappe d’un seul coup
her name me escape of a sole sudden
all of a sudden I can’t remember her name
.h euh asma
.h uh asma
.h uh asma
D: ouai:s.
L: voilà=
est= ça me
here it is=that there is = it to me come back.
here it is=that’s it=I remember now.
L: .h on la voit partout
en ce
.h we her see everywhere in this moment
.h we’re seeing her everywhere lately
dans dans tous les journaux,
in in
all the newspapers,
D: on la voit partout
[parce qu’ils ontwe her see everywhere[because they have-
FIGURE 5.11 (cont.)
we see her everywhere[because they[
10 L:
rose- la
[the-the rose- the
l’ appelle.
[they her call.
[they call her.
12 D: [oui parce qu’ils ont voulu nous la
[yes because they have wanted us
[yes because they wanted us to see her
rose du
rose of the
In lines 1-2, L begins to identify the person in question in reference to her spouse. After
de we normally expect a name, but in this case it’s not clear if L in line 1 was trying to identify
the spouse in question by his name or his title. In any case, he ends up identifying him by his title
in line 2. In line 3, L comments on the fact that he cannot remember the name of the wife. He
then retrieves the name in the next line. In line 5 D receipts the name minimally. In line 6, L
utters voilà and goes on to state that the name he provides was actually the name he was looking
for. Once more here the comments following voilà in line 6, ça y est= ça me revient/ ‘that’s it, I
remember now’, function as a postmortem (Schegloff, 2007). In the remainder of the turns, once
L has identifies the person in question, he goes on making statements concerning her and her
popularity (lines 7-8 and lines 10-11). Here once more, voilà clearly marks the fact that L has
found the name he was looking for. The latched comments after voilà also confirmed this
function of voilà (line 6). The utterance of voilà also marks the end of the search activity: once L
and D had established the identity of the person in question, they went on to discuss her. This
example thus illustrates the marking of the sought-for word. Put differently, the speaker utters
voilà after he retrieves the word he was looking for. The voilà thus does not preface the solution
but marks the finding of the solution.
This next example shows the searched-for word/name can also be provided by the
recipients. In this excerpt, the radio show panelists remember a recently deceased longtime audio
visual/TV personality. This leads them to talk about other older TV personalities and to wonder
whether they are still alive. In this excerpt L, the show host, recalls two brothers but cannot
remember their names.
01 L: comment s’
les frè:res,
themselves were calling the bro:thers,
what were the names of the brothers,
vous savez, chais pas si vous vous [souveyou know, know not if you you [remembyou know, do not know if you you
03 P:
[les frères
roulant non?
[the brothers roulant no?
[the roulant brothers no?
04 L: non les frères
roulant, on sait qu’ il y
no the brothers roulant, we know that it there some
no the roulant brothers, we know that one of them,
un, hélas
has one, unfortunately
unfortunately is not
06 B:
07 P:
qui n’ est plus
[assez jeune,
who not is no more [enough young,
[quite young anymore,
[les frères
[the brothers bogdanoff?
[the bogdanoff brothers?
08 L: mais jean pierre roulant est toujours là
but jean pierre roulant is always
but jean pierre roulant is still alive
09 L: non, les frères
qui arbitraient
à jeux
no, the brothers who used to referee at games
no, the brothers who used to be judges at games
without fronti[ers,
FIGURE 5.12 (cont.)
11 B:
[a:h g:ǝ : guido pancaldi e:t gennaro olivier.
[o:h g:ǝ : guido pancaldi e:t gennaro olivier.
12 L: voi:là.
tha:t’s it.
In lines 1-2, L asks the panelists for the names of “the two brothers”. In line 3, P, one of
the panelists, proposes a possible name with rising intonation. L rejects the proposition (lines 4-5
and line 8) in overlap with another suggestion by B. L goes on to describe the brothers in
question by their occupation (lines 9-10). In line 11 B, another panelist, suggests an additional
set of names with falling intonation after a change-of-state-token (Heritage, 1984) which
indicates that the prior turn was informative. Finally L accepts the names with voi:là in line 12 to
mark the accuracy of the information provided by B. The ratification with voilà shows that L has
just as much epistemic authority over the information (i.e., the brothers’ names). Once more
voilà comes after the sought-for word to indicate the finding of these specific names. In the rest
of their conversation, the panelists talked more about these two people they just identified (not
shown in the transcript). In any case, as in the previous example the voilà closes off the search
The last example in this section illustrates a similar case. In this example, the panelists
reminisce about classes they had to take in high school. The host (L) remembers one particular
class that he really did not care for, but he cannot remember the name of the course.
01 L: comment s’
itself was calling that, this course there
what was the name of this course, we had
qu’ on avait, o:ù
on étudiait
that we had,
whe:re one was studying
FIGURE 5.13 (cont.)
whe:re we had to study
un moulin à café?
a grinder to coffee?
a coffee grinder?
04 Y: (
05 C: heh heh heh
06 T: où
on étudiait
un moulin à café,
where one was studying a grinder to coffee,
where we had to study a coffee grinder,
07 B: (
08 M: ça
appelle l’ expresso. ((laughing voice))
that itself call
the espresso.
it’s called the espresso.
09 C: tu é(h)tudiait
un moul- ((background laughter))
you were st(h)udying a grinyou st(h)died a coffee grin10
attends excusez-nous,
wait a minute you’ll have to excuse us,
11 B: [(
12 T: [t’ es sûr
t’ es pas allé dans une école spé[you are sure you are not went in
school spe[are you sure you did not go to a specialized schoo13 S: ah technologie.
oh technology.
14 T: t’ es pas [alléyou are not [wentyou did not [go[
15 L:
[technologie. ((M laughs)) voilà.
on a tous[technology.
that’s it. we has all[technology.
that’s it. we all have16 C: tu as
étudié le moulin à café?
you have studied the grinder to coffee?
FIGURE 5.13 (cont.)
you studied a coffee grinder?
17 L: mais ouibut yessure-/oh yeah-
In lines 1-3, L asks his co-hosts for the name of the specific course in which he studied a
coffee grinder, to use his expression. However, it seems that this specific course was not familiar
to the panelists. In fact most of them are rather amused or puzzled by the question. For instance,
both T (lines 6, 12 and 14) and C (lines 9-10) seem to be engaged in some sort of other-initiated
repair. As for M, she provides a rather humoristic response, which indicates she was not really
engaged in the search (line 8). In the meantime, in line 13 S provides a possible answer with
falling intonation prefaced with a change-of-state token (Heritage, 1984). Then in line 15, by
first repeating the word L indicates an epistemic authority over the proposed word (Heritage &
Raymond, 2012). Then and only then does L accept the word as the one that he was looking for
by uttering voilà. Once L closes the search activity with voilà, he then addresses the question by
C concerning this specific course (lines 16-17).
In this section thus, I have shown how speakers use voilà to mark the finding of the sought-for
word and to simultaneously close the whole search activity. The missing part can be found by
either the speakers themselves or the recipients. In any case, the voilà is uttered by the speakers
and never by the recipients. When speakers utter voilà after they have found the missing word
themselves, they mark the finding of the word. However, when the word is found by recipients,
by uttering voilà the speakers not only accept the proposed word but they also claim a higher
epistemic authority over the subject matter. This claim of entitlement is even more heightened if
the speakers repeat the proposed answer before uttering voilà.
With voilà, speakers also close the whole search activity. This finding also corroborates
the findings of Bruxelles & Traverso (2006), who observed that voilà closed off the search
activity. Recall that once the architects in my data located the room in question, they went on to
check if the room had windows. Hence there is a similarity between the utterance of voilà after
the sought-for word is found, and the utterance of ben voilà or voilà after the object or the person
of interest is found. As a matter of fact, it happens that speakers produce a postmortem
(Schegloff, 2007) after they have closed the search activity (i.e., example 5.4 and example 5.11).
By definition, a postmortem can only come after a closed action (Schegloff, 2007).
This practice is thus different from when speakers preface the newly found word with
voilà. In the following section, I will analyze the function of voilà in the middle of an ongoing
5.4.3 Voilà in the middle of a word search
In this section, I will analyze examples in which voilà occurs in the middle of a search.
The voilà in such cases does not preface the searched-for word, at least not immediately after
voilà. In addition, as my analyses will show, the searched-for word may or may not be found at
the end of the projected utterance. In any case, it seems that speakers use voilà as a sort of
delaying device for the yet-to-be-found word.
This first data excerpt is from a weekly French public TV show called Vivement
dimanche, which is hosted by M, a popular French host. The guest is A, a stand-up comedian
who incidentally also happens to work for Vivement dimanche. Guest A has had a successful
career as a comedian for quite some time, but she has become even more popular ever since she
began appearing on this specific show. In this show, two of her friends and fellow comedians, L
and MB, were also invited to participate. In this extract, M talks with L. Right before the extract,
M reminds the audience that L and A have known each other for a long time from having worked
together on a radio comedy show.
The guests are seated on the semicircular red couches: the host (M) is seated on the middle
couch, while A and L are seated to the right of M. The extract begins with M asking L if he is
surprised by the current popularity of his friend and colleague A.
01 M: et le
qu’elle a
cette année,
and the success
dazzling that she has this year,
and the impressive success she’s having this year,
qu’ elle va
avoir (.) maint’nant, ne vous étonne
that she goes have (.) now,
not you surprise not.
that she’s going to have (.) now, doesn’t surprise you.
03 L: non=pas du
tout il est totalement justifié
no=not of the all it is totally
no=not at all it’s well deserved
euh évidemment la télévision particulièrement votre émission
uh evidently the television particularly
your show
uh obviously television in particular your show
c’est euh-((gestures with hands))
it’s uh-
une sorte ((gaze away))de- de- voilà
of- of- here it is
de- deof- of-
FIGURE 5.15 (cont.)
((gaze toward speaker))d’accélérateur de- de notoriété
of accelerator of- of notoriety
notoriety accelerator
mais anne remplissait des salles
but anne was filling some rooms
but anne has been filling theaters
depuis [des années et des annéessince [some years and some yearsfor
[years and years[
10 MB:
[◦long time◦
In lines1-2, M inquires whether L is surprised by A’s success. The falling intonation at
the end of the TCU indicates that this is more like a confirmation-seeking inquiry than a yes/no
question. In line 3, L answers M’s question by giving the preferred answer (i.e., confirmation of
the question), and then rushes through to upgrade his answer. L then addresses A’s current
success on TV (line 4). As he starts to explain the impact of TV on A’s career, he begins a word
search for the right descriptor (line 5). Right after c’est/ ‘it’s’ (line 5), L moves his hands in
repeated fast back and forth motions as if to indicate the amplification or acceleration of
something. (FIGURE 5. 16 and 5.17)
L also removes his gaze from M (the host) who was sitting right in front of him, by
turning his head toward the left (Figure 5.16), then bringing it back slightly to the right and
gazing downward ( Figure 5.17). The addition of c’est une sorte de/ ‘it’s a kind of’ (lines 5-6)
helps to specify or narrow the domain of the searched-for word; given the syntactic constraints of
this phrase, L indicates that the searched-for word is a noun. L is still not able to find the word,
and the search continues with him repeating de- de followed by voilà (line 6) (Figure 5.18). This
is followed by another search as indicated by the repetition of de- de (Figure 5.19).
FIGURE 5.18 “voilà” ((gaze downward))
In line 7, L finally gazes up towards the recipient and utters the searched-for word
accélérateur (Figure 3.20) followed by another brief search repetition of de, before completing
the whole TCU by uttering the last missing word notoriété.
“de- de” the search continues
continues after voilà
((gaze downward))
((gaze upward))
While he utters the word accélérateur, we notice that L is not only gazing toward the
recipient, but that his gesture changes; accélérateur is now accompanied by what I would call,
for lack of a better term, a presenting-the-searched-for-word gesture by putting his hands forward
as if to offer the newly found word (Figure 5.20). The stress on the first two syllables of
accélérateur also shows L’s excitement at having found the searched-for word. Thus in line 7, L
finishes what he started doing in line 4, which is to talk about the impact of television on A’s
Lines 5-7 are of core interest. Voilà appears here right in the middle of the search. In
other words, the searched-for word is not found immediately after voilà and thus here it does not
preface the searched-for word. However, by uttering voilà in the middle of the search, L
indicates to the co-participants that he is still engaged in the search and that the searched-for
word is on its way to being found. In so doing, he is also requesting to keep the turn through
using voilà as a delaying device.
We also notice that the search indicators deployed by L before and after voilà are exactly
the same. L repeats de before and after voilà. This is an indication that L’s search did not
advance after voilà, but it does not mean that he is abandoning the search; rather, it seems that he
is communicating to the co-participants that even though he is still deploying the same search
indicators, he wants the recipients to keep attending to his search.
In addition, during the whole search and including the utterance of voilà, L averts his
gaze 33from the host and from all the other participants in the interaction; for this reason, this
search seems to have been framed as a solitary activity (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986; Hayashi,
2003) that does not solicit help. However, even if it is a solitary activity, the listeners orient to
L’s search by gazing in his direction. Furthermore, L does not stop gesturing when uttering voilà,
It is not clear if speakers display the same embodied actions when they preface the newly
found word with voilà. A larger data corpus would clarify this question.
reinforcing the idea communicated by the gesture that the searched-for word is in the projection
space (Schegloff, 1984; Streeck, 1995).
This next example bears some similarity to the previous one. The extract comes from the
same TV documentary about the presidency of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. In
this extract, one of his ministers (V) talks about the personality of the former president.
V: je pense qu’i (.) il est plus froid d’abord,
I think that (.) he is more cold first,
I think that (.) he is rather cold at first,
il a
plus du
à à
he has more of the difficulty to to
he doesn’t know how to to show
donner des marques de:: d’ affection,
to give some marks
of:: of affection,
signs of:: of affection,
mais en réalité je pensais
but in reality I was thinking that
but in fact I was under the impression that
nicolas sarkozy c’était p- c’était quelqu’un
nicolas sarkozy it was m- it was someone
nicolas sarkozy was m- was someone
de vraiment ((frowning face))
of really
très très trèsǝ ((eye gaze down and away the from interlocutor))
very very veryǝ
voilà ((creaky voice))
..hhh chais pas comment le dire
here it is ((creaky voice)) ..hhh don’ know how
it to say
here it is uh ((creaky voice)) ..hhh don’ know how to say it
((eye gaze upward)) *très du:r,* ((*frowning face*))
very ha:rd,
very seve:re,
FIGURE 5.21 (cont.)
très très et en fait non et en fait au
fond c’est
very very and in fact no and in fact at the deep it’s
very very but in fact no in fact he’s really
quelqu’un qui a
qui est profondément un affectif.
who has who is deeply
an affective.
someone who has who is deeply affective.
In lines 1-9, V explains that she was under the impression that the former president was a
rather cold and austere personality. According to V, this was a false impression as she now states
that he is actually a person who is capable of showing affection (lines 10-11).
Lines 5-9 are of interest. While expressing her impression of the president, V goes into a
search as she struggles to find the accurate descriptor. The search begins with the embodied
action, specifically a frowning face as she utters the word vraiment/ ‘really’ (Figure5.22) (line 6).
“vraiment” ((frowning face))
“voilà” ((gaze averted))
She then repeats très three times. We notice that the last repetition is uttered with an
addition of a schwa (ǝ) (Candea, 2002) (line 7). Then she gazes downward and away from the
interlocutor as she utters voilà in a creaky voice (figure 5.23) (line 8). However, after voilà V
does not present the found word, but rather admits she still did not find the right word (figure
5.24). Finally in line 9, V gazes upward34 and recycles part of her previous utterance (i.e., très)
before she adds the missing word (i.e., du:r) as she frowns at the same time (figure 5.25).
The stretching in du:r, followed by the slightly rising intonation, indicates that V is not
done describing the personality traits of the former president and is about to add more
characterizing adjectives. This is confirmed in line 10, as she again recycles the adverb très,
which she repeats twice indicating that she is now engaged in a new word search. But instead of
completing the projected sentence with the missing adjective, V abandons the search to go on
negating her prior impression of the former president, before stating her current impression of
him (lines 10-11). By presenting this new characterization as the current one, V implies thus that
she had previously mischaracterized the former president.
Once more in this example, voilà is uttered in the middle of a search. Just like in the
previous example, in this example the speaker has displayed embodied actions during the search
and while presenting the resolution. However, unlike the previous example, in this example the
search indicators displayed before and after voilà are not exactly the same. Before the utterance
of voilà V has repeated the adverb très three times. This indicates that the projected word is most
Presumably V is gazing toward the interlocutor; however the screen shot/video data does not
show the person in front of her.
likely a characterizing adjective. After voilà V states where she is at in the ongoing search as she
indicates she “doesn’t know how to say it” yet. This statement shows that V has some sort of
semantic representation of the searched-for word but cannot yet verbalize it. Moreover, as she
made this statement, V still had her gaze averted from the interlocutor, which indicates that the
statement is rather self-addressed and not uttered to the attention of the recipients. In other words,
with this statement she is not asking for the recipient’s help, but rather this statement is asking
the recipients to keep attending to the ongoing search. Hence, V is using voilà mostly as a
delaying device. However, unlike the speaker in the previous example who did not display any
indication of advancement in the search after voilà, in this example V was able to display her
progression in the ongoing search activity by precisely updating the recipients on its progress.
We also notice here that V displayed the exact same embodied action (i.e., frowning face)
at the initial phase of the search and as she uttered the found word (i.e., très du:r). This indicates
that the gesture has indeed preceded the verbalization of the word (Goodwin, 1983, Goodwin &
Goodwin, 1986, Streeck, 1995).
In the next example, the speaker uses voilà in the middle of the search, but mid-way
through the search he abandons the syntactically projected sentence. The extract comes from a
radio show which is also broadcast with a live video-feed on the internet. In this show, the host G
interviews a veteran French singer (M). Before the following extract, G and M had talked about
the news of another French singer retiring from touring. Then G had asked M if he too thinks
about retiring one day. M jokingly answers that his friend is retiring because he’s tired of eating
the same hotel food, implying he was tired of the monotony that comes with touring. After they
both laugh about the remark, G picks up on it to talk about touring habits.
M is on the left and facing G (the host).
G: c’est ce
que je vous disais
it’s this that I you was saying
that’s what I was telling you
tout à l’ heure, c’est à dire
all at the hour, it’s at to say that
earlier, that is to say
un moment donné, cette vie deǝ
at a
moment given,this life ofǝ
at some point, this life ofǝ
(*0.5*) voilà
de de de .hh euh sur les rou:tes,
here it is of of of .hh uh on the ro:ad,
here it is of of of .hh uh the ro:ad life,
((*circular motion with right hand upright, gaze averted*))
peu:t, aussi::ǝ, lass[er. ((gaze toward interlocutor))
one ca:n,
also::ǝ, to we[ary.
can, also::ǝ :, wear you
[ah::: ben [c’est-à- dire
[oh::: well [it’s at to say
[oh::: well [I mean
[quand on fait ça
[when one does that since
[when you’ve been doing that
quarante-cinq ans.
five years.
for forty five years.
FIGURE 5.27 (cont.)
M: c’est-à- dire
que oui, on connait les hôtels.
it’s at to say that yes, one knows the hotels.
in other words yes, we know the hotels.
In lines 1-2, G recalls their earlier conversation and starts to elaborate on what he meant
to say. Then after à un moment donné cette vie de/ ‘at some point this life of’ he produces a
circular motion gesture with his upright right hand as he utters voilà while his gaze is turned
away from the interlocutor (lines 3-4) (figure 5.28 and 5.29).
((circular motion with right hand))
“voilà” ((gaze averted))
((circular motion with right hand))
After the utterance of voilà, G keeps on searching as he repeats de three times followed
by a hesitation marker (line 4). The projected talk after à un moment donné cette vie de is
normally a noun, but instead of completing the projected sentence with the missing noun, G
abandons the projection to start a new projection with sur les routes (line 4). In line 5, after some
additional searches G completes this newly projected utterance and presents this newly found
word with his gaze toward the interlocutor (figure 5.30).
((gaze toward interlocutor))
In this example just like in the two previous cases, the speaker displayed embodied
actions during the search. In the segment, G and M were discussing touring and the effect of long
time touring on singers, hence G’s circular motion with his right hand may have some sort of
semantic association with the subject matter. However, unlike in the previous two examples, in
this case the speaker did not complete the projected sentence. Therefore, we do not know exactly
what was represented in the gesture.
Nevertheless, by the time he utters voilà G was still very much engaged in finding the
projected word (i.e., the noun). Therefore, by saying voilà G communicates to the recipients that
the projected word is on the way to being found. Just like in the previous two examples, the fact
that G’s gaze was averted from the co-participant as he says voilà indicates that he is not
soliciting the recipient’s help. The search as projected is only abandoned after additional search
indicators after voilà. This example shows thus that the utterance of voilà during the search
indicates first and foremost the speaker’s state of mind as they are engaged in the ongoing search.
Put differently, voilà does not necessarily guarantee the finding of the sought-for word, but rather
by saying voilà, speakers keep the search activity relevant and indicate that it is worthwhile to
pursue it. Voilà in the middle of a search is thus used mainly as delaying device.
This last example shows that the sought-for word can be found by the recipients. In this
extract of the radio show, the host (L) greets two listeners-contestants, and as he usually does, he
asks them a few informational questions. Before he asked the questions, L also has to tell them
what the wining prize is and has to advertise the company offering the gift. In the middle of the
advertisement, L goes into a word search as he tries to find the right word defining the vacation
that the contestants have a chance of winning. Right before the extract, there was an inserted
sequence involving funny exchanges between two of the panelists. The extract begins with L still
L: ha ha ha ha ha .h pierre en tout cas
ha ha ha ha ha .h pierre in all case
ha ha ha ha ha .h pierre anyway
vous allez affronter ((laughter in the back ground continues))
you go
you’re going to face
elizabeth pour[remporter peut-être(.)un séjour
elizabeth to [win
(.)a sojourn
L: au
at the
chalet hôtel kaya:, c’est dans la vallée des
chalet hotel kaya:, it’s in the valley of (the) belleville
vous l’ avez
in short, you
it have
(.) une petiteǝ ::
understood, (.) a
in short, you know what I mean, (.) a
une petiteǝ :[:
here it is,
M: [escapade?
[get away?
littleǝ :[:
[get away?
FIGURE 5.31 (cont.)
10 L: [escapade.[merci
je cherchais
le mot,
euh à la
[get away.[thank you I was looking the word, uh at the sno:w.
[get away.[thank you I was looking for the word, uh in the sno:w.
11 C:
12 L: un accès
privilégié vers
domaine skia:ble.(.)
a access privileged toward the domain skia:ble. (.)
a privileged access of the ski area. (.)
13 P: [h[
[trois double vé hôtel kaya point com pour tout savoi:r
[three double v hotel kaya dot
com to
all know
[double u double u double u hotel kaya dot com to learn more
sur cet accès
privilégié en savoie, au
chalet hôtel, kaya.
on this access prilieged in savoie, at the chalet hotel, kaya.
about this privileged access in savoie, at the chalet hotel, kaya.
In lines 1-5, L explains to the two contestants what one of them will be winning. In line
6, L begins to summarize his previous turns. But right after he utters petite he experiences
difficulties retrieving the following word, more specifically the following noun. He first adds a
schwa at the end of petite, then stretches this epithetical schwa (Candea, 2002), then utters voilà
before he recycles une petite (line 7). In line 8 C, one of the panelists, offers a possible noun. In
the next turn (line 10), L first accepts the word as he repeats it, thereby claiming epistemic
authority over the word, then thanks the recipient for providing the word he was looking for
before he carries on with the details of the winning prize that he had started earlier (lines 10-15).
In this example just like in the previous ones, voilà was uttered in the middle of a search.
As in the example 5.15, in this example the search indicators before and after voilà are exactly
the same. Therefore, even though L has not advanced in his search, by uttering voilà he indicates
that the searched for item is on the way to being found and asks the receipts to keep attending to
the ongoing search. However, unlike in the previous examples, in this case the projected and
searched-for item was found by one of the recipients and not by the speaker.
Since this is an audio data example, we do not know if the speaker displayed any
embodied actions seeking any help from the recipients. That said, L’s turn design may have
favored and encouraged recipients’ participation. In line 6 L was actually in the middle of giving
what looks like an upshot or a summary of his previous talk. This prior talk was thus available to
recipients as well, who may have been thus indirectly invited to participate in this particular
search process. In any case, this example also shows that recipients have recognized voilà, by
virtue of its position, as a search indicator as well.
In short, in this section I have demonstrated that speakers use voilà to preface the newly
found word, to mark the just found word, or as a sort of delaying device in the middle of a search.
In the latter case, my analyses have shown that speakers may either end up finding the missing
lexical item, they may be helped by recipients to find the word, or they may abandon the
projected sentence and start a new projection. In any case, voilà is always uttered by the speaker
and never the recipient. In the next section, I will summarize and discuss the findings.
5.5 Summary of findings and discussion
In this chapter, I started out by reviewing the use of voilà in searches involving real
objects (Bruxelles & Traverso, 2006). Then I showed the similarities with the use of ben voilà in
searches of real persons and in the resolution of interactional problems from my own data. Both
ben voilà and voilà seem to accomplish the same action, i.e., they mark the finding of the
resolution. This practice is similar to the use of voilà after a sought-for word is found. In such
cases, co-participants use voilà or ben voilà to close off the search activity and move on to the
next sequential action. In fact, the use of postmortems (Schegloff, 2007) in examples 5.4 and
5.11 confirms that the previous action was closed. According to Schegloff (2007: 143),
postmortems do not extend the prior sequence, but simply make some sort of commentary on the
just closed action.
In addition to using voilà to mark the just found word, I have demonstrated that voilà in
word search activities can also preface the newly found word, or serve as a delaying device for
the upcoming sought for word. When voilà functions as the-presenter-of-the-newly-found-word,
speakers are responsible for the finding of the word. Typically, before presenting the newly
found word, speakers recycle part of their prior utterances after uttering voilà (e.g., example 5.6
and 5.7), but they can also directly present the newly found word after voilà (e.g., example 5.9).
My data corpus of this section is mainly audio data; therefore I could not establish any
systematic pattern of speakers’ embodied actions when they preface the newly found word with
voilà. A larger video data corpus would yield more promising results in regard to this question.
However, in my entire data corpus, whenever speakers produce the newly found word right after
voilà, they seem to indicate that by the time they utter voilà they have already retrieved the
missing element. Hence the voilà indicates that it is ready to be uttered. However, whenever
speakers use voilà and do not present the sought-for word, they are then using voilà as a delaying
My analyses have thus shown that besides using voilà to preface the newly found word
and to mark the finding of the new word, speakers can also utter voilà as a delaying device in the
middle of their search. In other words, the search continues before and after the utterance of voilà.
Speakers may recycle the exact same utterance before and after voilà, as in example 5.15, or they
may display a variety of other hesitation markers before and after voilà (e.g., example 5.21).
When speakers recycle part of their talk in the middle of a search, the recycled talk is not
immediately followed by the newly found word, unlike the cases discussed in the previous
paragraph. The question is then: what is the function of voilà in such a position?
Since voilà is used to preface a newly found word as well as to mark the finding of a
word, then when it is uttered in between these two positions, it clearly indicates that it functions
as some sort of search indicator device. Moreover, the gestures before, during and after voilà
corroborate this remark. For example V’s frowning face (i.e., example 5.21) which she displayed
before voilà clearly “shares a semantic profile” (Streeck, 1995: 100) with the found word (i.e.,
très dur). Therefore, by uttering voilà in the middle of the search, speakers communicate to
recipients that they are still working on the search. Moreover, when speakers uttered voilà in the
middle of their search, their eyes were systematically averted from the interlocutors. Hence by
framing the search thus far as a solitary activity (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986), speakers show
their commitment to finding the sought-for word without the help of recipients.
In short, by uttering voilà speakers indicate that the yet-to-be-found word is in the
projection space (Schegloff, 1984; Streeck, 1995). According to Hanks (1990, 1992) “Not only is
the speaking ‘ego’ a social construction, but the act of deictic reference is in important ways
grounded on the relation between interlocutors. When speakers say ‘Here it is’, he or she
unavoidably conveys something like, ‘Hey, you and I stand in a certain relation to each other and
to this object and this place, right now’ […]” (Hanks, 1990: 7- 8). Thus according to Hanks
(1992), a spatial deictic involves a relation between the referent or the spatial location (“figure”)
(Hanks, 1992: 61) and the “indexical framework” (Hanks, 1992:51), that is the “origo” (Hanks,
1992: 51) (e.g., the speaker, the hearer) relative to which the location is identified (“ground”)
(Hanks, 1992:61). I argue that it is specifically the spatial deictic feature of voilà that plays a part
in the activity of a word search.
However, voilà in the middle of a search activity is not deployed to point out a specific
location or to present a linguistic or a non-linguistic referent, since by virtue of the kind of
activity speakers are engaged in, they cannot actually point out or present the missing element.
Nonetheless, by directing recipients’ attention to a specific space where the yet-to-be-foundmissing-element resides, speakers manage to create a common space to which both speakers and
recipients can attend. Thus, voilà is used to point out the projected space where the missing
element cannot be pinpointed and verbalized just yet.
In this sense, we may be tempted to label voilà a place holder for the missing element.
However, a place holder is a lexical item that contributes to the syntactic structure of the
unfolding sentence (Hayashi & Yoon, 2006). If we adopt this definition then voilà would not be
defined as a place holder because voilà is not referential. Nevertheless, just like demonstrative
place holders, voilà shows the indexability and projectabilty of the searched-for word and
projects the upcoming resolution of the search. Hence we can claim that voilà semantically holds
the place for the upcoming and to-be-found word. In this sense, voilà is more than a mere filler
or hesitation marker.
A word search is always about the next item due, so when speakers use voilà to present
the newly found word, it is obviously the forward looking and presentative (Porhiel, 2012)
feature of voilà that plays a part. But by definition before presenting the newly found word,
speakers have to first close the search phase of the activity. Thus, when presenting the sought-for
word, voilà is necessarily positioned at a transitional space between the “searching” and “finding”
space of the whole activity. When speakers recycle part of their talk after voilà, we notice that
the recycled talk is uttered without any hesitation markers. When speakers use voilà as a
delaying device, they project the yet to be found item in the projection space. Finally, when
speakers utter voilà after the word is found, they clearly mark not only the finding of the word,
but they also close the whole search sequence and go on to the next activity, as discussed earlier.
In any case, it seems it is definitely the spatial-deictic feature of voilà that is at play in all
circumstances (Bergen & Plauché, 2001, 2005).
To conclude, whether it is to present a newly found word, to mark a just found word or to
update co-participants on the status of an ongoing search, voilà is always uttered by speakers and
never by recipients, even when the latter are responsible for finding the missing word. Therefore
voilà is mainly a word search framing device used by speakers, as they deploy it to manage and
organize their action before, during and after this word formulation activity.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
The objective of this study was to analyze the use and function of the discourse particle
voilà in naturally occurring interaction. I started out by presenting my research methodology and
my reasons for choosing it. I then reviewed prior research on voilà. In the subsequent chapters, I
have shown how the same marker (i.e., voilà) can perform multiple functions depending on its
sequential position in the ongoing conversation.
My literature review chapter showed that the definition, classification, and categorization
of voilà has always been challenging for traditional and prescriptive grammarians. For Moignet
(1969), for instance, voilà is an impersonal and existential verb. Morin (1985) and Hug (1995)
argued that voilà is first and foremost a subjectless verb. Porhiel (2012) on the other hand claims
that only a pragmatic approach which includes not only a morphosyntactic, but also a
textual/discursive perspective would yield a more complete picture of voilà, while according to
Léard (1992) any attempt to classify voilà in just one category will only bring out its defective
value. Thus for Léard (1992), voilà’s classification depends on the context and the structure in
which it occurs. On the other hand, Bergen and Plauché (2001, 2005) claim that voilà should not
be characterized in terms of category or classification, but rather in terms of its central semantic
meaning. Bergen and Plauché argue that the central sense of voilà is spatial. They further claim
that all the other meanings derive from this central meaning, especially the functions of voilà in
Bergen & Plauché (2001) analyzed the central sense of voilà through what Lakoff (1987)
calls an “Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)” which involves “Pointing Out’’. We recall here the
meaning of “pointing out” as defined by Lakoff (1987: 490 cited in Bergen & Plauche, 2001:
“It is assumed as a background that some entity exists and is present at some location in
the speaker’s visual field, that the speaker is directing his attention at it, and that the
hearer is interested in its whereabouts but does not have his attention focused on it and
may not even know that it is present. The speaker then directs the hearer’s attention to the
location of the entity (perhaps accompanied by a pointing gesture) and brings it to the
hearer’s attention that the entity is at the specified location . . .”
This description is closely related to voilà’s literal meaning, since voi/ ‘see’ gets one’s attention,
and the adverb là/ ‘here/there’ directs the co-participants’ attention to a specific location (Bergen
& Plauché, 2001). As the analyses in all three analytic chapters of this dissertation show, the use
of voilà can be traced back specifically to its deictic spatial character.
In chapter one, I analyzed data examples illustrating speakers’ use of voilà in closings.
When speakers deploy voilà to close one action and open the next one, they actually refer back to
the previous discourse anaphorically and make a statement in reference to it. In other words, they
communicate “I have nothing more to add to the previous talk” or “I don’t wish/need to add
anything more to the previous talk”, thereby indicating their readiness to open the next action.
Voilà is also used by recipients in second pair parts (SPP) of adjacency pairs (AP). In this case,
recipients use voilà as an agreement marker over matters for which they have higher epistemic
authority (Heritage & Raymond, 2012). When recipients agree with a prior speaker with voilà,
they refer back to speakers’ prior talk and communicate “I could have said what you just said”
(Heddesheimer 1974 cited in Delahaie, 2009b: 24).
In chapter two, I demonstrated that when speakers use voilà or composite voilà in the
middle of their turn, they use them to link the previous talk to an upcoming upshot. In other
words, when speakers use voilà to present an upshot, they systematically make reference to the
prior talk. Despite what traditional grammarians advocate, in all my data examples it is voilà and
not voici that was used to present the upcoming utterance. I specifically explored the
interactional value of voilà that is lacking in voici. My finding corroborates Delahaie’s (2008:
313), who observed that only voilà has the capacity to be anaphoric and cataphoric at the same
time. In this chapter, I also demonstrated that speakers can also use voilà to present and project
hypothetical discourse in an imaginary and fictitious world.
In chapter three, I showed how speakers use voilà to frame a word search activity as they
deploy it before, during and after the search activity. My analyses demonstrated that when
speakers deploy voilà to preface the newly found word, they do so to present the newly found
word. When they utter voilà after the searched-for word is found, they mark the finding of the
searched-for word and the end of the search activity. Finally, when they pronounce voilà in the
middle of the search, speakers use it as a delaying device until the sought-for word is found. In
all situations, voilà is either used to look forward and project the to-be-found word, to look
backward to mark the just found word, or to present the newly found word. My analyses have
also shown that that the use of voilà differs in object/person searches and in word searches. In
my data, voilà was systematically uttered after the objects/persons in question were found, and
served to mark the finding of the object/person. On the other hand, the use and position of voilà
in word searches varies depending on whether the word in question is still being searched for or
has already been found.
Some of my data examples also showed that in some cases when speakers use composite voilà or
when voilà is combined with another discourse marker, the actions seem to be performed mainly
by the additional discourse maker and not necessarily by voilà. In such cases, voilà is used to
present and thereby highlight the upcoming utterances. Similarly, I showed that when speakers
use the composite voilà, c’est tout (literally ‘that’s all’) in closing argumentative talk, the action
of closing is performed by c’est tout and not necessarily by voilà.
All of these observations lead to the conclusion that voilà’s first and foremost function in
interaction is to shift orientation. Specifically, voilà looks backward and forward at the same
time to shift action, looks forward to present and highlight part of utterances, looks forward to
present the newly found word, looks backward to mark the just found word, looks forward to
present/locate in the projection space the yet-to be-found-word, and projects hypothetical quotes
in an imaginary world. In other words, with voilà co-participants direct recipients’ attention to a
specific part of their utterances. Hence, the various actions performed by voilà regardless of its
position are mainly due to its ability to shift orientation. The use of voilà in all my data analyses
thus demonstrated that it is directly linked to its central semantic meaning, which is spatialdeictic (Bergen & Plauché, 2001, 2005). In short, the grammatical function of voilà in interaction
seems to be that of an orientation shift marker.
The few prior studies that did not focus on the morphosyntactic aspect of voilà (e.g.,
Moignet, 1969. Hug, 1995) have actually pointed out both the anaphoric and cataphoric property
of voilà and the cataphoric nature of voici (e.g., Grenoble & Riley, 1996; Porhiel, 2012;
Adamczewski, 1991). However, these studies focused mainly on voilà/voici as a presentative,
and not as a discourse marker. Additionally, all of these studies were based on written discourse.
Léard (1992), on the other hand did look at the discursive functions of voilà, and noted voilà’s
different “syntactic properties” (Léard, 1992: 148). Unfortunately, the examples that he chose to
illustrate some of the illocutionary force accomplished by voilà in discourse were out of context
and involved invented sentences. For this reason, my findings on the use and function of the
discourse marker voilà make an important contribution to the existing literature, in that they fill
gap and limitations of prior studies. The present dissertation is the first comprehensive study of
voilà to be based on naturally occurring interaction. More specifically, my study takes into
account the sequential position of voilà in the ongoing interaction in order to identify the specific
actions accomplished in each position.
My findings promise to be of great interest to the field of pragmatics and to the field of
CA, in particular French CA. For instance, my work on voilà in sequence closings contributes to
research on action and topic management, epistemic authority, meaning negotiations, talk
boundaries and conflict talk. Likewise, my work on the functions of voilà at the beginning of
upshots of prior talk contributes to our understanding of how action is organized, and how parts
of utterances are presented or highlighted. My work on hypothetical direct talk contributes to the
exiting literature on storytelling. Finally, my word search chapter contributes to the body of work
on epistemic and memory.
There are a few limitations to the present study. For instance, even if I have established
the use and function of the composite ben voilà to mark the finding of an object/person, it is
likely that ben voilà performs other actions in other sequential position. In addition, there are
other composite voilàs that I was not able to analyze due to insufficient data examples, namely et
voilà, and the repetition of voilà as in voilà voilà. These two composite have been pointed out by
Léard (1992) as having specific functions in French interaction (see my literature review chapter).
I intend to undertake further study of voilà by looking at these additional composite forms of it.
As indicated earlier, most of the functions of voilà occur in both ordinary phone/Skype
conversations as well as in institutional talk. However, in my data the use of voilà in delicate talk
only occured in institutional talk. There may be several explanations for this. First, my
phone/Skype conversation data were limited, which by definition limited the occurrence of all
potential voilàs. Second, the institutional talk setting may have favored some sort of selfcensoring on the part of participants, who may have preferred to cut short the ongoing turn with
voilà as if to indicate “I don’t want to say more about this (topic) publicly”. Further research with
a larger data corpus would have to address this question.
Finally, this study did not systematically take intonation into account in when analyzing
the different utterances of voilà. The role of intonation in talk-in-interaction is critical. How voilà
is pronounced in different exchange situations may strongly contribute to its interactional
function. For instance, the delicate voilà seems to be uttered with downward intonation and a
faster pace. In contrast, voilà can sometimes be uttered with dramatically rising intonation when
it is used to announce the finding of a missing object.
Furthermore, my findings have potentially significant pedagogical implications. As
argued below, most traditional introductory French textbooks are illustrated with artificial
dialogues that bear little resemblance to dynamic and authentic language use. This artificiality
deprives learners from getting acquainted with several functions performed by grammatical
items which can only be observed in authentic interactions. Let us consider the following
dialogue from Vis-à-Vis (p. 41) (5th edition), a leading introductory French textbook. The
dialogue, which is titled Rencontre d’amis à la Sorbonne/ ‘Meeting with friends at the Sorbonne’,
is supposed to illustrate a typical interaction between college friends. Under the image
illustrating four youthful-looking men and women (i.e., students) in what looks like a campus
library, we find the following dialogue:
FIGURE 6.1 (Vis-à-Vis p.41, 5th edition)
Salut, Françoise! Vous visitez l’université?
Hi, Françoise! You’re visiting the university?
02 FRANҪOISE: Oui, nous admirons particulièrement la bibliothèque.
Yes, we are admiring particularly the library.
Voici Paul, de New York, et Mireille, une amie.
Here is Paul, from New York, and Mireille, a friend.
Bonjour, Paul. Tu parles français?
Good morning, Paul. You speak French?
05 PAUL:
Oui, un petit peu.
Yes, a little bit.
Bonjour, Mireille. Tu étudies à la Sorbonne?
Good morning, Mireille, you study at the Sorbonne?
Non, je travaille pour la bibliothèque.
No, I work for the library.
This transcript features a number of inconsistencies with naturally occurring conversation.
For instance, while the interaction consists of questions and answers there are no receipts of
answers at all (i.e., third position responses are lacking).The lack of third position responses in
textbooks dialogues has been noted by Delahaie (2009b: 26): “… les manuels de FLE dépassent
rarement le niveau de la phrase, vont parfois jusqu’à l’échange binaire [….] mais jamais
jusqu’à l’échange ternaire”/ ‘…Foreign languages textbooks rarely go beyond the sentence
levels, sometimes we find binary exchanges […..] but there are never third position responses in
the dialogues’ (my translation). Because of this lack of third positions, we have no means of
knowing how the co-participants are relating to one another, i.e., we never know whether there
are alignments with the responses given.
In addition, we notice that the responders answer the questions, but they never give the
appropriate second pair part responses to the greetings in first pair parts (i.e., line 1, 4 and 6).
There is no overlap, there are no hesitations, false starts, or repetitions, and no pauses in between
the utterances. All of these factors combined give us the impression that, far from being a natural,
friendly conversation, this is a rather cold and very formal interrogation.
In natural conversation, questions are not necessarily asked with rising intonation as
shown in the dialogues. The use of rising intonation in textbook-dialogue questions limits the
possible answers that responders could have otherwise provided. Delahaie (2009b) has observed
the overuse of oui/ ‘yes’ by leaners in all circumstances; this overuse may be explained by the
fact that leaners are mainly exposed to questions with rising intonation. Other agreement markers
that French speakers frequently use include d’accord, tout à fait, exactement, c’est ça,
absolument and voilà. It so happens that voilà is the third preferred agreement/confirmation
marker to an assertive utterance (Delahaie, 2009 b). If the interaction were authentic, the
questions would not necessarily have been asked with rising intonation, which means that
responders would probably have used voilà to agree with the prior speaker’s statement/inquest.
This is all the more so if the inquiry concerns a domain in which the responder has epistemic
authority, which seems to be the case in this specific dialogue. Yet no textbook authors mentions
voilà’s function as an agreement token, most probably because they choose
linguistic/grammatical forms intuitively and not based on conversation analytic studies.
Last but not least, in line 3 we see Françoise introducing Paul to her friends with voici
Paul. This is yet another example of linguistic form selection based on intuition. A recent study
has shown that native speakers practically never use voici to present a person, for which they
prefer instead the presentative structure je te présente (Delahaie, 2008; 2009b). The use of voici
to introduce a person can also be found in another leading beginning French textbook, Chez Nous
(3rd edition).
Overall, the treatment of voici and voilà in all beginning textbooks is somewhat
restrictive and misleading. For instance, most textbooks make no distinction between voilà and
voici. Concerning these two particles here is what the authors of Chez Nous (3rd edition) write in
the margin on their textbook: “We avoid the traditional voici/voilà distinction because native
speaker usage is highly variable. Voilà is the neutral term, acceptable in wide variety of contexts.”
(p.14). Indeed, most textbooks use voici and voilà almost interchangeably. For instance, on page
32 of Vis-à-Vis (5th edition) we see the phrase voici la bibliothèque used to caption the image of
what looks like a library, while a few pages later (page 38) we see the use of voilà la
bibliothèque as part of a dialogue between Anne (a French student) and Alex (a visiting
American student). Anne is presumably showing Alex around a university campus. My study has
shown that voici and voilà are not interchangeable. Voici is used to introduce a new element
(Adamczewski, 1991) whereas voilà can only be used if we know that the element in question is
expected (Delahaie, 2009a) or that it has been the subject of a prior search (Bruxelles & Traverso,
2006). Both voici la bibliothèque and voilà la bibliothèque are grammatically correct utterances.
However, without the specification of the proper context in which each of these utterances could
be uttered, learners will almost certainly end up assuming both voici and voilà have very similar
if not identical pragmatic functions.
Prescriptive grammar defines voici as + proximal (ci meaning ‘here’) and voilà proximal (là meaning ‘there’) (Grenoble & Riley, 1996). This historical distinction does not
actually hold in modern French interaction (Adamczewski, 1991). Yet it is not uncommon to see
the use of voici to introduce a proximal element and voilà a distal element in most traditional
beginning French textbooks. This brings out the main problem with foreign language instruction
as it is carried out today. Foreign language teaching is a reflection of the prescriptive written
conception of the language (Delahaie, 2008). There is much more focus on formal aspects of
language than on real use of language. Consequently, it is wrongly assumed that by putting
together these formal linguistic structures, learners develop communicative competence; in my
estimation, students who have mastered enough of the linguistic forms of the French language
are not necessarily able to conduct a mundane conversation in all socio-cultural contexts using
the appropriate forms.
On the other hand, if we envision learning language from a discursive/conversation
analytic perspective, which would be based on transcriptions of naturally-occurring talk, then
one would learn how to conduct a conversation. I believe that in doing this, grammar and
structure would emerge and develop in learners. There is a growing interest in CA informed
language pedagogy publications. For instance, Wong & Waring’s (2010) book introduces
conversation analysis (CA) as a system, and illustrates detailed interactional competence by
presenting key concepts such as turn taking, sequencing, structuring practices and repair
practices, which are of course illustrated with naturally occurring talk. The authors illustrate each
chapter with pre- and post- reading tasks. Then they complete each chapter with what the authors
call awareness raisings tasks and practicing activities for leaners to test what they have learned
and apply their understanding. Wong &Waring (2010) publication is mainly designed for
TESOL courses. There seems to be a growing interest in developing CA-informed pedagogical
materials for other languages as well (e.g., Huth & Taleghani-Nikazm, 2006; Huth, 2007 for
German). However, in Romance languages there have to date been no such efforts. Most
Romance language teaching still depends heavily upon traditional textbooks.
Besides the sporadic usage of voilà mentioned at the beginning of textbooks (i.e., in the
first two chapters), the word is not at all activated in the subsequent chapters. This comes much
as a surprise considering the multiple and various function of the word in every French
conversation. Let us consider the following questions: How do we know when to take the next
turn? How do we end/close a sequence? How do we avoid delicate/taboo topics? How do we
display trouble finding a word? How do we tell a story? As native speakers of any language, we
all know how to answer any of these questions. However, it does not seem that any of these
practices are taught specifically in our language classrooms. It so happens that in the answers to
all of these questions, voilà plays a part. My findings have inspired me to develop authentic
teaching materials based on conversation analysis which would enable learners to not only learn
linguistics forms, but also develop pragmatic awareness and acquire appropriate language usage
in all socio-cultural contexts. I am specifically interested in exploring the use of various
agreement markers in French and showing how the choice of one agreement marker over another
could have a specific interactional meaning.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that voilà is one of the most recognizable French words in
other languages, mainly in English and probably in other languages as well. When English
speakers use voilà in English, they seem to use it to accomplish two specific pragmatic functions:
1) to mark the satisfaction of having successfully completed a given task, and 2) to mark the
finding of a searched-for object (i.e., Eureka voilà) (Bruxelles & Traverso, 2006). These
observations could lead to other avenues of future research. For instance, it would be worthwhile
verifying these anecdotal observations and further explore to what extent the pragmatic functions
performed by voilà might be transferred into another language, specifically into English. Indeed,
American learners seem to be familiar with voilà. However, the way they use it in their
interlanguage seems to be directly influenced by their L1 pragmatic knowledge and not
necessarily by their understanding of voilà’s function in the French language. Studies exploring
which pragmatic functions of voilà might be transferred into English would be valuable, as they
would help prepare efficient teaching materials based on actual learner performance, and
accurate pragmatic functions of the target language. Voilà.
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