Chapter 1 Advanced Level: Transcription Conventions

The following conventions for transcribing speech are taken from ten Have, 2007, and are the conventions which we have used in our transcriptions:

Sequencing marks
[ A single left bracket indicates the point of overlap onset (where the second speaker begins speaking before the first has finished). For example:

A: did I tell you what happened yesterday when I went to the shop

B:                                                                        [no what happened


= Equal signs, one at the end of one line and one at the beginning of the next, indicate no ‘gap’ between the two lines: the second speaker begins speaking at the moment that the first speaker finishes.


Timed intervals


Numbers in brackets indicate elapsed time in silence by tenths of seconds. Thus, (5.6) is a silence of 5 seconds and 6-tenths of a second.




A dot in brackets indicates a tiny ‘gap’ within or between utterances.


Characteristics of speech production


Underlining indicates some form of stress, via the pitch or loudness of the utterance. An alternative method is to print the stressed part in italics.


:: Colons indicate prolongation of the sound immediately before. Multiple colons indicate a more prolonged sound.


A dash indicates that the speaker’s speech is cut off abruptly. For example:

A: but then I-




↑ ↓


Punctuation marks are used to indicate characteristics of speech production, especially intonation. They are NOT referring to grammatical units. See below.


A full stop indicates a stopping fall in tone: the speech sounds as if the speaker is indicating the end of their speech by lowering the pitch they are speaking at.


A comma indicates a continuing intonation, like when you are reading items from a list.


A question mark indicates a rising intonation, not a question. For example:

A: I’m reading a great book at the moment?


The absence of an utterance-final marker indicates that the speech did not end with a particular intonation or change in intonation: the speaker did not raise their pitch, or lower it, or sound particularly as if they intended to finish or continue speaking.

↑ ↓

Arrows indicate marked shifts into higher or lower pitch in the utterance-part immediately following the arrows. For example, the second part of this phrase would be uttered at a significantly higher pitch than the first:


A: then he said perhaps ↑ which he knows really annoys me



WORD Upper-case letters indicate sounds which are particularly loud in relation to the surrounding talk (perhaps shouted).




Utterances or utterance-parts bracketed by degree sounds are relatively quieter than the surrounding talk. For example:


A: so I went in and °don’t say anything but° I’m going to buy it there instead



< > Right/left carets bracketing an utterance or utterance-part indicate speeding up




A dot-prefix row of ‘h’s indicates an inbreath. Without the dot, the ‘h’s indicate an outbreath.




A bracketed (h), or row of (hhh)s, within a word indicates breathiness as in laughter, crying etc.


Transcriber’s doubts and comments
( )


Empty brackets indicate the transcriber’s inability to hear what was said. The length of the bracketed space indicates the length of the untranscribed talk. In the ‘speaker’ designation column, empty brackets indicate inability to identify a speaker.




Bracketed words are especially dubious hearings or speaker identifications.




Double brackets contain transcriber’s descriptions rather than, or in addition to, transcribed speech.



ten Have, P. (1999). Doing conversation analysis: a practical guide. London, Sage.