The orderliness and sociability of “talking together”

Portrait of a conversational jam session


  • Chiara Bassetti University of Trento
  • Kenneth Liberman University of Oregon



simultaneous talk, “talking together”, listening, sociability, ethnomethods


Conversations among Italians often entail many-at-a-time rather than one-at-a-time speaking. This “talking together” is a deliberate aim of parties and a relevant aspect of their social life. It is a variant system for organizing ordinary talk. We describe how simultaneity is organized, how participants collaborate to maintain the orderliness of their interaction, and how, to do so, they listen to each other and continuously monitor talk for its content and its form. Following Simmel, we see this as a classic example of sociability, a play-form of sociation.


Cummins, F. (2019). The Ground from Which We Speak: Joint Speech and the Collective Subject. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Duranti, A. (1997). Polyphonic discourse: Overlapping in Samoan ceremonial greetings. Text, 17, 349–381.

Egbert, M. (1997). Schisming: The Collaborative Transformation From Single Conversation to Multiple Conversations. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 30(1), 1-51.

French, P., & Local, J. (1983). Turn-competitive incomings. Journal of Pragmatics, 7(1), 17-38.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s Program. Working Out Durkheim’s Aphorism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Hammersley, M. (2018). The Radicalism of Ethnomethodology. Manchester, U.K.: University of Manchester Press.

Haddington, P., Keisanen, T., Mondada, L., & Nevile, M. (2014, Eds.). Multiactivity in Social Interaction: Beyond multitasking. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Jefferson, G. (1984). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation analysis studies from the first generation (pp. 13–31). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Jefferson, G. (1996). On the Poetics of Ordinary Talk. Text and Performance Quarterly, 16(1), 1-61.

Keisanen, T., Rauniomaa, M., & Haddington, P. (2014) Suspending action: From simultaneous to consecutive ordering of multiple courses of action. In P. Haddington, T. Keisanen, L,, Mondada, & M. Nevile, (Eds.). Multiactivity in Social Interaction (pp. 109-133). Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kendon, A. (2004). Contrasts in Gesticulation: A Neopolitan and a British speaker compared. In C. Müller & R. Posner (Eds.), The Semantics and Pragmatics of Everyday Gestures (pp. 173-93). Berlin: Weidler Buchverla.

Lerner, G. (2002). Turn-sharing: the choral co-production of talk in interaction. In C. Ford, B. Fox & S. Thompson (Eds.), The Language of Turn and Sequence (pp. 225-256). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Liberman, K. (2004). Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry Into Formal Reasoning. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Lizardo, O. (2019). Simmel’s Dialectic of Form and Content in Recent Work in Cultural Sociology. The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory, 94(2), 93-100.

Lynch, M., & Woolgar, S. (1988). Introduction: Sociological orientations to representational practice in science. Human Studies, 11, 99-116.

Mondada, L. (2011). The organization of concurrent courses of action in surgical demonstrations. In J. Streek, C. Goodwin, & C. LeBaron (Eds.), Embodied interaction: Language and body in the material world (pp. 207–227). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mondada, L. (2018). Multiple temporalities of language and body in interaction: transcribing multimodality. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 51(1), 85-106.

Pfänder, S., & Couper-Kuhlen, E. (2019). Turn-sharing revisited: An exploration of simultaneous speech in interactions between couples. Journal of Pragmatics, 147, 22-48.

Pillet-Shore, D. (2012). Greeting: Displaying Stance Through Prosodic Recipient Design. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 45(4), 375-398.

Reed, B.S. (2007). Prosodic Orientation in English Conversation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ruhleder, K,, & Jordan, B. (2001). Co-constructing Non-Mutual Realities. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 10(1), 113-138.

Sacks, H. (1972/1992). Lectures in Conversation. Edited by Gail Jefferson. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn Taking in Conversation. Language, 50(4), 696-735.

Schegloff, E. (2000). Overlapping talk and the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language in Society, 29, 1–63.

Schutz, A. (1971a). Mozart and the Philosophers. In Collected Papers, Vol. II (pp. 179-200). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Simmel, G., & Hughes, E. (1949). The Sociology of Sociability. American Journal of Sociology, 55(3), 254-261.

Sutinen, (2014). Negotiating favourable conditions for resuming suspended activities. In P. Haddington, T. Keisanen, L,, Mondada, & M. Nevile, (Eds.). Multiactivity in Social Interaction (pp. 137-165). Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Watson, R. (2008). Comparative Sociology, Laic and Analytic: Some Critical Remarks on Comparison in Conversation Analysis. Cahiers de praxématique, 50, 203-244.

Watson, R. (2015). De-Reifying Categories. In R. Fitzgerald & W. Housley (Eds.), Advances in Membership Categorisation Analysis. London: Sage.




How to Cite

Bassetti, C., & Liberman, K. (2021). The orderliness and sociability of “talking together”: Portrait of a conversational jam session. Social Interaction. Video-Based Studies of Human Sociality, 4(1).