Saturday, December 29, 2012

Conversation Handouts: Turn Taking - May 18, 2007

dialog is made up of turns
speakers alternate: speaker A says something, then speaker B, then speaker A...

turn taking: who should talk and when

there appears to be some discipline to turn taking:
  • less than 5% of speech in overlap (simultaneous)
  • flexible management: works independently of number of participants, length of turns, order in which participants speak, etc. 
  • cross-linguistic and cross-cultural similarities
  • formal settings (courtroom, classroom, etc.) deviate from pattern in conventionalized ways 
btw, children learn turn taking within the first 2 years of life (Stern74) 

how do speakers know when its time to contribute a turn?

SSJ (1978): turn taking mechanism — local management system

turns consist of turn units

turn transitions occur at Transition Relevance Points (TRP) ---> end of a turn unit (predictable from signals, e.g., syntax, prosody, gesture, gaze, intonation)

at TRP turn taking rules apply

SSJ (1978): turn taking mechanism —► local management system

turn taking rules: (C: current speaker, N: next speaker)

rule 1. at the first TRP of any turn

  1. if C selects N in current turn, then C must stop speaking and N must speak
  2. if C does not select, then any other party may self-select, first speaker gaining right to the next turn 
  3. if C does not select N and no other party self-selects, then C may continue

rule 2. at all subsequent TRPs
if rule 1.3 was applied by C at a TRP, then Rules 1.1-3 apply at the next TRP until speaker change is effected

SSJ (1978): turn taking mechanism -----> local management system


  • no strict limit on turn size (extensible nature of turn units and rule 1.3)
  • no exclusion of parties
  • number of parties in a conversation can vary
  • only one speaker will generally be speaking at any time
  • overlaps occur at competing starts (rule 1.2) or where TRPs mispredicted
  • interruptions create overlaps, i.e.. violate the rules B
  • pauses can be classified as:
    • gap before application of rule 1.2 or 1.3;
    • lapse on non-application of rule 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3;
    • significant silence after application of rule 1.1

Individual differences: Shy people pause longer and speak less and less often (Pilkonis, 77) mental disorders and depression affect turn taking skills.

TRPs: identifying turn-yielding

  • linguistic clues: terms of address, discourse markers
  • pauses
  • intonational phrase boundaries 
  • slowing speaking rate
  • drawl at end of dause  
  • drop in pitch or loudness gestures
  • attempt suppression signals (filled pauses, gestures)

some utterances specifically create turn-yielding a situation
in particular, those utterances that occur as paired action sequences