Retrospective turn continuations in Mandarin Chinese conversation

Kang-kwong Luke and Wei Zhang


How the status of further talk past the point of a turn’s possible completion should be described, and what functions different kinds of turn continuation might serve – these are questions that have engaged many scholars since Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson’s turn-taking model (1974). In this paper, a general scheme is proposed with which one can tease out four interlocking strands in analyzing different kinds of turn continuation: Syntactic continuity vs. discontinuity, main vs. subordinate intonation, retrospective vs. prospective orientation, and information focus vs. non-focus. These parameters combine to form different configurations and interact in interesting ways, accounting for different kinds of turn continuation. The scheme is tested on, and illustrated with, a body of naturally occurring conversational data in Chinese.

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