Assigning responsibility in conversational storytelling: The interactional construction of reality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations


This study describes an interactive method for assigning responsibility and shows how proposing alternative versions of ‘reality ‘ is part of that method. In the course of assigning responsibility for an occurrence, what ‘actually’ happened can become an issue for participants. Conversational storytelling, the recounting of past events, provides a methodfor the interactive construction of two constrasting versions of ‘reality’ in the course of participants offering a reproach and the response to it. Specifically, a storyteller recounts an action formulated in such a way as to be understandable as an offense. Recipients, including the blamed party, display their understanding of these events. The blamed party (or other recipients) may recount events in such a way as to include other information which provides for another agent to be recognized as the responsible party, thus exonerating the initial blamed party. Thus conversational storytelling provides an interactive method for proposing, inferring, reproposing, and inferring again, versions of ‘reality’. ‘Reality’ is collaboratively reconstructed in order to make a point, and to conduct a social act.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-266
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language


  • blaming
  • conversation analysis
  • conversational storytelling
  • discourse analysis
  • interpersonal relationships
  • narrative
  • responsibility
  • social construction of reality

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