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Karen Griffiths

on 11 November 2015

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Transcript of The MIDDLE of TALK

Considering the rules we follow in the middle of talk?
Enough of beginnings - what else?
Don't interrupt me while
I'm speaking!

Speak when you're spoken


Remember that, as with all talk, the turn-taking is affected by the context – where and when the talk is taking place, what it is about and who it is between.

1. We are taught the basics of turn taking
2. If we get turn taking wrong we are accused of being rude.

What kinds of turn taking mistakes can you think of?
One of the first rules of conversation is associated with the STRUCTURE of conversation.

TURN TAKING - When to talk, when to take a turn and what is considered 'good conversation'

Do these phrases refer to a particular age group?

Does the taking of turns depend on the context?

Consider in your groups HOW you decide when it is your turn to speak in a conversation!
Timed or Filled Pauses
Non-verbal communication – gestures
Other-related comments
Interruptions & Overlaps
Direct addresses (using someone’s name)
Without a set of acknowledged rules with regards
to turn taking, conversation would be chaotic –
interruptions, awkward silences, and simultaneous speech.

We need a set of rules to govern:
When to take a turn
Signalling that you want to speak
Holding the floor during your turn
Recognising when others want to speak
Yielding a turn
Signalling that you are listening (feedback and monitoring)
THORNBURY(2005) suggests that there are two main rules for turn taking:
Long silences are to be avoided
Listen when other speakers are speaking
What strategies do you employ to signal the above?

Direct tag questions (invite a speaker)
End of grammatical constructions
Change in voice/tone (tends to drop at the end of a conversation)
Eye contact is regained
Body language

Ever had this spat at you?
What's it all about?

If adjacency pairs are broken it can suggest an uncooperative conversation (normally for a particular reason which can be seen through the context).

(1)“Did you feel embarrassed when you fell over last night?” (utterance)
“Yes it was awful!”(expected response)

(2)“Did you feel embarrassed when you fell over last night?” (utterance)
“Er…so the weather is nice today isn’t it?”(non-expected response)

In example 1 the adjacency pair shows a cooperative conversation, in which both participants seem comfortable with each other- possibly friends who have a strong relationship.

In example 2 the adjacency pair is broken by the use of an interrogative responding to an interrogative. This is not an expected response and shows the underlying embarrassment speaker 2.
When a speaker re-introduces an old topic during their 'move' it is often a Topic Loop.

Speakers use these for a variety of reasons:
to avoid conflict and assert common, neutral ground
to gain more information about something or someone
to achieve a particular purpose

Initiating is when a speaker introduces and establishes a new topic of conversation causing a topic shift.

This can occur at any point in the exchange through:
Introducing a new topic
Reintroducing an old topic in a new way often by using phrases such as, “as I was saying”
Relating an old or earlier topic to a new one with phrases such as, “speaking of which” or “that reminds me”


Closings are the techniques used to sum up and end an exchange.

The speaker may refer to something which has nothing to do with the topic or subject matter of the exchange as a reason for ending the conversation.
The speaker may use a self or other-related comment such as, “I must get to Tesco’s before it closes,” or, “my sister is waiting for me”.
Closings are frequently repetitive.
Speakers may refer back to earlier topics to disrupt the flow of the exchange.
Formulaic utterances such as ‘anyway’ or ‘must be going’ are often used to close an exchange.


Framing is the term given to explain what a speaker does to impose structure upon an exchange or conversation.

It indicates the kind of MOVES that occur in a conversation.


Speaker Moves

Supporting is where a speaker will encourage an exchange to continue.
This may be through verbal or non-verbal communication.

Challenging is where a speaker interrupts an exchange or introduces
another topic without agreement.

Openings are the techniques used to begin an exchange.

Formulaic utterances and greetings such as ‘how are you’ and ‘good afternoon, pleased to meet you’ are commonly used.
Speakers who have an equal status often use neutral phatic openers such as talking about the weather, social greetings and offering hospitality (‘would you like a drink?’)
Speakers choose relevant and known topics to create a co-operative atmosphere.
Self-related or other-related comments are often used such as ‘I watched a brilliant film last night’.
Speakers will often address another speaker by their name to personalise the exchange and ensure the addressee is listening.


Think about how CONTEXT impacts turn taking. Can you think of 2 examples?
Each 'turn' we take is called a
When looking at a transcript see if one person opens and closes a conversation.
The taking of turns is often controlled via the use of QUESTIONS - MOST COMMONLY ADJACENCY PAIRS
The following exchanges flout the accepted rules IRF –
can you explain why?


Did you go out with John last night?
Why are you asking?
Why do you think?

What do you think of my new top?
I’m going to be late for my bus, must go!

Your tea’s on the table.
Did you hear what I said?

Look at the following initiations and add in a possible response & feedback:

What time’s the next train to Manchester?


I’ve got two tickets for that gig tonight. Do you want to go?

If you don’t stop your dog using my garden as a toilet I’m calling the police.

I bought these trousers last weekend and they’re ripped already.

I’m sorry but Mr Brookes is away today.

Stand up straight!

Identify IRF in the following exchanges:

Doctor: Are you sleeping well?
Patient: No, not at all.
Doctor: Hmmm…that could be the problem.

Parent: Have you got any credit left on your phone?
Child: Not much.
Parent: Well, we need to get you some.

Linguists suggest that there are three elements to adjacency pairs:

Response = IRF

This theory was suggested by Sinclair &

You can identify adjacency pairs because:
They are a minimum of two turns long
They follow each other
They are produced by different speakers
They have a logical connection
They conform to a pattern (e.g. question & answer)

Adjacency Pairs are the most basic unit of structure in a conversation.

Adjacency Pairs

The use of questioning as part of turn taking can be useful when establishing how far talk is CO-OPERATIVE.
Let's think about interruptions...
Talk in Life: Thinking about interruptions.
Quickly write down a couple of lines about something that really interested you over the weekend or last week.

Now read this out to the person sitting next to you (person B). Person B should interrupt them mid sentence with a question or comment.
Now swap over!
How was your interruption received? Did you feel that it was valuable to interrupt?
Question for Person A
Question for Person B
Excuse me….
How did the interruption affect
what you were saying? Was it helpful?
In pairs, discuss and write down answers to the following questions:
1. List three reasons why you might interrupt someone.
2. Give two examples of a context when you might expect to be interrupted.
3. Why do we interrupt people when we speak?
4. What makes an interruption polite or impolite?
5.a) How would a writer detail an interruption in a dialogue in a piece of literature?
5b)What might their purpose be?
1. List three reasons why you might interrupt someone. To add something to what they’re saying, because you strongly agree or disagree, because you’re trying to undermine or praise them.

2. Give two examples of a context when you might expect to be interrupted. If you’re delivering a presentation, in a classroom.

3. Why do we interrupt people when we speak? It depends on the context-There are many reasons: to agree, disagree, be polite, to disconcert them.
What makes an interruption polite or impolite? It’s sometimes dependent on the intention of the interrupter (are they undermining? Giving praise?). It depends on how well you know the person and para-linguistics (tone of voice, body language) and what the other person deems polite and impolite.

How would a writer detail an interruption in a dialogue in a piece of literature? Phrases such as ‘excuse me’, breaking off mid sentence, having a character interrupt.

What might their purpose be? It could be any of the reasons listed in question 3.
How do we use this?
Look at Jan 2013 again.
What is there to say about turn taking and interruptions?
Do you know what the above all are? Discuss...
How is the talk developed?
Is there more than one topic?
What interactional features are used? Consider whether these fit the topic, the situation and the speakers.(turn taking, interruptions etc)
How is the talk framed? What does this convey? Is it what you expect?
Think about what spoken language theories are evident within your texts.
Consider the language used – is there jargon, a semantic field, gender bias?
How do the speakers achieve their purposes? What interactional features do they use?
How does the writer achieve his/her purpose?

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