Gabriella Fishkind, The Use of Cooperative Overlaps in Close Friend Group Storytelling 


Interruptions and overlaps in speech are commonly used in everyday talk, but their meaning is at times unknown, possibly being a rude interjection or a responsive exclamation . I focus on the function of cooperative overlaps among close friends while storytelling and their function of maintaining intimacy and rapport. In my research, “close friends” is defined by a group of two or more people who feel comfortable talking about anything without fear of judgment, ranging from gossip to personal matters. As I analyze oral narratives of a group of close female friends, I focus to demonstrate how positive reinforcement occurs through cooperative overlaps. Within my data, cooperative overlaps function as a means of enthusiasm and support, a reason created by Caryl Churchill which I will detail below, but additionally assume a deeper function in supporting and deepening the closeness and rapport of a female friend group.

In searching for a reason as to how cooperative overlaps, might serve as positive reinforcement, I came across Carly Churchill’s work, and analysis of it by Dr. Andriy Ivanchenko. In the article, Dr. Ivanchenko states “An interactive approach to interpreting overlapping dialogue in Caryl Churchill’s Top Girl’s”, “It (overlaps/interruptions) can be variously interpreted by readers: as marking interpersonal opposition, lack of interest, self-centeredness- or enthusiasm and support.” In this article, Ivanchenko is referring to Churchill’s plays’ overlapping speech and the categories used to define the reasons such overlapping speech occurs in her plays. As Ivanchenko writes, interruptions and overlaps do function as enthusiasm and support. This category began to structure the reasoning for why females in a close friend group might use overlapping speech more and how they function as positive reinforcement. In my categories used to section my data, support and enthusiasm do serve as broader reasons for why these females are overlapping each other, however I provide analysis with comprehensive reasons for how this function (cooperative overlap) deepens the relationship further.

In my data collection, I am analyzing three categories of stories: light-matter storytelling, personal/sensitive storytelling, and gossip storytelling. These categories emerged through listening to recordings and transcribing. As I transcribed various bits with interruptions and overlaps, storytelling themes emerged, and I was able to divide each story into the categories mentioned above. My research analyzes each category of storytelling, looking to provide reasons as to why close friends use overlapping speech and how they function to maintain and deepen their close bond. To understand the breadth of stories being told I have defined the categories used in the research analyzed below. Light subject-matter storytelling is defined as stories told about topics which hold no delicate meaning or secrecy factor to the person telling the story. Personal storytelling is defined as a story which does include intimate, secret and sensitive content in relation to the storyteller or about someone else. Gossip storytelling is defined as one person telling a story which contains sensitive or degrading matter about someone else, where other listeners are actively encouraging the storyteller. In each category of storytelling defined above, I will analyze the different functions of cooperative overlaps used in each, to show how they in all cases they maintain and deepen a friendship among college aged females.

In order to understand how cooperative overlaps function in my research, I have defined the significant terms being discussed throughout this paper. The majority of overlaps and interruptions I analyze are overlaps, more specifically cooperative overlaps.  The meaning of interruption, or disruptive interruption, within this research is defined as “a transgressive act of starting to speak “in the midst of” someone else’s speech” (Hutchby, pg. 226). Interruptions often do not allow a speaker to reach a completion point, whereas overlap allows a person to continue talking. Cooperative overlap is defined as “a listener talking along with a speaker not in order to interrupt but to show enthusiastic listener ship and participation” (Tannen, pg. 53). Overlap, as seen in my data, does initially break in on the storytelling, but then continues as speech overlaps back and forth. Whereas interruptive overlap deems to dominate the conversation, cooperative overlap as seen in my research is more positive in nature. After taking these definitions into consideration, it is clear the majority of interruptions and overlaps I analyze in my data are cooperative overlaps.

Oral narratives are the main source of data analyzed in this research, offering valuable evidence for why close female friends use overlaps as much as they do. Used within close friend groups, storytelling, or an oral narrative, is defined as an interviewee launching a story as a piece of evidence to support a point he/she is making (Tracey, 2002). While other versions of storytelling exist within print and conversational methods, the above definition pertains to the stories analyzed in the data collected for this research. Karen Tracy, author of Everyday Talk, examines how oral narratives are frequently used to function as personal and relational purposes (Tracey, pg. 217). Tracey writes, “However, unlike their written counterparts, most oral stories are told to serve personal and relational purposes, other than giving information and entertaining.” She elaborated by defining that a story can have what is called “jointness” in which recipients offers questions and/ or responses to stories being told that “probe for amplification of particulars in the story” (Tracy, 219). The level of involvement from the audience when a story is being told can indicate that one or more participants are closely connected to the speaker. The oral stories offered through my data and the transcripts provided, serve such purposes as Tracey identifies, but are more profound through the overlaps occurring. What I notice, through the use of the cooperative overlaps, is jointness. However, within the different categories analyzed below, there are different levels of jointness depending on the type of story being told.

In relation with the above background on cooperative overlaps used in close friend group storytelling, I will use three different categories of storytelling to analyze the different functions of cooperative overlaps in each, in order to determine their function in bringing friends closer and maintaining rapport. I argue that the abundance of overlaps in storytelling among close friends serves a deeper function to support and deepen friendships as well as show willingness to understand and further the friendship through storytelling. I believe young college-aged females in close friend groups share these patterns when using overlapping speech with each other in storytelling.  The question to focus on in my research is in what manner do cooperative overlaps affect a close friend group? And furthermore, do overlaps serve as positive or negative reinforcement?


Light Storytelling among Close Friends

The first category of storytelling I analyze is light storytelling among friends, which I define as close friends talking about light (non-serious/superficial) subject matter while storytelling. Topics can be personal, however they are not sensitive, intimate, or secret in any form, such as a story about randomly bumping into an ex-boyfriend or something funny happening when grocery shopping. The first instance of this type of overlap occurs in my recording when Jenna is telling a story about how she interacts with close friends in comparison to strangers. We see Magi overlap her and Jenna continue to overlap back and forth.  In the second example, we see Jenna, Laura, and Magi overlapping and interrupting while Jenna tells a story about how she was placed with two random roommates abroad who had the same name as her. In the transcripts below it is important to notice changes in pitch, volume, and elongated words in order to understand how overlaps function in light storytelling setting.

Light- Storytelling #1


1. Jenna: Cause usually when I first meet people, I like try to //listen to them
2. Magi:                                                                                    //I’m like overly nice
3. Jenna: >I’m overly nice, < I try to listen //to them, (.2) like eye contact (.3), nodding
4. Magi:                                                //Right I don’t interrupt, I just like to let it hap::pen, (.2) //right like yea, lots of visuals cues
5. Jenna:                                              // like eye contact, and like nod::ding-
6. Magi: Lots of visuals, visual cues

In light storytelling, overlaps or simultaneous speech broadly serves as enthusiasm and agreement, which is exemplified in the sporadic agreeing or repeating statements made. For instance, Magi overlaps Jenna in line 2 by saying “I’m like overly nice”, and Jenna agrees by saying the same thing. Magi, again in line 4, offers a statement of agreement, and is enthusiastic in doing so which is shown by her emphasis on “Right I don’t interrupt”.  Due to the light subject matter being discussed, and in this context of a close friend group, the overlap exists as a function of assumption of what will be said. For example, Jenna is doing the storytelling, but Magi is constantly overlapping Jenna’s speech, continuing her thoughts and conclusions with her own.

While concern may exist around whether or not the friends are actually listening to each other and understanding the story, this concern is squashed if one analyzes the context of the overlap and what is being said. Magi’s overlap to Jenna’s story is completely in sync with Jenna’s thoughts and points she is making. For instance, Magi uses a term of understanding in line 4, “right”. Magi also shows understanding in line 6 by repeating herself, because she understands Jenna is broadly referencing the use of visual cues.

Emmanuel Schegloff, in his article, Overlapping Talk and the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation, describes what he calls “conditional access to the turn” a type of overlap in conversation. Schegloff describes this phenomenon as when “a speaker of a not possibly completed turn-in-progress yields to another, or even invites another to speak in his turn’s space, conditional on the other’s use of that opportunity to further the initial speaker’s undertaking (Schegloff, 2000).” This phenomenon supports the function of overlapping speech in light storytelling I describe above. As we can see multiple times, a speaker does yield to another such as in lines, 1, 2 and 3 in light storytelling #1 transcript, as Magi accepts an opportunity to further the initial speakers undertaking. One speaker assumes the conclusion of the thought process and overlaps speech in order to state their assumptive answer. This supports the reasoning of assumption I mention above. The participant portrays knowledge of answers within the story topic, and is allowed to so such during the conditional access to the turn.  We see conditional access to the turn occur in the transcript above as well as the one below.

Light Storytelling #2

1.  Jenna: Okay so get this.  Like abroad program are you fucking kidding me. Like you get placed anywhere with roommates, well kind of you fill at your stupid survey, but you get random people and random area in London, I get two other Jenna’s out of the five people I live with=
2. Laura: Oh my// goodness-
3. Jenna:           //Those three Jenna’s go to the same school
4. Jenna: /<Jenna Kelly> //that you-
5. Laura:                            //That’s Jenn::a Jenna
6. Jenna: Exact::ly
7. Jenna://Um we talk-
8. Magi:             Yea just //not as much-
9. Jenna:                          //Yea like once every few weeks
10. Jenna: (But like I can’t find the time)=
11. Magi: G::o like Thanksgiving break (We have a whole week off) they probably don’t. So you could go home that Thursday or Friday and go see them that weekend (if you really wanted too)
12. Jenna:  That’s// not a bad idea-
13. Magi:           // Or the following weekend
14. Jenna: And then the other one is at Minnesota (.1)

As mentioned in the above analysis, the function of overlapping is to show enthusiasm and agreement. The continuations of speech Laura and Magi offer in transcript 2 appears to be correct, as the storyteller Jenna does not say otherwise. There are noticeably more overlaps observed in both transcripts above, where a participant is not trying to cut off another participant, but instead trying to continue their thought to show they know what the other is thinking. Above, in line 4, Jenna says “Jenna Kelly that you-”, which is overlapped by Laura going “That’s Jenna Jenna”, which Jenna responds by saying “exactly”. This demonstrates the participant’s knowledge of answers within this story topic. This phenomenon occurs in both transcripts above and provides data to support the overlaps serve as a method of showing one’s close friends they know them well enough to know these answers. Due to the topic being light storytelling, it is easier for a friend to assume or potentially know the answers, whereas with personal storytelling or gossip storytelling, the friend might not know due to the depth of the story and context.

Above we do not see many increases in pitch, changes in tone, or emphasized words. This lack of use of these mechanisms does possess meaning. The reluctance to use such functions exemplifies how this storytelling matter is not a subject the participants are prone to become excited or emotional about, differentiating it from the other categories analyzed in this paper. While the participants are not showing their involvement in the friends’ story through the mechanisms such as change in tone, pitch or word emphasis, they do so through the function of using overlaps to portray knowingness. Knowingness is key to maintaining closeness in a friendship. Knowingness demonstrates one’s ability to listen, remember, and place importance on a close friend’s livelihood.

The second category I analyze, which is a sub-category of light-story telling, is light storytelling about meaningful personal matters that are not sensitive in nature but includes two parties in the conversation about the story (later we discuss personal storytelling that is sensitive in nature). Non-sensitive meaningful personal stories are those which are important to the storyteller, but are not intimate, secret, or private. This differentiates from the transcribed oral narratives above, which might be personal, but are regarding random/insignificant matters. Below are two transcripts of three girls discussing a story Melissa shared, about Melissa and Magi randomly running into each other in the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Pay attention to how the overlaps in speech are almost exclusively between Magi and Melissa, which is who the personal story is referencing (there were two other girls present for this storytelling/conversation). Also, notice the high frequency of changes in words being elongated (use of ::), changes in volume and pitch, and increase in speech tempo.

Light Storytelling of Personal Matters:

Transcript 1:

1. Melissa: Like we ran into each other at the //Vat::i::can
2. Magi:                                                                // ‘We were so //inappropriate’
3. Melissa:                                                                                        //We lite::rally ran
4. Jenna: Who does that?
5. Magi: >The Vatican was huge, there was easily 40 different places you could be in the Vatican and we //just happened to be in the same area<
6. Melissa:            // So many people, like oh my god //hey
7. Magi:                                                                        // It’s insa::ne, literally //insane


Transcript 2:

1. Melissa: Like me and Magi being in the same part of the Vatican //at the exact same time
2. Magi:                                                                                               // The Vatican is so big, like that doesn’t //happen
3. Melissa: // And literally, like bumping into each other, like oh hey Magi, oh  you’re// in the Vatican me too
4. Magi:> //No it was more like we ran from two different sides of a room and like jumped  //on each other<
5. Melissa: // Yea once we saw each other >we were like AH::H<
6. Magi: All of our roommates were just like //u::h
7. Melissa:                                                           // Yea they literally like left and it was just me and Magi gushing over each other in the Vatican


As demonstrated in the transcripts above, there is a noticeable and important increase of changes in tone, pitch, word length, and tempo. While these functions are demonstrated in our transcripts analyzed in other categories, in comparison, the use is greater with light-storytelling about personal stories. These stories hold significance to two or more parties speaking in the conversation, about the story, allowing these participants to feed off the memory of the story. In doing so, each participant becomes more excited and enthralled with emotion of the memory, producing the need to talk over one another in order to relive the moment. The function of overlaps in this category promotes pure excitement and emotional bonding between the participants. Enthusiasm and support are noticeable, as a broader reasoning, but the knowledge of the story produces certain positive emotions and excitement for the two participants as they continue to tell the story. As the story is told, the friends emphasize the truly interesting part of the story, such as in lines 1 and 2 of transcript 2 they both emphasize running into each other in the same part of the Vatican, and then again do this is in lines 3 and 4 about running into each other physically. Emphasis is put on these terms from both participants in the conversation, portraying their emotional match when emphasizing the interesting part of the story.

What starts as one person beginning to tell a story, turns into a joint storytelling between the two friends in order to strengthen their friendship through reliving the moments described in the story. Even though there are two other girls involved in the conversation, Magi and Melissa become the sole participants in this storytelling conversation as they recall the random and emotional moment when they ran into each other in the Vatican in Rome Italy, after not seeing each other for months.

During an interview with a participant, she offered valuable insight regarding this phenomenon. When asked about how she interrupts, she responded with, “I am usually an active listener and that’s how I interrupt people. Cause like they tell me stories and I just interrupt them. Usually it’s just conversation that brings up past stories and you guys just get really into it.” The interviewees response supports a type of situation like the one seen above, where one participant starts a story and the other interrupts due to past stories being remembered. As the interviewee states, “and you guys just get really into it”, meaning a rapid rise in excitement about the given topic; this defines how Magi and Melissa became the sole two participants in the transcript above and became more and more excited about the story topic being discussed. We can observe changes in tone, over seven emphasized words, and multiple changes in pitch and the use of elongation.  While this function of overlaps does not support the bonding of the entire friend group, two members of the group do create a deeper bond through reliving this type of memory through storytelling.


Sarah Georges, Storytelling Among Close Friends

[Author’s Note: In order to fit the 2500-word limit, I have selected portions from my original research paper that best exemplify the results of my research.]


The purpose of this research is to explore how close friends tell stories collectively, in order to better understand why friends interrupt each other. Although common sense tells us that storytelling follows a linear pattern in which interruptions are perceived as inconsistencies, this study focuses on how stories are interactional and how interruptions can sometimes show support and encouragement. Norrick defines a story as “any representation of past events…with a point in context” (2000, p. 128). Using audio recordings of a group of close friends who attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, interruptions during storytelling will be analyzed to better understand why friends interrupt each other and how this phenomenon affects the bond of friendship.


I audio recorded three segments of conversation among members of one close friend group. All participants attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Each recording was at least 15 minutes in length. I logged these recordings, organizing them by topic discussed to easily pick out stories. When it came time to transcribe specific instances of storytelling, I listened back to the recording using my log and tried to get the most accurate transcriptions of each segment into a word document. In total, I found seven stories in the first recording, two in the second, and five stories in the third. Although all of the stories I recorded were useful, I chose to include stories that were longer, easier to hear and transcribe, and those that required the least amount of explanation—this friend group had a lot of confusing inside jokes. I categorized the interruptions/overlaps in each story into the following groups: welcomed interruptions through questions, welcomed interruptions that change course of story, challenges, and competition for primary storyteller. Placement was based on language used, prosody, and reaction among group members, especially response from the primary storyteller.


Welcomed Interruptions through Questions

Data shown in this section are segments in which the storyteller invites participation from the listeners by asking questions. These questions are usually regarding specific details about an event or trying to clarify something about one of the listeners. The fact that a storyteller would desire input from the listeners shows that there is some level of expected involvement and engagement from all participants; participant responses validate the relevance and importance of the storyteller’s experience.

Example #1

In the example below, from recording #2, three friends are discussing a post that a mutual friend, John, recently made on Instagram. The primary storyteller, Denise, is sharing her experience commenting on John’s photo and how he reacted to them. She asks a question to each listener in order better gauge how she should tell her story. Depending on what Steph and Lily already know, Denise might be able to leave out certain details. This example shows how a storyteller can welcome interruptions by asking the participants questions, with the purpose of gaining validation that her experience is important and relevant to the listeners.

1 Steph That was—I loved your comment though. That was like the most legit Instagram post he’s put up in a //lo:::::::ng time
2 Vanessa                                                   //ye::::::::::sss
3 Vanessa And he keeps—did you see his new comment? He was like (0.3) I said like  //no John…
4 Steph //was it “this is sadness and //fear”
5 Vanessa                                             //yeah and I said, but like poems can be sad, like–
6 Steph –oh I didn’t see //this
7 Vanessa                           //like I was like the poems are real and like sad and like I just said like “John you’re an artist” (0.2) and then he replied “but like so-and-so took the picture (0.8)
8 Vanessa And I was like why are you being difficult? Just take the fucking compliment—like
9 Vanessa (to Lily) Did you see his Instagram?
10 Lily I saw it but I didn’t see the comments


Vanessa I was like (0.2) John like this is beautiful like this is (0.2) like a poem (0.4) and he is like challenging me on it and I’m like really dude?
13 Lily I like–
14 Steph Pick your battles
15 Lily I don’t know, like…

Right away in line 1, Steph shows that she is in favor of a comment that Denise made on their mutual friend’s Instagram post. This gives Denise the confident to start telling a story about another comment made on the same post. However, in order to gage what Steph already knows about the situation, Denise asks Steph if she has seen their friend’s most recent comment on his own Instagram post. Although she has already begun a story, she is inviting an early interruption from Steph to make sure she will not repeat anything that Steph already knows. This shows that the purpose of the story is not just to recount some information, but rather to pool together what everyone already knows in order to get at some sort of truth about their friend’s Instagram activity. Steph replies in line 6 that she has not been updated on the matter, so Denise continues her story for a chunk of time. Since Lily had been quiet, Denise directs a question to her as well in line 9. This gesture shows that it is important to the storyteller (Denise) that all participants be involved in this narrative, so she asks questions to involve the listeners and to make the storytelling experience better. In line 15, Lily trails off into a somewhat new subject, so it is not included in the transcript, but that shows that this story was successful in sparking conversation about something important to all participants.


Often when stories are being recounted among close friends, there are challenges posed to the main storyteller. Maybe someone doesn’t understand the relevance of a story, or a detail is wrong, and they decide to interrupt the story to make these sentiments known. Although it is commonly assumed that these interruptions make a story unsuccessful, this is actually very useful to the storyteller because it lets the storyteller know what obstacles are in the way of gaining the participants’ understanding. In order to accomplish the main goal of telling a story (shared understanding), it is important to be as clear and accurate as possible while taking into account what they listeners need from the storyteller to understand completely what happened. Only then will participants feel comfortable jumping in with their related ideas.

Example #1:

In the exchange below, Lily is trying to introduce a story relating to veterinarians, but she is met with opposition from both the group and Vanessa. Although she receives negative feedback, Lily powers through and ultimately tries to get her story out.


1 Lily Have you ever seen the SNL Veterinarian sketch?
2 Group ((scoffs))
3 Lily This is totally random but I just thought of it, so–
4 Vanessa –yeah I don’t know how that relates



Lily Kathryn’s studying for her, like (2.0) whatever the big test is for like pre-vet or whatever that she has to take like //every semester, like for the classes she’s in to pass to get–
8 Vanessa                                                      //ew::w
9 Henry –//daa:mn
10 Lily    //Pre-vet or whatever

Lily asks the group about a Saturday Night Live sketch, but since this was seemingly unrelated or starkly contrasted with the topic they were just discussing, the group lets Lily know. In line 2, several of the listeners scoff at the introduction of this topic, and in line 4, Vanessa overtly states her confusion with the topic change/connection. Since this is a group of close friends, they feel comfortable enough to interrupt Lily and let her know that her reasons for bringing this particular experience up are unclear or confusing. However, Lily has stated in line 3 that it is relevant in some way, so she begins recounting a conversation she had with her roommate, Kathryn. She gets a response from both Vanessa and Henry in lines 8 and 9, respectively, so they are still showing some sort of interest. This is encouraging to Lily because she continues her story, as seen below. Later on, in the same conversation as above, Lily is met with more challenges, but this time regarding her assessment of the situation.




Lily And so, we were talking about it, and she’s like why do I have to study all these? like if I become a vet, it’s gonna be mostly for cats and dogs, like why the hell do I need to know about like //all these different things?
14 Vanessa                                                            //yeah
15 Henry Pshh


Lily She’s like, I’m like, I’m gonna like come to you someday and just like bring a guinea pig just to like fuck up //your cats and dogs thing
18 Vanessa                                                 //((loud laughter))
19 Lily And she’s like yeah your guinea pig is gonna die
20 Vanessa ((gasps)) //↑oh my God!↑
21 Henry                //((laughs))
22 Lily ↑Okay ((laughing)) it wasn’t—it wasn’t as morbid↑, like we were kinda–
23 Vanessa Okaa::ay
24 Lily //(we didn’t say exactly)
25 Andrew //It’s not morbid, it’s just about death
26 Vanessa Ye::ah
27 Henry Yeah

Lily is narrating a story she had with her roommate, and the narrative takes a dark turn. Her story is being challenged by some of her close friends because they feel she is not interpreting it the correct way. However, Lily is laughing while trying to correct the situation because Henry laughed in line 21, so he must have reacted the preferred way. Although Lily tries to get all of her friends to understand, she is unsuccessful because Vanessa and Henry back up Andrew’s sarcastic comment in line 25, claiming that Lily’s understanding of what happened is false. The group has not reached a common understanding.

Competition for Primary Storyteller

In this category of data, there are stories that end up having multiple storytellers competing for the floor. Although it is assumed that this is a rude or disrespectful practice, this is actually done in the effort of reaching the most accurate understanding of a situation of experience. By combining multiple viewpoints of something that happened, the participants are trying to create a complete, coherent storyline.

Example #2:

The following segment involved Denise’s experience seeing a clown by the library. Vanessa has heard this story before and begins to tell her own experience recounting it to a friend who is absent (John). Both Denise and Vanessa add their own details about the story, and neither is upset about sharing the floor.

1 Denise I saw a clown by the library (0.2) //It was //literally
2 Vanessa                                                       //Yeah!
3 Bianca                                                                    //oh my god!!
4 Denise I ra::::n home //last night


Vanessa                       //I told—I told John, I told you //guys that last night when we were walking to late night// (0.3) and John was pi::::ssed
7 Lily                                                                          //you told me that last night
8 Denise                                                //I cried (0.3) I cried
9 Vanessa He was like (0.4) that’s not funny… (0.3)
10 Bianca It’s not //funny


Vanessa             //He was like (0.2) I’m gonna cuss him out (0.3) I’m gonna like //mu:::rder him
13 Lily //I wanna see John cuss someone out




Denise It wa—I mean cu—it wasn’t funny cuz it was like (0.3) night here so:::o like there aren’t that many people out (0.2) and I’m just minding my own business, and then all of a sudden there’s a fucking clown (0.3) and I ran home. And I was like //screw it
18 Vanessa                                    //I really hope someone called the cops


Denise I’m sure someone did because like so many people saw him (.) he was just like chilling, he was sitting outside the //library–
21 Vanessa                                                                      //yeah
22 Denise I was like what like you’re just trying to get your academics on?

Denise is telling a story about seeing a clown by the library, but Vanessa is telling a story about when she told Denise’s story to other friends. These two narratives are competing for the forefront. However, this is friendly competition because the goal is to help all participants become involved and understand fully what happened. They are also trying to make listeners realize the implications of what happened by repeating details and talking about John’s severe reaction to this stranger’s clown costume. Multiple interpretations of an event draw the listeners in more and gives them more details to latch onto in order to understand what happened.


My research and analysis has led me to conclude that the purpose of storytelling is not for one person to share information with others. Rather, its purpose is to share a piece of one’s experiences with others, with the expectation and hope that these listeners will respond engagingly. The ultimate goal is to become more knowledgeable about the world and about life through shared experiences and responses to those experiences. Ochs and Capps put this idea well: “While narrative does not yield absolute truth, it can transport narrators and audiences to more authentic feelings, beliefs, and actions and ultimately to a more authentic sense of life” (1996, p. 23). Although it is often assumed that storytelling is a linear process with one voice being heard above the rest, it is in reality more disorganized, interactive, and collective. From the group of friends I observed, it seems that the more comfortable a group of people is together, the more engaged they are in a story and in conversation in general, so more is learned about life.


Ochs, Elinor and Capps, Lisa. “Narrating the Self”. Annual Review of Anthropology. 25: pp. 19-43. 1996.

Norrick, Neal R. Conversational Narrative: Storytelling in Everyday Talk. Amsterdam. 2000.


Zachary Martin 


Zachary Martin