Towards a model of turn-taking in conservation
A central feature of conversation is that people take it in turns to speak. Typically speaker-listener roles are exchanged in a smooth and orderly fashion, with little or no gap or overlap. To date, within psychology only one comprehensive model of turn-taking has been proposed (Duncan, 1972). This model is cue based and suggests that discrete cues are responsible for the smooth management of conversation. There are, however, a number of fundamental shortcomings in the methodological and conceptual analysis that underpins this model. The aim of this thesis was to address these shortcomings for they have broader implications for our understanding of the turn exchange process. The methodology employed involved both the qualitative and quantitative micro-analysis of conversational data. To test the general significance of this analysis a more experimental approach, involving subjects judgements about particular sections of conversation, was employed. In order to put the generality question to the test, the investigations were based on different types of conversations - face-to-face conversations involving agreement and disagreement and telephone conversations involving travel enquiries and directory enquiries. The research carried out in this thesis has demonstrated that a wider range of information is exploited for turn-taking purposes than previously thought. The turn-taking cues Duncan identified could not provide an adequate explanation of how a smooth exchange of turns was actualised at a particular location. Two judgement studies demonstrated that whilst some conversations were managed by discrete cues as Duncan had suggested, others were not. Further investigations provided evidence that certain aspects of verbal content provide higher order and local information that is important for turn-taking. These investigations thus demonstrated that a cue based model of turn-taking is inadequate and emphasize the need for future work to provide precise explanations about how contextual factors are exploited in this process.