Gaps in Conversation
Delay in applying turn-taking rules
Silence in conversation is differentially assigned according to the application or non-application of the turn allocation rules outlined above.
So, for example, gaps in conversations occur prior to the application of either Rule 2 (next speaker self-selects) or Rule 3 (current speaker may continue). Consider the following.
1 Graeme: seems strange to me
3 Brian: I wouldn’t have thought so
In this sequence, Graeme does not select the next speaker in his line 1 utterance seems strange to me. Consequently, Rule 1 (current speaker selects the next speaker) does not apply and Rule 2 (next speaker self-selects) comes into play. In this instance, Brian does indeed self-select as next speaker under Rule 2 with the utterance I wouldn’t have thought so in line 3. Notice that this utterance is preceded by a silence of 1.5 seconds duration (line 2). This silence is, therefore, interpretable as a delay before the subsequent application of Rule 2, i.e. it is a gap in the conversation.
Similarly, gaps may result from delays in the application of Rule 3 (current speaker may continue). Reconsider the brief interaction between Karen, Meera and Kathryn that was introduced earlier.
1 Karen: it was all a bit quick
3 Karen: but I took it home with me
4 Meera: why did you do that?
Here, we see that Karen does not select the next speaker within her first turn-constructional unit in line 1 it was all a bit quick. Therefore, Rule 1 (current speaker selects the next speaker) does not apply and Rule 2 (next speaker self-selects) again comes into play. Consequently, any participant could now self-select as the next speaker. However, neither Kathryn nor Meera take up a turn at talk and so Rule 3 now comes into play, i.e. the current speaker may continue. In fact, after a delay of 1.0 seconds (line 2) Karen chooses to continue talking, claiming rights to a further turn-constructional unit (but I took it home with me in line 3). The silence of 1.0 seconds is also, therefore, interpretable as a gap in the conversation: this time, owing to a delay in the application of Rule 3.
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