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Transcription conventions

When we transcribe conversations, we use normal orthographic conventions rather than e.g. phonetic transcription. We do however use phonetic symbols when focussing on the pronunciation of specific words or phrases.

Since conversations unfold in real time and since speakers use their voices in many ways that can have meaning, special conventions for the transcription of conversations have been developed. We use is the so-called Conversation Analytic transcription conventions invented by Gail Jefferson, where we have added some symbols from the TalkBank (read about data). Here is a list of the symbols we use:







Non-phonemic prolongation of the preceding sound



Stress. The more underlining, the more stress


Raised dot

Indicates that the following sounds is spoken on inbreath

f[å dem]
 [ja:↗ ]

Square parenthesis

Indicates start and end of overlapping speech

Diagonal downwards arrow

After an utterance, indicates falling final intonation

Straight arrow

After utterance, indicates level final intonation

Diagonal upwards arrow

After utterance, indicates rising final intonation

Up arrow

Indicates that the following syllable is pronounced with a extra high tone

Down arrow

Indicates that the following syllable is pronounced with an extra low tone



Surrounds high-pitched speech



Surrounds low-pitched speech


Period in parenthesis

Micropause: 0.2 seconds or less


Number in parenthesis

Pauses: Indicated in seconds with one decimal



Indicates audible cut-off


Surrounds smiley voice


Paragraph symbol

Surrounds extra clear articulation


Arrow parenthesis pointed towards the speech

Surrounds fast speech


Arrow parenthesis pointed away from speech

Surrounds slow speech


Degree symbol

Surrounds speech in a low volume


Capital letters

Indicates that speaking at a loud volume



Surrounds speech with creaky voice


Equals sign

In the end of one line and in the beginning of another, indicates that these two lines are latched

(x x)

Parentheses with x's

Indicates speech that cannot be deciphered, or where the transcription is dubious


Curly brackets

Indicates gesture and gaze


Sources and further reading

TalkBank's transcription conventions