Deontic rights in interaction: A conversation analytic study on authority and cooperation

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


In this dissertation, I examine people’s orientations to their own and each
other’s “deontic rights”—that is, rights to determine actions. Drawing on
fifteen video-recorded church workplace meetings between pastors and
cantors as data, and conversation analysis as a theoretical and
methodological framework, I consider how participants establish and
negotiate their own and each other’s deontic rights in the turn-by-turn
sequential unfolding of interaction. The dissertation consists of six original
articles and an introduction, in which I introduce the central concepts of the
study, describe my data and method, provide an overview of the results of the
study, and discuss the ways in which my study contributes to our
understanding of social interaction.

In my analyses, I consider deontic rights from two different angles.
First, I describe how participants in interaction may claim (and mitigate their
claims of) deontic rights by virtue of their interactional conduct: in Article 1, I
examine the participants’ ways of dealing with those claims of deontic rights
that arise from their participation in an encounter and, in Articles 2-4, I
consider how participants in joint decision making manage to establish and
maintain the symmetrical distribution of deontic rights at different sequential
loci. Second, I discuss the ways in which participants may deploy their
deontic rights as interactional resources, as they design their communicative
actions so as to be recognizable as such. The central argument presented in
Articles 5 and 6 is that, instead of always needing to claim their deontic rights
(deontic stance), participants may also trust in their co-participants being
aware of, and taking into account, these rights (deontic status). It is thus the
complementarity and relative weight of deontic stances and deontic statuses
that constitutes a fundamental mechanism by which people may engage in
tough power negotiations without yet causing any overt face threats.

The study highlights the significance of face-to-face interaction as a
locus of social order and seeks to enhance our understanding of the linkages
between the local and wider aspects of social organization that pertain to
people’s interactional conduct.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Helsinki
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-10-7685-5
ISBN (Print)978-952-10-7684-8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)


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