Listener response

Deng Xudong
Table of contents

The conversational phenomenon of listener response has attracted a great deal of attention during the past five decades from such diverse scholarly disciplines as linguistics, conversation analysis, (cross-cultural) communication studies, sociolinguistics, and experimental and social psychology. A number of terms have been used to describe this kind of listener behaviour, including ‘signals of continued attention’ (Fries 1952), ‘recognition’ (Rosenfeld 1966, 1967), ‘concurrent feedback’ (Krauss & Weinheimer 1966), ‘accompaniment signals’ (Kendon 1967), ‘listener responses’ (Dittmann & Llewellyn 1967, 1968; Bavelas, Coates, & Johnson 2002), ‘assent terms’ (Schegloff 1968; Leet-Pellegrini 1980), ‘back channels’ or ‘backchannel responses’ (Yngve 1970; Duncan 1972, 1973; Duncan & Niederehe 1974; Duncan & Fiske 1977, 1985; Ward & Tsukahara, 2000; Cutrone 2005; Li, 2006), ‘encourager’ (Edelsky 1981), ‘continuers’ (Schegloff 1982), ‘limited feedback’ (Kraut, Lewis, & Swezey 1982), ‘responsive listener cues’ (Miller, Lechner, & Rugs 1985), ‘minimal responses’ (Fishman 1978; DeFrancisco 1991; Bennett & Jarvis 1991), ‘reactive tokens’ (Clancy et al. 1996; Young & Lee 2004), ‘acknowledgment tokens’ (Jefferson 1984, 1983/1993; Drummond & Hopper 1993a, 1993c), ‘receipt tokens’ (Heritage 1984), ‘response tokens’ (Gardner 2001, 2007) and ‘project makers’ (Bangerter, Clark, & Katz 2004). For the sake of generality and easy comprehensibility, the term ‘listener response’ is used in this paper to refer to the verbal and nonverbal behaviours of a listener in response to his or her co-conversationalist’s talk.

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