Transcription

Transcription of spoken discourse to produce a written account is an important aspect of analysing language. Without a complete and detailed transcription, it is not possible to speak confidently of what the participants said or meant. Many political commentators and pundits on respected channels and platforms often make speculations and interpretations based on a simple first listening to what someone said. A transcription allows the analyst the opportunity to see the structure and organisation of the discourse, and to capture any micro-detail that might be important.

“It is important then that we employ robust procedures for transcribing and capturing speech in written form if we are to ensure that a full representation of discourse is obtained.

Spoken discourse between two or more participants happens at such a rapid pace that it is impossible to analyse it accurately without a transcription. A transcription captures not only the words that were spoken but also the micro pauses, overlaps, repetitions and other prosodic and paralinguistic features that might be significant.

WHAT DOES A TRANSCRIPTION LOOK LIKE?

Below is a typical transcription used here at neutralfooting although this is by no means complete. The start of each turn is clearly indicated with the speaker (JS or ET) and lines are numbered for ease of reference. Overlap is also indicated using the square bracket [ as seen in in lines 08 and 09. Significant pauses are indicated in (brackets) such as (1.3) seconds in line 05 or (.) a micro-pause in line 12.

01 JS: the power behind your throne
02     Len McClusky has said you’ve got fifteen months
03     to put Labour back at the top of the polls
04     where it should be in opposition
05       (1.3)
06     agree? (.)
07 ET: well (0.4) I don’t think
08     that we need [to have
09 JS:              [that’s a pause
10 ET: I don’t think that we need to have any
11     well I’m just thinking
12 JS: yes (.) well
13     it’s quite a thought isn’t it
14 ET: no no hang on hang on hang on
15     [what I’m-
16 JS: [it is
17 ET: no
18 JS: I mean
19     how the hell are you going to put
20     Labour back on top of the polls
21       (1.0)
22 ET: d’yknow what
23     I think
24 JS: what about a new leader
25 ET: okay (.) do you want me to speak

External link to clip

WHAT DOES OVERLAP SIGNIFY?

Documenting overlap is very important since it can be an indication of a fight for the floor between the interviewer and interviewee.

Overlap usually signifies a fight for the floor of the conversation. In day-to-day conversation, we typically wait till the end of a turn to speak but, in political interviews, one participants might attempt to interrupt. This results in the two participants talking simultaneously and we need to capture this in the transcription. In the snippet below we see that ET is speaking but JS attempts to steal the floor in line 16. In the transcript this is indicated by the two square brackets [ showing where the overlap started.

14 ET: no no hang on hang on hang on
15     [what I’m-
16 JS: [it is
17 ET: no

READ ABOUT OVERLAP IN THIS POST

WHY DO WE NEED TO DOCUMENT PAUSES?

Pauses can be very significant in spoken discourse. The (1.3) second pause in line 05 of the sample transcript proved to be very significant in shaping the subsequent discourse. But also the micro-pauses subsequently in line 06 (.) and in 07 (0.4) indicate hesitancy in ET’s response which is also significant.

04     where it should be in opposition
05       (1.3)
06     agree? (.)
07 ET: well (0.4) I don’t think

READ ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PAUSING IN THESE POSTS

1.3 seconds is a long time

Pausing in a political interview can be taken the wrong way and have consequences for the ensuing discourse. Here is Emily Thornberry (ET) pausing for 1.3 seconds (line 05) during a TV interview on Channel… Continue Reading →

The significance of hesitations

Hesitation in delivery is a normal part of spoken discourse, especially in stressful speaking situations, and is normally discarded by listeners. In the House of Commons however, just before a demanding election campaign and when… Continue Reading →

MAINTAINING LINKS BETWEEN AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT

Another important aspect of transcription is maintaining the link between the audio and the written transcript. Too many transcripts are simply detached from the original audio and placed ‘bare’ on the web or in books so the reader has no option to listen to the original audio. Discourse analysis can only take place effectively if the audio and transcript are available together. The transcript is not a replacement for the audio, it is a complement. They are two sides of a coin.

“It is a sad fact that we live in a world where written transcripts of spoken discourse abound but are divorced permanently from the original recordings so that whoever happens to read the transcript is unable to recover the original”.

Here at neutralfooting you will almost always find a link to the original audio (usually .MP3 but sometimes video) underneath the transcription. We encourage you to access this as you consider the analysis. (Scroll back to the sample transcript at the top of the post to see if there is a link.)

READ AN ARTICLE ON THE TRANSCRIPTION OF SPOKEN DISCOURSE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

The Hansard report acts to embody “institutional assumptions about what is more or less important in parliamentary discourse representation”

Slembrouck 1992

Here at neutralfooting we take transcription seriously.

READ MORE

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