Predicting conversational turns: Signers’ and non-signers’ sensitivity to language-specific and globally accessible cues
De Vos, C., Casillas, M., Uittenbogert, T., Crasborn, O., & Levinson, S. C.
Predicting conversational turns: Signers’ and non-signers’ sensitivity to language-specific and globally accessible cues. Language, 98
(1), 35-62. doi:10.1353/lan.2021.0085.
Precision turn-taking may constitute a crucial part of the human endowment for communication. If so, it should be implemented similarly across language modalities, as in signed vs. spoken language. Here in the first experimental study of turn-end prediction in sign language, we find support for the idea that signed language, like spoken language, involves turn-type prediction and turn-end anticipation. In both cases, turns eliciting specific responses like questions accelerate anticipation. We also show remarkable cross-modality predictive capacity: non-signers anticipate sign turn-ends surprisingly well. Finally, we show that despite non-signers’ ability to intuitively predict signed turn-ends, early native signers do it much better by using their access to linguistic signals (here, question markers). As shown in prior work, question formation facilitates prediction, and age of sign language acquisition affects accuracy. The study thus sheds light on the kind of features that may facilitate turn-taking universally, and those that are language-specific.