Saving Face and Atrocities: Sequence Expansions and Indirectness in Television Interviews


This article addresses the conversational process taking place during a TV interview in which the contrast shows up between the canonical procedure overseeing the succession and nature of conversational roles and turn-takings in contemporary media contexts and the preservation of an atavistic attitude tied to a traditional culture, Albanian tradition of oda. The discourse in these chambers is a revered phenomenon in the Albanian culture. The interviewee uses the traditional code of oral communication in the oda as a strategy for saving his honour in public, while the interviewer uses another code, the language of investigative journalism. In this paper, a detailed analysis of this interview shows how the sequences built on a basic adjacency pair operate to allow the interviewee to attempt to save face in a compromising situation. We see how the oda structures override normal turn-taking rules and how the face-work process (Goffman Interaction ritual. Essays on the face-to-face behavior, Doubleday, New York, 1967) is reflected in expanded sequences. We consider this topic as an extension of a potential CA analysis when describing how cultural forms with different procedural rules affect general turn-taking.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    The Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini is a written set of traditional Albanian laws that has been used in northern and central Albania, Kosovo, and surrounding areas with large ethnic Albanian populations (such as Montenegro and Macedonia). It was first codified in the fifteenth century, but was actually in use much earlier. The Kanun is the most famous and comprehensive compilation of Albanian customary laws. It was initially an unwritten code of law that, for centuries, strictly governed social behavior and everyday life in almost all Albanian settlements. The Kanun has had a profound influence on Albanian culture and civil law, and even though the Kanun is not legally binding today, it is widely respected and still practiced in modified form in parts of Albania and Kosovo (Trnavci 2010: 201f.; Elsie 2011: 151).


  1. Atkinson, J. (1998). Conversation analysis and institutional talk: Analyzing distinctive turn-taking systems. In S. Cmejrková, J. Hoffmannová, O. Müllerová & J. Svetlá (Eds.), Proceedings of the 6th international congresss of IADA (International association for dialog analysis) (pp. 3–17). Tubingen: Niemeyer.

  2. Baldi, B., & Savoia, L. (2010). Metafora e ideologia nel linguaggio politico, te Lingua e società. In M. Arcangeli (Ed.), Lingua Italiana d’Oggi (pp. 119–165). Roma: Bulzoni.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Beattie, G. W. (1989a). Interruption in political interviews: A replay to Bull and Mayer. Journal of Language of Social Psychology,8, 327–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Beattie, G. W. (1989b). Interruption in political interviews: The debate ends? Journal of Language of Social Psychology,8, 345–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bull, P. E., & Mayer, K. (1989). Interruption in political interviews: A reply to Beattie. Journal of Language of Social Psychology,8, 341–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Çetta, A. (1981). Kërkime Folklorike. Prishtinë: Recherches folkloriques, Redaksia e botimeve.

    Google Scholar 

  7. De Fornel, M. (1988). Constructions disloquées, mouvement thématique et organisation préférentielle dans la conversation. Langue Française,78, 101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. De Fornel, M. (1989). Une situation interactionnelle négligée: La messagerie télématique. Réseaux,7, 38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Durham, M. E. (1908). High albania. London: Edward Arnold Publishers to the India Office.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Elsie, R. (2011). Historical dictionary of Kosovo. Historical dictionaries of Europe, No. 79 (2nd ed.). Mitchellville: The Scarecrow Press Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Elsie, R. (2016). Albanian oral history: Its importance and my experience paper given at the Seminar on Oral History, 29 March 2016, at the Faculty of History and Philology of the University of Tirana.

  12. Friedrich, P. (1986). The language parallax: Linguistic relativism and poetic indeterminacy. Austin: University of Texas Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Garfinkel, H., & Sacks, H. (1970). On formal structures of practical actions. In J. C. McKinney & E. A. Tiryakian (Eds.), Theoretical sociology (pp. 337–366). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual. Essays on the face-to-face behavior. New York: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Goffman, E. (1976). Replies and responses. Discourse in Society, 5, 257–313. (Reprinted in E. Goffman (1981), 5–77).

  16. Grice, P. H. (1975/1989). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole, & J. Morgan (Eds.), Studies in the way of words (pp. 41–58). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  17. Grice, P. (1991). Studies in the way of words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  18. Gumperz, J. (1982). Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Harré, R. (1985). Situational rhetoric and self-presentation. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Language and social situations (pp. 175–186). Berlin: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Heritage, J. (1985). Analyzing news interviews: Aspects of the production of talk for an overhearing audience. In T. A. van Dijk (Ed.), Handbook of discourse analysis (Vol. 3, pp. 95–117). London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Jefferson, G. (1985). An exercise in the transcription and analysis of Laughter. In T. A. Van Dijk (Ed.), Handbook of discourse analysis (Vol. 3, pp. 25–34). London: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation (pp. 13–31). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003 [1980]). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  24. Lerner, H. G. (2004). On the place of linguistic resources in the organisation of talk-in-interaction: Grammar as action in prompting a speaker to elaborate. Research on Language and Social Interaction,37(2), 151–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Levin, S. R. (1982). Are figures of thought figures of speech? In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Contemporary perceptions of language: Interdisciplinary dimensions (pp. 112–123). Washington D. C.: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Liddicoat, A. J. (2007). An introduction to conversation analysis. New York: Continuum.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Nopcsa, F. (1908). Brief über seine Reise in Nordalbanien. Mitteilungen der Kais. Königl. Vienna: Geographischen Gesellschaft in Wien.

  28. Sacks, H. (1987). On the preferences for agreement and contiguity in sequences in conversation. In G. Button & J. R. E. Lee (Eds.), Talk and social organisation (pp. 54–69). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation. In G. Jefferson (Ed.), With introductions by EA Schegloff (Vols. I and II). Oxford: Blackwell.

  30. Sacks, H., & Schegloff, E. A. (1979). Two preferences in the organisation of reference to persons in conversation and their interaction. In G. Psathas (Ed.), Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology (pp. 15–21). New York: Irvington Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Sacks, H., Schegloff, E., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language,50(4), 696–735.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sapir, D. (1977). The anatomy of metaphor. In The social use of metaphor: Essays on the anthropology of rhetoric. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Schegloff, E. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction, a primer in conversation analysis I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Tannen, D. (1982). Oral and literate strategies in spoken and written narratives, language. Linguistic Society of America, 58(1), 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Tannen, D. (2007 [1989]) Talking voices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  36. Tarifa, F. (2008). Of time, honor, and memory: Oral law in Albania. Oral Tradition.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Trnavci, G. (2010). The interaction of customary law with the modern rule of law in Albania and Kosova. In M. Sellers & T. Tomaszewski (Eds.), The rule of law in comparative perspective (pp. 201–215).

  38. Yamamoto, K. (2005). The ethical structure of Kanun and its cultural implications. Melosi Design.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Majlinda Bregasi.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bregasi, M. Saving Face and Atrocities: Sequence Expansions and Indirectness in Television Interviews. Hum Stud 43, 89–106 (2020).

Download citation


  • Conversation analysis
  • Adjacency pairs
  • Television interview
  • Sequential organization
  • Thick description
  • Political discourse
  • Albanian language