‘Going mental' or features of challenged assessment sequences in teenage talk

Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


"There‘s a lot of stuff you do not know either" - this paper will demonstrate how teenage boys end disputes amongst them with insults. A feature of these insults is that the teenage boys ‘go mental', i.e. they question the ‘cognitive' abilities and competences of their co-participant and thereby exclude him from the status of ‘being a fully competent member' of the group or even of being ‘a person', i.e. somebody to whom one ascribes the same abilities and competencies and thus capabilities of choice that one claims for oneself (Bergmann 1998). The paper focuses on disputes that develop out of assessment sequences. Participating in social activities conversationalists routinely make assessments through which they produce social organization and create alignments (Pomerantz 1984). This paper however analyzes structures of assessments that are contested (Maynard 1986). It will be demonstrated a) how the boys end these challenged assessment sequences through ‘insults' in which the speakers ‘go mental' and 2) thereby make the social function as well as the risks of assessing explicit: as competent members of a social group they may be held accountable for the knowledge that they claim of the assessed target and/or the evaluation of it. Using CA as a methodology, the paper examines videotaped data (11 hours) that were collected during a study at a school for children with special educational needs in Denmark. 

Bergmann, J. (1998). "Introduction: Morality in Discourse." Research on Language and Social Interaction 31(3/4): 279-294.                            

Maynard, D. W. (1986). "Offering and soliciting collaboration in multi-party disputes among children (and other humans)." Human Studies 9: 261-285.    

Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. Structures of Social Action. J. M. Atkinson and J. Heritage. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 57-101.

Period7. Jul 2010
Event titleInternational Conference on Conversation Analysis
Event typeConference
LocationMannheim, Germany