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ISSN : 1226-4822(Print)
ISSN : (Online)
The Sociolinguistic Journal of Korea Vol.31 No.1 pp.1-32

Socially Incompetent Character in The Office: Focus on Action Formations and Understanding Displays

Eunseok Ro*, Josephine Mijin Lee**
*Assistant Professor, Department of English Education, Pusan National University
**Associate Professor, Ewha Womans University


By adopting conversation analysis, this study examines how action formation and understanding displays construct a socially inept and humorous character in the TV sitcom, The Office. The analysis revealed two recurrent patterns in the main character’s interactions—improper action formation and insufficient understanding displays. Specifically, the findings showed that the main character, Michael, was construed as one that is unaware of his uncanny actions and unable to understand the interlocuter’s inferential and sarcastic remarks. The inserted interview scenes also highlighted that a conversational norm has been violated and contribute to the characterization of Michael as a quirky, socially incompetent worker. As a result, the collective sender is not only able to establish common ground with the audience but also dramatize the humorous potential of the episode. These analytic findings demonstrate that CA can be a rigorous tool for revealing the specific interactional devices that are exploited by scriptwriters to configure characters and infuse comical elements into TV sitcoms.




  1. Journal Abbreviation : j. Korea Saf. Manag. Sci.
    Frequency : Published three times annually in April, August and December, including an international issue
    Doi Prefix : 10.14353/sjk.
    Year of Launching : 2013
    Publisher :
    The Sociolinguistic Society of Korea
    Indexed/Tracked/Covered By :

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