Intersubjectivity in conversation

I apologise, the title of this blogpost is pretty academic. It could have been worse, any Conversation Analysts reading this may be able to guess what I was tempted to use as a title. Anyhow the post is about Archie indicating when I have misunderstood something he is trying to communicate


For many years now Archie has used us (me in particular) to interpret what he says. So he would vocalise – e.g. ‘neehee’ and I would provide a translation e.g. ‘biscuits’. If my translation was incorrect the vocalisation would be repeated until I hit on the correct interpretation. This could take some time, and it could get noisy and frustrating, although Archie has been known to clarify using photos, pictures, or dragging me off somewhere to make his point clearer.

To some extend this still goes on with the talker, although we’ve moved on from single words and it’s much easier for Archie to correct misunderstandings. For example on Sunday we had the following conversation. The background is that Granny and Granddad were visiting from Ireland, and were staying in a different hotel that usual.

Archie: hotel bridge not
Me: That’s right Granny and Granddad Ireland took you to the hotel, you didn’t go over the bridge
Archie: different hotel
Me:  Oh you mean Granny and Granddad are staying in a different hotel, you’re right the new one isn’t near the bridge.

Archie accepted my new interpretation and the conversation moved on. It’s definite progression from the days before the talker where he might be correcting my misunderstanding of ‘nee hee’ meaning ‘biscuits’ to ‘Joseph’.

Archie had a good day on Sunday, as we also had a fabulous surf. You know the surf is going to be good when you find yourself following a line of cars to the beach early on an October Sunday morning. I really needed a camera as he was beaming from ear to ear but  unfortunately I managed to lose my waterproof camera on Dartmoor a few months ago, so instead I’ll pinch a photo from the previous session. We can pretend it was from Sunday as Archie was surfing with Harry on both occasions, although the surf this week was bigger. I’ve noticed that when Archie catches a wave he now lifts his arms up at exactly the  right moment to be lifted to standing by the surf coach. And it was captured on camera below with Harry obliging.  Lazy lump.

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3 thoughts on “Intersubjectivity in conversation

  1. So wonderful, Christianne! His frustration level must have been reduced sooo much as a result of his talker 😀 Glory days!
    Do you know, I looked up when I first heard from you t’other day and it was way back in 2005! – my notes said that you had a son named Archie who was 6 years old. Can you believe it’s been THAT long!!! I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know the two of you and to hear your wonderful story over the years! oxxo

    • Wow – that is ages ago. I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know you and Syd better through Facebook. 🙂

      I think I’m struck by how much more Archie can communicate now – more topics are open to him. He just would have had no way to tell us Granny and Granddad had switched hotels before the talker.

      • Absolutely! He must be ecstatic to be able to express all that’s going on inside that brilliant mind of his!!! You can see it in his face and his eyes (o: I love that you are able to share videos with us; to see how well, and how FAST! Archie is able to navigate his Talker – completely independently!!! really Great stuff!

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