Visualization of Gestures in Conversational Turn-Taking-Situations 15.06.1998
2.3. Turn taking cues
While a number of studies have dealt with various behaviours which may be part of the turn-taking mechanism, only DUNCAN (1972) has dealt directly with it in its entirety. Taking an inductive approach, DUNCAN observed interactions, and then described the behaviour that accompanied speaking- role changes.

According to DUNCAN, in conversation we use turn-yielding cues, back-channel cues, and turn-maintaining cues. WIEMANN / KNAPP (1975) also identified turn-requesting cues.

2.3.1. Turn-yielding cues
Turn-yielding cues are used by speakers to let the listener know that they have finished what they want to say and that someone else may speak. The display of a turn-yielding cue does not require the auditor to take the floor; he may remain silent or reinforce the speaker with a back-channel cue. If the turn-taking mechanism is operating properly, the auditor will take his turn in response to a turn-yielding cue emitted by the speaker, and the speaker will immediately yield his turn.12

DUNCAN (1972) identified six turn-yielding cues in conversation.13 Five are verbal or paralinguistic and transmitted via the auditory channel. These include:

A) intonation: the use of any pitch-level-terminal juncture combination other than at the end of a phonemic clause refers to a phonemic clause ending on a sustainded intermediate pitch level

B) drawl on the final syllable, or on the stressed syllable, of a terminal clause

C) sociocentric sequences: the appearance of one of several stereotyped expressions, typically following a substantive statement, e.g. "but ah", "you know", etc.

D) pitch / loudness: a drop in paralinguistic pitch and / or loudness in con- junction with one of the sociocentric sequences. When used, these expres- sions typically followed a terminal clause, but did not often share the same paralanguage

E) syntax: the completion of a grammatical clause involving a subject-predicate combination.14

The sixth turn-yielding cue involves gesticulation and is therefore transmitted via the visual channel.

2.3.2. Back-channel cues
Back-channel cues are used by listeners to indicate that they do not wish to talk even though the speaker is displaying turn-yielding cues. So, the listener stays in his or her position when there is an opportunity to become the speaker. Vocal cues appropriate for this purpose include reinforcers (e.g., "Mm", "Oh"), completion of a sentence by the listener, or requests for clarification.15 There are also non-verbal cues to be found, for example, postural shifts, head nods or, hand gestures.

2.3.3. Turn-maintaining cues
Turn-maintaining cues, in which speaking-turn claims are suppressed, are used by speakers to keep their speaking turn. Although hand gestures may constitute the most important nonverbal behaviour for this purpose, some vocal cues may be used alone or may accompany hand gestures. These vocal cues include increased changes in volume and rate of speech in response to turn-requesting cues from listeners. Using more filled pauses (with some form of vocalization, e.g., "Ah...") than silent or unfilled pauses is a useful method of turn-maintaining.16

2.3.4. Turn-requesting cues
Turn-requesting consists of the display of one or more of a number of verbal or nonverbal cues by the listener. If the turn-taking mechanism is functioning correctly, the speaker should relinquish the speaking role upon completion of the thought unit he is communicating at the time the request is made.17

Turn-requesting is more frequently accomplished by simultaneous talking. Buffers and reinforcers are also used.

Buffers are short words or phrases that are content-free and more or less stereotypical and that either precede or follow substantive statements (e.g., "but uh", "you know"). Buffers generally constitute a clear attempt by the auditor to get the floor. Occasionally, the buffers are uttered while the speaker is talking; but more often they are uttered while the speaker is silent, either during a pause or after the speaker has clearly ended his utterance. In the second case they seem to be a signal by the listener that he is ready to talk; the buffers allow the other participant time to attend to the new speaker before he begins his part. The use of buffers by the listener at this point may also constitute a signal to the speaker that he has accepted the speaker´s offer of the floor.18

Stutter starts are similar to buffers but may reveal a stronger demand to speak than buffers. Stutter starts are also likely to be used if the speaker has had the floor for fifteen to twenty seconds or if the speaker pauses longer than usual.19

  © 1998, Ulrich Grün, Detmold