Jack Sidnell
Table of contents

Whenever people talk together, problems of hearing, speaking and understanding are pervasive. Troubles of speaking arise, for instance, when a speaker uses the wrong word or cannot find the exact word they want. Troubles of hearing arise when a hearer cannot make out what the speaker has said. Troubles of understanding arise within a wide variety of circumstances – when, for instance, the hearer does not recognize a particular word used, does not know who or what is being talked about, or cannot parse the grammatical structure of an utterance. When conversationalists encounter such troubles they have recourse to a “repair mechanism.” For example, if a speaker says that they are going to have a siesta, someone might respond by saying “a what?” The first speaker could then repair the reference either by repeating some portion of the original utterance (e.g. “a siesta”) or by substituting another word (e.g. “a nap”).

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