Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


3 February 2021

Is conversation built for two? The partitioning of social interaction

Presented By Professor Tanya Stivers, as part of a Discourse And Rhetoric Group (DARG) seminar hosted by the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture (CRCC)

About this event

Conversation is flexible enough to be conducted with varying numbers of individuals, but most conversation is dyadic. Is the prevalence of dyadic focal participation frameworks facilitated by structures of conversation? Using video recordings of spontaneous naturally occurring conversations, I explore multi-person interactions focusing on how structures of turn-taking, sequence organization, story-telling, and speaker gaze facilitate or inhibit the inclusion of multiple individuals in conversation. As I show, because our system favors dyadic participation through turn-allocation and sequence organization, sustaining focal triadic or multi-party participation frameworks requires more interactional work than sustaining a dyadic focal participation framework. However, serially dyadic participation which keeps dyads shifting, and story and joke telling, facilitates the participation of multiple individuals. Although conversational structures can be adapted to partition focal participation as dyadic or multi-party on a moment-by-moment basis, the structures generally facilitate dyadic focal participation. Data are in American English.

Contact details

  • Questions about this event? Contact the DARG co-ordinators