2.1 How Talk is Organised 1: Turn-taking


Let’s start with some facts about turn-taking. Sacks (1974: 700-701) ‘Simplest Systematics’

• Overwhelmingly, in conversation, there seems to be only one-speaker-at-a-time (there is relatively little overlap)
• Overwhelmingly, there are very few pauses between one speaker and the next
• In the case of many participants, turns at talk are smoothly taken without any pre-specified ‘queue’.

In this module, we are going to see how this is possible.

First, we will look at the ‘building blocks’ of a turn of talk (a turn-constructional unit). We will then see how these blocks come together in the turn-taking system. Finally, we’ll look at the consequences of this system such as when speakers talk at the same time, what this does, and how that’s fixed.