Whatever happened to preference organisation?

Ronald Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Preference organisation was once a prominent concept in conversation analysis, but it has been construed in a number of mutually incompatible ways and it is now used in a very restricted manner. With the publication of Harvey Sacks' collected lectures, however, it has been possible to take a fresh look at the concept and to provide a criterion of preference. This paper shows that preference can be explained in terms of noticeable absence and accountability. The preferred action is the "seen but unnoticed" action (Garfinkel, 1967), whereas the dispreferred action is of two types. The first is noticeable and accountable, but not sanctionable, while the second is noticeable, accountable and sanctionable. The paper shows how this concept operates in three key lectures by Sacks and in data extracts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-604
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Conversation analysis
  • Discourse
  • English
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


Dive into the research topics of 'Whatever happened to preference organisation?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this