An initial description of syntactic extensions in spoken Czech

Florence Oloff and Martin Havlík
University of Oulu | Czech Language Institute


This paper aims to describe different patterns of syntactic extensions of turns-at-talk in mundane conversations in Czech. Within interactional linguistics, same-speaker continuations of possibly complete syntactic structures have been described for typologically diverse languages, but have not yet been investigated for Slavic languages. Based on previously established descriptions of various types of extensions (Vorreiter 2003; Couper-Kuhlen & Ono 2007), our initial description shall therefore contribute to the cross-linguistic exploration of this phenomenon. While all previously described forms for continuing a turn-constructional unit seem to exist in Czech, some grammatical features of this language (especially free word order and strong case morphology) may lead to problems in distinguishing specific types of syntactic extensions. Consequently, this type of language allows for critically evaluating the cross-linguistic validity of the different categories and underlines the necessity of analysing syntactic phenomena within their specific action contexts.

Table of contents

Extensions of speaking turns beyond a point of syntactic completion by the same speaker have been of major interest to the domain of interactional linguistics for more than two decades now (Couper-Kuhlen & Ono 2007; Luke et al. 2012; Schegloff 1996). As syntactic extensions have since then been described for typologically diverse languages, continuing one’s turn by adding syntactically fitted material to it can be said to be a cross-linguistic practice. However, it has been pointed out that in order to give a more general and robust description of this grammatical practice, it should be studied within a larger variety of languages (Couper-Kuhlen & Ono 2007, 549; Ford, Fox & Thompson 2002, 33; Luke et al. 2012, 160). This paper shall contribute to a cross-linguistic investigation by providing a first, general introduction to the formats of turn extensions in Czech, a West Slavic language. Within interactional linguistics and conversation analysis, Czech has hardly been considered, whereas some interactional features of other Slavic languages such as Russian (Bolden 2008, 2016) or Polish (Ogiermann & Zinken 2011; Zinken & Ogiermann 2013) have already been described (see also the contributions in Thielemann & Kosta 2013). However, with regards to turn extensions there has been no systematic account of Slavic languages up to now, though due to their complex inflectional system and the ensuing variable word order, this language family represents an interesting domain for the study of syntax-in-interaction.

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