Turn Taking in Linguistics

This article studies significance of Turn Taking in discourse analysis.
Linguistics covers wide range of field with different approaches and different areas of investigation.e.g.phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, etc.

In recent years new branches of linguistics have developed in combination with other disciplines e.g. psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, stylistics, applied linguistics, etc.

Turn taking and adjacency pairs are studied under conversational analysis or discourse analysis, which is related to ethnomethodology and pragmatics.

Linguistic knowledge accounts for speaker’s ability to, combine phonemes into morphemes, morphemes in to words, and words in to sentences. Knowing a language also permits combining sentences to express complex thoughts and ideas. These larger linguistic units are called discourse.

Analysis of spoken discourse of spoken discourse is sometimes called conversational analysis (CA) CA attempts to describe the orderliness structure and sequential patterns of interaction whether this is institutional or casual conversation. Harvey Sacks, Emanuel Schegloff and Gail Jefferson developed CA. It studies turn taking, adjacency pairs, conversational maxims and different functions of maxims. It is concerned with the tacit rules which regulate the taking up by speakers of the running topic and hence the change over from speaker to speaker.

Turn Taking

In conversation, the roles of speaker and listener change constantly. The person who speaks first becomes a listener as soon as the person addressed takes his or her turn in the conversation by beginning to speak.

Conversations need to be organized therefore there are rules or principles for establishing who talks and then who talks next. This process is called turn taking.

The study of turn taking includes,
1.Turn constructional component
2. turn allocational component or turn taking rules
3. implicit and explicit markers.

Sacks suggested some guiding principles for the organization of turn taking in conversation. He observed that the central principle that speakers follow in taking turns is to avoid gaps and overlap in conversation.

Turn constructional component

The Turn constructional component describes out of which turns are fashioned. These basic units are called turn constructional units or TCUs. These units are grammatically, pragmatically, semantically, intonationally correct units. In a particular context they accomplish recognizable social actions TCU is a stretch on speech at the end of which another person could not start speaking.

Turn allocational component /Turn taking rules
The completion of a TCU results in a transition relevance place or TRP. At that point it is possible for another speaker to start speaking.
The rules are-
1. If the current speaker selects another speaker, that speaker must speak next.
2. If the current speaker does not select another speaker, someone may self-select as next speaker.
3. If nobody self selects, the current speaker may continue.
Sacks, Schegloffm, and Jefferson called it local management system.

Speakers themselves may signal their willingness to give up the floor in favor of another speaker (who can be nominated by current speaker only) They can do this by directing their gaze towards the next speaker and by employing characteristics gesturing patterns synchronizing with the final words. They may alter speech, speak more softly, lengthen the last syllable or use stereotypical discourse markers e.g. you know or sort of things etc. The current speaker indicates through certain markers that another person can take over. The other person may read the signals from the flow of speech, which suggest an opening is possible.

These signals or markers are of two types.
1.Implicit markers
2.Explicit markers.

Implicit markers: These are paralinguistic features such as body language and prosodic features.
e.g. falling tone and rising tone.

Explicit markers: These are linguistic features which invite a response - a)clauses-A super ordinate clause allows turn taking. A subordinate clause does not allow turn taking b)suggestion - A speaker asks for suggestion. e.g. Shall we go to picnic? c) Request - A speaker request the other person. e.g. Could you please open the door?
d) Question-A speaker asks question. e.g. What do you think?

Organization of conversation

A conversation can be viewed as a series of speech acts greetings, Inquiries, invitations requests refusals, accusations, denials, promises, and farewells. To accomplish the work of these speech acts some organization is essential.

A coherent conversation proceeds in an orderly way by a series of interaction moves with each participant having a turn to speak. However in emotional conversation, one speaker may interrupt another, this interruption is called turn stealing.

The right to speak in interaction is referred as ‘the floor’. Rules of turn taking tells us how to ‘get the floor’, to ‘hold the floor’, and to ‘give up the floor’. Getting on the floor holding the floor and giving up the floor, involves a whole series of signals some of which can be rather subtle. The most common signal that someone is ready to give up the floor is pausing. Generally the person who is speaking has the most rights over the floor. They usually can hold the floor for as long as they want, can select who will speak next and can constrain the next turn by controlling the topic.

Speakers who want to keep the turn or control the turn employ following strategies
1. They don’t pause at the end of the sentences
2. They make their sentences run on by using connectors like and, then, but so,etc .
3. They place their pauses at points where the message is clearly incomplete.
Published: 9/30/2009
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