Current speaker MAY continue
Consider the following, taken from the ongoing conversation between Kathryn, Meera and Karen.
1 Karen: it was all a bit quick
3 Karen: anyway, I took it home with me
We see that Karen has not selected the next speaker within her first turn-constructional unit in line 1 it was all a bit quick. Therefore, Rule 1 does not apply. Rule 2 would now come into play, i.e. any interlocutor could self-select as the next speaker. The transition relevance place for this is marked by the pause of 1.0 seconds in line 2 following Karen’s first utterance. However, neither of the other two interlocutors self-selects: neither Kathryn nor Meera speak. Recall that we noted that transition can take place at the end of a turn-constructional unit but that it does not have to do so. Consequently, as no other participant self-selects as the next speaker, Karen claims a right to a further turn-constructional unit and she continues after the pause in line 3 with anyway, I took it home with me. The rule governing this situation is set out as follows.
If the CURRENT SPEAKER has not selected the NEXT SPEAKER, and no other person self-selects as NEXT SPEAKER, then the CURRENT SPEAKER may continue to talk but need not do so.
The foregone analysis can, therefore be summarized diagrammatically as follows.
1 Karen: [TCU it was all a bit quick]
2 (1.0) [TRP-Rule 3]
3 Karen: [TCU anyway, I took it home with me]
Another example should make this clearer. Consider the following extract from a conversation again between three people.
1 Jane: anyway that’s what I think
3 I could be wrong
5 I don’t have a strong view
6 Anne: mm
7 Sue: yeah
In this extract it is Jane who speaks first in line 1 with the utterance anyway that’s what I think. The transition relevance place subsequent to this single turn-constructional unit is marked by the immediately following pause in line 2. This is a place where the turn at talk could alternate to one of the other participants. As Jane has not selected the next speaker within her turn Rule 1 does not apply. Rule 2 would then come into play. However, neither Anne nor Sue self-select as the next speaker and so Rule 3 now comes into play. According to this rule, as Jane did not select the next speaker, and as no other participant self-selected as next speaker, Jane can claim rights to a further turn-constructional unit. This is exactly what Jane does and she speaks next in line 3 with I could be wrong. Once more this utterance is made up of just the one turn-constructional unit and the transition relevance place is again marked by the subsequent pause of 1.5 seconds in line 4. It is evident that Jane’s line 3 utterance I could be wrong again does not select the next speaker and so Rule 1 does not apply. Rule 2 would, therefore come into play again. However, once more, neither Anne nor Sue self-select as the next speaker. So, again, Rule 3 is applied and Jane continues with her talk by claiming the rights to yet another turn-constructional unit in line 5 with I don’t have a strong view. This utterance by Jane again does not select the next speaker and so Rule 1 cannot apply. This time, however, Anne self-selects as the next speaker under Rule 2 by speaking first in line 6 with the back channel token1 mm. This utterance similarly does not select the next speaker under Rule 1 but Sue can be seen to self-select as the next speaker under Rule 2 by speaking up first in line 7 with the token yeah. This analysis may be summarized diagrammatically as follows.
1 Jane: [TCU anyway that’s what I think]
2 [TRP-Rule 3]
3 [TCU I could be wrong]
4 [TRP-Rule 3]
5 [TCU I don’t have a strong view] [TRP-Rule 2]
6 Anne: [TCU mm] [TRP-Rule 2]
7 Sue: [TCU yeah]
1. Back channel tokens are those bits of talk, marginal words and vocalisations that are “emitted by the current non-speaker, which grease the wheels of conversation but constitute no claim to take over the turn” (Tottie, 1991, p. 254). They appear to serve two functions: (1) they signal understanding and agreement with the prior talk, and (2) they encourage the current speaker to continue with his or her turn at talk. [Ref: Tottie, G. (1991). Conversational style in British and American English: The case of backchannels. In K. Aijmer, & B. Altenberg (Eds.), English corpus linguistics (pp. 254-271). London: Longman.]
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