What does an interruption sound like?
- Taking turns is fundamental to conversation. When people participate in a conversation, they alternate between moments of speaking and not speaking, and generally, only one person at a time claims the role of speaker. It has long been argued that attempting to avoid moments where two or more people speak at the same time is a universal norm for conversation with both cognitive and social motivations. Despite this, moments of simultaneous, overlapping speech are relatively common in everyday conversation and can occur without diminishing comprehensibility or violating social norms. This has provoked a great deal of research which asks: When is it acceptable for more than one person to speak at the same time, and when is it disruptive? In other words, when does overlapping speech constitute an interruption? I argue that the answer to this question is inherently subjective and influenced by a person's own conversational style. Moreover, because conversation participants take turns carrying out actions which extend beyond the scope of a single speaking turn—such as telling a story or solving a problem—I argue that speakers can interrupt by disrupting the completion of such an action, even when they do not speak at the same time as another person. This dissertation uses a large-scale social perception experiment to analyze how listeners come to the interpretation that an interruption has occurred in conversation. I find that listeners perceived speakers to be interrupting when they overlapped with their interlocutors for an extended period of time while also using louder voice and faster speaking rate. However, these perceptions varied depending on the listeners' own conversational styles and were more heavily influenced by the pragmatic relations between speaking turns than even the degree of overlap between turns. Based on these findings, I argue that, rather than being an objectively measurable property of the speech signal, interruptions are subjective and context-dependent interpretations about who has the right to speak at a particular moment in time about a particular topic.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Degree committee member
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, Department of Linguistics.
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of Linguistics.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2018.
- © 2018 by Katherine Marie Hilton
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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