Conversation and Dialogue in Latin


(To be held at the 21st International Colloquium of Latin Linguistics,
Santiago de Compostela, May 24–28, 2021)



Organizers: Łukasz Berger, Rodie Risselada, Rodrigo Verano




The corpus of Latin texts contains a great number of passages and works reproducing talk-in-interaction: in comedy and tragedy, in philosophical and literary dialogues, and in isolated passages of other literary genres, such as epic poetry, historiography, satire and novel. By studying these texts as talk-in-interaction one can show how the orderliness of naturally occurring dialogue (and the social order that stands behind it) is being reproduced through conventions as well as  (author’s) preconceived notions and semi-automatic communicative habits. Thanks to a broad pragmatic perspective, the scholars aim at a better understanding of the language patterns (vis-à-vis the speakers’ conveyed gender, status, age, etc.), as well as the social practices involved in the reproduction of talk by Roman authors. Further applications of dialogue-oriented approaches include a sharper definition of markers of orality in written texts, as well as distinctions between the representation of conversation in different literary genres (e.g. comedy vs. tragic dialogue) also in comparison with non-literary sources.


The central research method for investigating the structure and process of face-to-face interaction is offered by Conversation Analysis (CA), launched by the seminal papers of H. Sacks, E. A. Schegloff and G. Jefferson from the 1960s and 1970s (see Lerner 2004). Several decades later, the conversation-analytic approach significantly impacted the field of Classical Linguistics, as evidenced by an increasing number of publications in recent years (e.g. Schuren 2014, van Emde Boas 2017) with special prominence of Latin (dramatic) dialogues (e.g. Roesch 2005, Monserrat 2015, Berger 2019).


Due to its data-driven and inductive approach, the CA methodology seems to be particularly suitable for corpus languages such as Latin.  The bottom-up microanalytical approach allows the scholars to avoid using a priori assumptions or inferences not grounded in the text. Instead, analysts keep close to data, focusing on what the participants of the interaction ostensibly make of the ongoing situation (see Psathas 1995, Have [1999] 2007, Schegloff 2007). Accordingly, the method provides tools for interpreting various pragmatic aspects of an utterance, including illocutionary force (Risselada 1993, Kienpointner 1998), im/polite linguistic behaviour (Berger 2017), cases of miscommunication (Kroon 2015) and conflictual talk (Iurescia & Martin 2019). This kind of insight is particularly valuable in a ‘dead’ language when scholars cannot have recourse to live informants of the native speaker’s competence.


At the 21st International Colloquium of Latin Linguistics (to be held in Santiago de Compostela, May 2021), a workshop will be organized to discuss and share thoughts and ideas on this topic. We welcome proposals for contributions based on Conversation Analysis or other interaction-focused approaches and pragmatic frameworks. Possible subtopics of interest include, but are not limited to:


  • Turn-taking: self- and other-selection.
  • Turn design and anatomy, internal organization of utterances
  • Sequence organization (adjacency pairs and other possible constructions, preference and dispreference, etc.)
  • Dialogue cohesion, nextness, and congruity
  • Conflictual talk, miscommunication, and repair
  • Performing gender and status in conversation
  • The use of multi-functional tokens: pragmatic and discourse markers.
  • Markers of orality in written texts
  • Aspects of the literary representation of natural conversation in different genres


Call for papers


Interested researchers are invited to submit abstracts in any of the congress’s official languages: English, French, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish. Accepted papers will be limited to 20 minutes and will be followed by discussion in English. Since the Workshop will take place at the 21st International Colloquium of Latin Linguistics (, all participants should register for that colloquium. Please send your title and abstract to and clearly state that your submission is to be considered for the Workshop. Submitted proposals will be evaluated by both the 21st ICLL Committee and the Workshop organizers. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words (exclusive of references) and should state research questions, approach, method, data, and (expected) results. Participants will be requested to submit their papers to the organisers two months in advance (by March 2021) in order to prepare the forthcoming discussion.


For further information about the workshop:


Important deadlines

February 15, 2020: submission of title and abstract

April 15, 2020: notification of acceptance to participants

March 15, 2021: submission of papers for discussion.



Berger, Ł. (2017). “Estrategias de la cortesía positiva en la apertura diálogica en Plauto y Terencio.” Revista de estudios latinos: RELat, 17, 11-35.

Berger, Ł., (2019). “Gestión de los turnos conversacionales en Plauto y Terencio: entre el habla y los silencios.” In R. López Gregoris, ed., Drama y dramaturgia en la escena romana. III encuentro internacional del teatro latino. Zaragoza: Libros Pórtico, pp.  281-309.

Have, P. ten, (2007 [1999]). Doing Conversation Analysis. A Practical Guide. London: Sage.

Hoffmann, M. E., (1983). “Conversation openings in the comedies of Plautus.” In H. Pinkster, ed., Latin Linguistics and Linguistic Theory. Amsterdam – Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, pp. 217- 226.

Iurescia, F., & Martin, G. (2019). “CLOSING CONFLICTS: Conversational strategies across Greek and Roman tragedies.” Lingue e Linguaggi, 31, pp. 233-254.

Kienpointner, M., 1998. “Speech Act sequences in Latin prose. Questions and answers.” Ch. M. Temes &D. Longrée, eds.. Oratio soluta-oratio numerosa, Luxembourg: Centre Alexandre-Wiltheim, pp. 65-86.

Kroon, C. (2015). Miscommunications on the Via Sacra: A discourse structural analysis of Horace Satires 1.9. In P. Anreiter, E. Mairhofer, & C. Posch (Eds.), Argumenta: Festschrift für Manfred Kienpointner zum 60. Geburtstag. Wien: Praesens-Verlag, pp. 215-232.

Lerner, G. H. (ed.). (2004). Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Montserrat Roig, C., (2015). “Otras perspectivas para el análisis lingüístico de Plauto: los vocativos insultantes en la reacción conversacional.” Minerva 28, 133-161,

Risselada, R. (1993). Imperatives and other directive expressions in Latin: A study in the pragmatics of a dead language. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben.

Roesch, S., (2005). “L’échec des clôtures du dialogue dans les comédies de Plaute.” Journal of Latin Linguistics 9 (2), 921-932.

Schegloff, E. A. (2007) Sequence Organization in Interaction. Cambridge etc.: University of Cambridge.

Schuren, L. (2014). Shared Storytelling in Euripidean Stichomythia, Amsterdam, Brill.

van Emde Boas, E. (2017). “Analyzing Agamemnon: conversation analysis and particles in Greek tragic dialogue.” Classical Philology, 112(4), 411-434.