Figurative Pivots: The Use of Figurative Expressions in Pivotal Topic Transitions

Elizabeth Holt, Paul Drew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we use conversation analysis in an investigation of figurative expressions in conversation. We begin with the observation that figurative expressions are often followed by disjunctive transitions to a new topic (cf. Drew & Holt, 1988, 1995, 1998). In some instances, however, the figurative expression is used as a pivot to a new matter: The figurative expression forms a bridge connecting to the previous talk but opening up the possibility of moving away from that matter to a different one. In this article, we focus on these pivotal transitions, showing how aspects of the design of figurative expressions (such as the fact that they recurrently act as summaries and assessments of the previous detailing) make them appropriate devices for moving away from the matter at hand while at the same time enabling other matters to be introduced. Analysis of instances of these stepwise (rather than disjunctive) topic transitions raises issues concerning common difficulties in identifying topic transitions in interaction and the mechanisms by which stepwise transitions are managed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
Number of pages27
JournalResearch on Language and Social Interaction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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