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What people do when conversation lapses into silence

It’s common in conversation for some topic to come to an end, and then for silence to emerge in the place where someone could have said something more. These silences are lapses, and they come about when all interactants pass up the chance to speak. Elliott Hoey will defend his thesis on this topic, 25 September 2017 at 10:30am in the Aula of Radboud University.
What people do when conversation lapses into silence

People treat silences as particular kinds of objects. If someone pauses in the middle of their sentence, then we know that they’re probably going to continue speaking after the silence. Or if there’s a gap of silence after an invitation, then we know that that silence likely portends something other than acceptance of the invitation. Lapses are a different sort of silence; they occur when there is nothing in particular that’s supposed to come next. The chief concern of Hoey’s PhD research is what this sort of object is for the participants who, by virtue of not speaking, allow them to develop.

Using a range of English-language audio and video recordings of actual social settings, Hoey systematically collected over 500 lapses and analyzed them using a combination of qualitative (Conversation Analysis) and quantitative methods. Over four empirical studies, Hoey described the range of circumstances that precede lapses, the sorts of verbal and embodied conduct observed during lapses, and the types of utterances that speakers use when ending a lapse and restarting talk. As an empirical contribution to studies of social interaction, his research provides a way to connect the orderly world of conversation interaction to others modes of participation in the social world.

Elliott was born in Houston, Texas, and went on to study biology and linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. After completing his undergraduate degree, he taught English for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan. He earned his master’s degree in linguistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, after which he joined the Language and Cognition Department at the MPI through a fellowship from the International Max Planck Research School for the Language Sciences..

The defense will be streamed live online on the 25  September at 10:30am:

www.ru.nl/aula/livestream

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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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