Support and evidence for considering local contingencies in studying and transcribing silence in conversation

Israel Berger


Using a conversation analytic methodology, this report looks at conversations in English in which lengthy silences are regularly present. These silences are treated as unproblematic in this corpus. They apparently deviate from the proposals that gaps are minimized (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson 1974) and that there is a standard maximum silence of one second (Jefferson, 1988). This is discussed in light of context and culture. Then the robustness of some features of the organisation of sequences (Schegloff 2007) and turn- taking (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson 1974) are considered. Finally, solutions are compared for rendering lengthy silences in such a way that their meaning is preserved in conversation analytic transcripts or others that include timed silences.

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