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Speech rhythm across turn transitions in cross-cultural talk-in-interaction

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Pragmatics
DatePublished - Apr 2010
Issue number4
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)1037-1059
Original languageEnglish


Research in conversation analysis has shown that speech rhythm is a relevant parameter for turn-taking amongst native speakers of British English. Not only is individual participants’ speech rhythmically structured, but rhythmic patterns also continue across speaker transitions. Participants employ such rhythmic integration as an interactional resource. By rhythmically integrating next turns into prior turns they display conversational alignment with previous speakers, whereas non-integration is treated as noticeable and non-default. British English has a tendency towards stress-timing, that is, stressed syllables occur at roughly regular intervals in time, with great variation in syllable duration. This paper investigates whether cross-transitional speech rhythm also occurs when speakers of primarily syllable-timed languages, whose syllable duration is less varied, are in conversation with speakers of primarily stress-timed languages. Do speakers of syllable-timed backgrounds integrate their turns rhythmically into the stress-timed pattern? If so, how are those continuations realised? The data show that rhythmic patterns are indeed continued across speaker transitions, however, only in up to half of all turn transitions, and predominantly only for the first stressed syllable of the turn. This suggests that incoming speakers of the syllable-timed language initially comply with the tendency towards rhythmic alignment before continuing ‘in their own time’

    Research areas

  • Turn-taking, Speech rhythm, Prosody, Intercultural communication, Conversation analysis, English as a lingua franca

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