International Pragmatics Association

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference participation


This paper examines how clicks – a vocal but not verbal practice – are used in the projection and delivery of certain actions in English. As sound objects (Reber 2012), clicks sit on the margin of what is typically considered to be linguistic. Their semiosis is complex. At their least linguistic, they are vegetative sounds produced as a speaker prepares to talk (Scobbie, Schaeffler & Mennen 2011, Ogden 2013); iconically they are used to project talk by marking incipient speakership (Wright 2011, Ogden 2013, Kendrick & Torreira 2015). At their most linguistic, clicks can be produced with apparently deliberate phonetic features like accompanying nasalisation, lip rounding, or repetition. These clicks are grammaticised or lexicalised practices whose meaning is arbitrary, language- and sequence-specific, and they bear affective meaning. The analysis is based on a collection of over 200 clicks from a corpus of American English phone calls, and c. 7 hr of conversation, and focuses on ‘linguistic’ clicks, where iconic interpretations are least available, and where it is hardest to invoke iconic interpretations based on ‘preparations for speaking’: clicks post-positioned after a TCU; multiple clicks; and standalone clicks in the place of a full responsive TCU with verbal content. I will explore how these clicks relate to pre-turn clicks in affective displays. The role of clicks in action formation is complex and often ambiguous, partly because of their minimal form, and also because their simplest, most iconic function is turn projection. Often, the best conclusion one can reach is that ‘deliberate’ clicks express an affective stance that is ambiguous, and that for participants this ambiguity is a useful resource: clicks provide a way for speakers to express something that they are not easily accountable for.
PeriodJul 2017
Event typeConference
Conference number15
LocationBelfast, United KingdomShow on map


  • conversation analysis
  • clicks
  • emotion
  • affect