When to Speak in a Conversation Essay

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A conversation necessarily requires multiple participants, and assuming all members have the right to speak, the act of turn-taking will take place. Schegloff and Sacks wrote that “two basic features of conversation are proposed to be: (1) at least, and no more than, one party speaks at a time in a single conversation; and (2) speaker change recurs” (1973:293), with the latter highlighting the ubiquity of turn-taking in spoken discourse. The first feature is rather idealistic, with overlaps frequent in everyday conversation, but it implies a sense of general cooperation, with participants typically allowing speakers to finish their turn before taking their own. In this analysis of a post-match conversation fragment involving a researcher, a player and the coaches of a New Zealand rugby team, I will explore the various features used prior to turn-taking to foreshadow the termination of their speaking slot. I will also look at examples of interruption, and see if they threaten the cooperative nature of the exchange.
Speaker selection
The vast majority of utterances in the conversation do not explicitly select the next speaker, and instead tend to manifest as general comments about the preceding match. They are not directed at anyone in particular, but rather express to everyone present their individual opinion about the fixture (e.g. lines 1, 4, 5 and 7). Even the question on line 11, “What was it?”, is asked broadly to those present, with any one of the participants deemed qualified to answer. Those involved receive very little overt instruction as to who should speak next and as the turns are “so constructed as not to involve the use of a ‘current speaker selects next’ technique”, the next speaker is decided mainly b...

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...mplest Systematics for the Organisation of Turn-Taking for Conversation’, Language, 50:696-735.
Schegloff, E. and Sacks, H. (1973) ‘Opening Up Closings’, Semiotica, 7:289-327.
Schegloff, E. (1996) ‘Turn-organization: one intersection of grammar and interaction’, In: E. Ochs, E. Schegloff and S. Thompson (eds.) Interaction and Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 52-133.
Swann, J. (2009) ‘Language Choice and Code-Switching’, In: A. Deumert, W. Leap, R. Mesthrie and J. Swann (eds.) Introducing Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 146-182.
Tannen, D. (1984) Conversational Style: Analysing Talk Among Friends. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zimmerman, D. and West, C. (1975) ‘Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences in Conversation’, In: B. Thorne and N. Henley (eds.) Language and Sex: Difference and Dominance. Rowley: Newbury House. 105-129.

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