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“Can I say something?”: Meta turn-taking in natural talk

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JournalPragmatics and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 2017
DatePublished (current) - 31 Jul 2017
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)161-182
Original languageEnglish


In English the organization of talk into turns is routinely accomplished through a complex system of implicit, non-lexical cues. However, explicit verbalizations, such as “I haven’t finished” or “Can I say something?” do exist. This paper investigates instances in which participants employ meta formulations to structure their interaction. It describes their forms, sequential locations and interactional relevance. Speakers are found to make meta references to turn beginnings, both their own and those of others; and turn completions, typically by others. Meta turn-taking actions are used as a last resort, after other, implicit turn-taking strategies have failed; as a strategy to secure turn space; as a way of eliciting specific next actions; as a practice for initiating repair; and as a more general strategy for committing to a specific course of action.

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