Next speaker self-selects
So far, we have only considered examples where the current speaker selects the next speaker within his or her turn at talk, either by nominating the person or by using specific questions (e.g. requests for clarification). However, there will always be instances when the current speaker does not select the next speaker. In instances such as these, any participant in the conversation may self-select as the next speaker. Usually, it is the first person to speak who gains the right to the next turn at talk.
This rule of turn allocation may be stated as follows.
If the CURRENT SPEAKER does not select the NEXT SPEAKER in his or her turn at talk, then any other person may self-select as the NEXT SPEAKER. The first person to speak gains the right to the next turn.
Consider the following extract.
1 Karen: so that’s what happened
2 Kathryn: have you seen that film Meera?
3 Meera: no
In this sequence, Karen, as the current speaker in line 1, does not specifically select the next speaker during her turn-constructional unit. As a consequence, any participant has the right to claim the next turn at talk. In this instance it is Kathryn who speaks first in line 2. Therefore, she claims the right to the next turn at talk by uttering have you seen that film Meera? Interestingly, Kathryn subsequently nominates the next speaker during her turn-constructional unit, i.e. Meera. It is, therefore, relevant under Rule 1 that Meera should speak next, which she does in line 3 with the answer no. In summary, we see how the current speaker, Karen, chooses not to select the next speaker in the conversation and how Kathryn claims the right to the next turn at talk by speaking up first at the transition relevance place at the end of Karen’s turn-constructional unit. The above analysis may, therefore, be summarized as follows.
1 Karen: [TCU so that’s what happened] [TRP-Rule 2]
2 Kathryn: [TCU have you seen that film Meera?] [TRP-Rule 1]
3 Meera: [TCU no]
A further example should make the application of this turn allocation rule clearer. Consider the following extract from the same conversation.
1 Kathryn: well, I thought the Brit Awards were brill
3 Karen David’s coming tomorrow
4 Meera did you miss him?
5 Karen: yeah
Once again, Kathryn speaks first in line 1 with an utterance made up of just one turn-constructional unit well, I thought the Brit Awards were brill. It is evident that she does not select the next speaker within this turn. Consequently, Rule 1 does not apply but Rule 2 comes into play. We know that, under Rule 2, if the current speaker does not select the next speaker then any other person may self-select as the next speaker. There is actually a slight pause in line 2 after Kathryn’s utterance but then Karen speaks first in line 3. She has, therefore, selected herself as the next speaker and the turn at talk transfers to her. Karen’s utterance is also made up of just one turn-constructional unit David’s coming tomorrow. Once more we see that, like Kathryn before her, she has not selected the next speaker within her turn. Again, therefore, Rule 1 does not apply and Rule 2 comes into play once more. As a consequence, any other person in the conversation can self-select as the next speaker, with the one who speaks first gaining the right to the next turn. In this instance, it is Meera who speaks first in line 4 with the utterance did you miss him? Now, this utterance is framed as a question and it can be seen as being specifically directed to Karen, as it was Karen who had made the immediately prior utterance. In this instance, therefore, Rule 1 has come back into play, as the current speaker has selected the next speaker. It is relevant, therefore, that Meera should stop speaking at the end of her turn-constructional unit and that the selected speaker should speak at the first available transition relevance place. We see that Rule 1 is, in fact, followed and that Karen speaks next in line 5 with the affirmation yeah. This analysis may be summarized as follows.
1 Kathryn: [TCU well, I thought the Brit Awards were brill]
2 [TRP-Rule 2]
3 Karen [TCU David’s coming tomorrow] [TRP-Rule 2]
4 Meera [TCU did you miss him?] [TRP-Rule 1]
5 Karen: [TCU yeah]
To summarize, we have seen how the end of a turn-constructional unit is a possible point for interlocutors to change over, i.e. for the current speaker to become a current listener and a current listener to become the current speaker. So far, we have examined two means of managing this transition: (1) by selecting the next speaker under Rule 1, and (2) by a interlocutor self-selecting under Rule 2. We have noted, however, that whilst interlocutors may alter roles at these transition relevance places they do not necessarily do so, nor do they have to do so. In order to explain turn allocation in instances where neither the next speaker is selected nor anyone self-selects as the next speaker we must invoke another rule.
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