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A SIMPLEST SYSTEMATICS FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF TURN-TAKING FOR CONVERSATION Harvey SacksEmanuel A. SchegloffGail Jefferson University of California, University of California, University ofPennsylvania IrvineLos Angeles The organization of taking turns to talk is fundamental to conversation, as well as to other speech-exchange systems. A model for the turn-taking organization for conversation is proposed, and is examined for its compatibility with a list of grossly observable facts about conversation. The results of the examination suggest that, at least, a model for turn-taking in conversation will be characterized as locally managed , party-administered, interactionally controlled, and sensitive to recipient design. Several general consequences of the model are explicated, and contrasts are sketched with turn-taking organizations for other speech-exchange systems.* 1. Introduction. Turn-taking is used for the ordering of moves in games, for allocating political office, for regulating traffic at intersections, for serving customers at business establishments, and for talking in interviews, meetings, debates, ceremonies , conversations etc.—these last being members of the set which we shall refer to as 'speech exchange systems'. It is obviously a prominent type of social organization, one whose instances are implicated in a wide range of other activities. For socially organized activities, the presence of 'turns' suggests an economy, with turns for something being valued—and with means for allocating them, which affect their relative distribution, as in economies. An investigator interested in the sociology of a turn-organized activity will want to determine, at least, the shape of the turn-taking organization device, and how it affects the distribution of turns for the activities on which it operates. For the investigator of turn-taking systems per se, it is not surprising that turntaking systems can be workably built in various ways. Since they are used to organize sorts of activities that are quite different from one another, it is of particular interest to see how operating turn-taking systems are characterizable as adapting to properties of the sorts of activities in which they operate. Again, an investigator interested in some sort of activity that is organized by a turn-taking system will want to determine how the sort of activity investigated is adapted to, or constrained by, the particular form of turn-taking system which operates on it. The subject of this report is the turn-taking system for conversation, and the foregoing are among the questions to which it will be addressed. Others have noted that the organization of taking turns at talk is one type of organization operative in conversation, and have located a range of interesting features and details of that sort of organization.1 But no account of the systematics of the organization of * An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Conference on the Sociology of Language and Theory of Speech Acts, Bielefeld, Germany, April 1973. 1 For example, Goffman 1955, 1964, 1971 ; Albert 1964; Kendon 1967; Yngve 1970; Duncan 1972a,b, 1973. Thus Goffman (1964:135-6): Card games, ball-room couplings, surgical teams in operation, and fist fights provide examples of encounters ; all illustrate the social organization of shared current orientation, and all involve an organized interplay of acts of some kind. I want to suggest that when 696 SYSTEMATICS FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF TURN-TAKING697 turn-taking for conversation is yet available. Here, on the basis of research using audio recordings of naturally occurring conversations, we attempt to characterize, in its simplest systematic form, the organization of turn-taking for conversation, and to extract some of the interest Of that organization. Aspects of the organization we call turn-taking have forced themselves on investigators of ' small-group' behavior—who, in dealing with problems concerning the distribution of talk among participants in small groups,2 or the kinds of 'acts' which form sequences in small-group sessions,3 have encountered problems conditioned in central ways by the turn-taking system, though for the most part they have not addressed them in this light. Again, students of 'interview' behavior, and such two-party conversation as approximates it in form,4 have concerned themselves with the distribution of talk among the parties, the distribution of silences, the sequences in which the talk...


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