From: Paul ten Have (2007) Doing conversation analysis, a practical guide - Sec.Ed. London, etc. Sage: 215-6

Appendix A: Transcription Conventions

The glossary of transcript symbols given below is meant to explain the major conventions for rendering details of the vocal production of utterances in talk-in-interaction as these are used in most current CA publications. Most if not all of these have been developed by Gail Jefferson, but are now commonly used with minor individual variations. The glosses given below are mostly based on, and simplified from, the descriptions provided in Jefferson (1989: 193-6; see also 2004a), at times using those in Heritage and Atkinson (1984), Psathas and Anderson (1990); see also Psathas (1995), and Ten Have and Psathas (1995). I have restricted the set given below to the ones most commonly used, omitting some of the subtleties provided by Jefferson.


[ A single left bracket indicates the point of overlap onset. 

] A single right bracket indicates the point at which an utterance or utterance-part terminates vis-à-vis another. 

= Equal signs, one at the end of one line and one at the beginning of a next, indicate no 'gap' between the two lines. This is often called latching

Timed intervals

(0.0) Numbers in parentheses indicate elapsed time in silence by tenth of seconds, so (7.1) is a pause of 7 seconds and one-tenth of a second.

(.) A dot in parentheses indicates a tiny 'gap' within or between utterances. 

Characteristics of speech production

word Underscoring indicates some form of stress, via pitch and/or amplitude; an alternative method is to print the stressed part in italics.

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

- A dash indicates a cut-off. 

.,??, Punctuation marks are used to indicate characteristics of speech production, especially intonation; they are not referring to grammatical units. 

. A period indicates a stopping fall in tone. 

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

? A question mark indicates a rising intonation. 

,? The combined question mark/comma indicates a stronger rise than a comma but weaker than a question mark; an alternative is an italicised question mark: ?

The absence of an utterance-flnal marker indicates some sort of 'indeterminate' contour.

Arrows indicate marked shifts into higher or lower pitch in the utterance-part immediately following the arrow. 

WORD Upper case indicates especially loud sounds relative to the surrounding talk. 

º Utterances or utterance parts bracketed by degree signs are relatively quieter than the surrounding talk. 

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

.hhh A dot-preflxed row of hs indicates an inbreath. Without the dot, the hs indicate an outbreath. 

w(h)ord A parenthesized h, or a row of hs within a word, indicates breathiness, as in laughter, crying, etc. 

Transcriber's doubts and comments

( ) Empty parentheses indicate the transcriber's inability to hear what was said. The length of the parenthesized space indicates the length of the untranscribed talk. In the speaker designation column, the empty parentheses indicate inability to identify a speaker. 

(word) Parenthesized words are especially dubious hearings or speaker identiflcations. 

(( )) Double parentheses contain transcriber's descriptions rather than, or in addition to, transcriptions.