Getting along with others
: an examination of the ethnomethodological roots of perference organization and its relationship to complimenting

  • William R. Boyle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The well-established sociolinguistic literature on complimenting claims that compliments are formulaic (Manes and Wolfson 1981). The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that the claim is invalid, to describe an alternative approach to the study of compliments, and to draw on an extensive collection of compliments in order to show that complimenting is a diverse, interactive process. A prerequisite for such work is a means of deciding whether a given utterance is a compliment, but this issue is neglected in the literature. The conversation analytic notion of preference appeared capable of providing this criterion, but research revealed that it was too ill-defined to serve such a purpose. The thesis was, therefore, obliged to clarify the notion of preference before applying it to a study of compliments. The necessary clarification was found in the enthnomethodological roots of conversation analysis, and the thesis provides a clear and consistent means of determining whether utterances are preferred to dispreferred. The criteria used in the determination of preference are applied, in the final chapter, to the study of compliments. The results of the study contrast markedly with those of the sociolinguistic researchers, and they provide significant grounds for rejecting the claim that compliments are formulaic.
Date of Award1997
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKeith Richards (Supervisor)


  • ethnomethodological roots of perference organization
  • relationship to complimenting
  • preference organization
  • conversation analysis
  • conversational interaction

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