“Do You Know What That Word Means?” Repair for Native and Non-native Speakers in the Talk Show Ellen
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Conversational repair, a resource used to manage troubles in speaking, hearing or understanding, has been extensively researched in both conversational and institutionalized contexts. Talk shows are viewed as semi-institutionalized interaction, as features of both discourse types appear. Moreover, both native and non-native speakers are frequently part of interactions in this discourse type. This research explores the features of this semi-institutionalized interaction with regards to repair and the differences that may occur between native and non-native speakers. Furthermore, this research examines the influence of power, which exists within the context of a talk show as well as between speakers with asymmetrical language capabilities. In these asymmetrical power relations, identities as expert and novice may be assumed (Dings, 2012). Additionally, these power relations also exist by the nature of talk shows, as the show host is generally in control (Ilie, 2001). This study investigates 30 clips of repair occurring for native and non-native speakers in the talk show Ellen and uses Conversation Analysis to analyze the turn-taking sequence. The analysis shows that talk shows follow trends in repair of both institutional and conversational discourse, exemplifying its semi-institutional nature. Moreover, the analysis shows that repair is used to bring forward the identities of expert and novice, and to highlight the asymmetrical relations between show host and interviewee, as well as between native and non-native speakers. The latter is demonstrated by native speakers reassuring non-native speakers that their repair was unnecessary. Moreover, native speakers assumed their role as expert as they did not accept repair initiated by a non-native speaker, who has the underlying identity of novice. The talk show host assumes her position of power by deciding when the topic shift occurs, regardless of the interviewee’s understanding of the conversation. These power relations strengthen the semi-institutional discourse of talk shows.