Gene Lerner

Gene Lerner
Professor Emeritus


conversation analysis, social life of very young children, social aspects of syntax


Ph.D., UC Irvine



My research centers on language use, body behavior and very young children insofar as these (together and separately) exhibit the formal structures and local organization of practical sequential action in interaction. As a Conversation Analyst, I find myself working simultaneously on a myriad of possibly interesting facets of talk and visible conduct that may well prove to be fundamental to human sociality. 

I can describe three of my most active research projects: 

  • The first of these attempts to ground some "entitlements" and "obligations" – i.e. to ground their very recognizability - in the organization of turn-taking and action sequencing for conversation. I have been tracking down the violations to ordinary next speaker selection practices to discover the forms of "intervening action" that justify a non-selected participant speaking out-of-turn. It seems to be the case that such violations are connected to normative concerns that might be characterized as social entitlement and obligation as well as social solidarity. It is the very violation of turn-taking's practices for selecting a next speaker that seems to make these normative matters visible. 
  • The second project I am actively engaged in concerns the discovery of elementry forms of action adustment - across spoken, gestural and manual conduct - that participants employ when synchronizing their actions with others or when dealing with problems within the interaction. Here I am particularly interested in forms of "Body Trouble" that can occur, and the practices for overt adjustment that are employed to remediate various sources of trouble.
  • My third may area of active research concerns the early sociality of very young children (12 mo - 30 mo). Here I am concerned with the interactional resources very young children can call on to engage other children and their caregivers. How is the behavior of other children and caregivers employed in the production communicative action before these children begin to speak? In what ways do very young children treat their own conduct as publically observable action?