Prosodies in the management of turn-taking

Richard Ogden
Department of Language & Linguistic Science, University of York
YORK YO10 5DD, England,

The term ‘prosody’ in modern phonology goes back at least to Hjelmslev & Uldall (1934), and Firth (1948). In those theories, ‘prosody’ is defined by function and domain, not by phonetic extent.

>From lecture notes taken by Elizabeth Anderson (1938-9):

“Phonetics—study of social actions.”
“You can only study [the individual’s] activity in relation to the system which he tends to construct and maintain in function.”
“You’ve got to find the values of the elements you analyse out. To be interpreted from the point of view of the person whose values they are and who’s performing the action.”

Interactional linguistics offers us a way of seeing how phonetics relates to action; it makes it possible to set up systems of contrast related to interactional function; it provides a way of interpreting what phoneticians call ‘spontaneous’ data in a way that doesn’t rely on the analyst’s intuitions.

1. Creak turn-finally. (Extracts 1-3)
The ends of TCUs in Finnish are commonly marked with creaky voice. It is possible to show speakers’ and listeners’ orientation to this.

Table 1.
Placement of creak turn-finally followed by change of speaker.

Turns marked with final creak.
n = 82 Not in first syllable of word In first syllable of word
After voiceless obstruent
42 (51%) 14 (17%)
(/p, t, k, s/)
Not after voiceless obstruent 15 (18%) 11 (13%)

2. Rhythmic stretches. (Extracts 4-6)
Another common device is the deployment of very rhythmical pieces. This work is more speculative at the moment. Rhythmic pieces often seem to occur after some kind of problem in the course of a second pair part. They are often characterised by other ‘poetic’ devices like repetition of words, alliteration, puns, ‘singing’ intonation.

Extract 1
Maajussin tytär 2/20-26

20 C ?oon:´ ?oon kyllä hh maajussin tyt:ärenä
be-1SG be-1SG certainly peasant-GEN daughter-ESS
I was I was of course

{C} {C--------------------}{f}
21 Æ kirj{a}mmellises(*) synt{yny ja kasvanu ^j}{a}=
literal-ADV be born-PPC and grow-PPC and
literally born and brought up as a peasant’s daughter and

22 P =.hhh

23 no kerrotko sitte kaikile kuulijoille että
PRT tell-2SG-QCLI then all-PL-ALL listener-PL-ALL COMP
well why don’t you tell all the listeners then what

24 {C} {C-}{W-}
Æ mikä tää sun t{o}iv{e:}{on}
what this 2SG-GEN wish is
your request is

25 ?? .hh

26 C {C-}
nii se on semmone kun maatalouskoneet muist{aa}kseni
PRT it is such as farm-machine-PL remember-INF1-TRA-1SGPOS
yeah, it’s something with farm machines as far as I remember

Extract 2

Äijö 1/1-5

1 P {C-}
onkos meillä nyt Liisa Johanss{on}
is=QCLI=CLI 1PL-ADE now name name
do we now have Liisa Johansson

2 C kyllä on [h
certainly is
you certainly do

3 P {C------}
on the line

4 {C--}
tervet:uloa muk{aan}.
welcome-PART with
welcome to the programme

5 C {H-}
thank you

Extract 3
Pelimanni poika 1/14-16.
14 P {C-}
mikäs siihen liitt{yy}.
what it-ILL connect-3SG
what is connected to that ((choice))

15 Æ {all------ ------{C,p-----------}
{mitä:[p|] (.) mitä t{u[lee mieleen}].
what what come-3SG mind-ILL
what what comes to mind

16 C [no sii]hen- siihen liittyy
PRT it-ILL it-ILL connect-3SG
well it’s- it’s connected with…

Extract 4
puhelinlangat laulaa/020600/15

P ((details of the record))

1 P hyvää jatkoa teille kaikille kolmelle?
good-PAR continuation-PAR 2PL-ALL all-PL-ALL three-ALL
a good evening to all three of you


2 P ja sille haikaralle kans
and 3SG-ALL crane-ALL with
and to that crane as well

3 C kuule meit o v:iis
listen 1PL-PAR be-3SG five
actually there’s five of us

4 P ai teitä o v:iis=
PRT 2PL-PAR be-£SG five
oh, there’s five of you

5 C =niih

6 P mut nyt ei oo enää aikaa jutella tästä
but now NEG be longer time-PAR chat-INF1 this-ELA
but now we’ve no time left to chat about this

7 nä[in on]
thus be-3SG
that’s right

8 C [no nii]
oh right

9 P jää [sal]laisuudeksi keitä ne muut on
stay-3SG secret-TRA who-PL-PAR 3PL other-PL be-3SG
it’ll stay a secret who the others are

10 C [joo]

11 P hei

12 C no hei

Extract 5
voix bulgares/59-76
(Only the relevant parts given in Finnish, to make it easier to read.)

59 P have you ever heard them live
60 C no, just on the radio
61 P I think that these Bulgarian women singers have influenced
62 Finnish singers’ way of thinking, haven’t they Pia
63 P2 right, I have myself in one or two singing groups where we’ve
64 tried sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully this
65 Bulgarian singing style
66 but of these Bulgarian groups
67 I mean, if you’re interested then my definite favourites are
68 among others Trio Bulgarka

69 {C-}{W--}
onks sulle tuttu täm{mö}{nen}h
be-3SG-QCLI 2SG-ALL known this-kind-of
have you heard of them

70 C ei o
NEG be
no I haven’t

71 (0.8)

72 P2 {C---}
siin on kolme mahtavaa t{ätii} jotka laulaa
3SG-INE be-3SG three powerful-PAR aunt-PAR which-PL sing-3SG
there’s three powerful old ladies that sing

73 {C}{tense-------------}
mahtavalla /äänellä maht{a}{via sovituksia}
powerful-ADE voice-ADE powerful-PL-PAR arrangement-PL-PAR
in a powerful voice powerful pieces

74 C [mmm]

75 P2 [.hh] ja sitte toinen on bulgarkan junior kvartet
and then another be-3SG name-GEN name name
and then another is Bulgarka Junior Quartet

((4 more lines about this group))
C how do you say this mystery choil- choir in Finnish

Extract 6
1 A Jackie looked up
2 hey that was the same spot we took off for Honolulu
3 (0.4)
4 where they put him on
5 (0.6)
6 at that chartered pla[ce
7 B [oh really?


Jørgen Rischel (1992): phonology has so far been based on “very exaggerated idealisations of speech and exaggerated idealisations about the power of rule machinery as the format in which to take care of variation”.

There’s more to ‘prosody’ than intonation: participants in interactional talk use other phonetic resources in eg. the management of turn-taking. A satisfactory linguistic statement needs to take into account factors such as lexical choice, phonological structure and syntactic structure. Linguistic phoneticians need start to make sense of real talk, rather than just specially elicited material; we have to observe patterns of variability, but we will also need to work out what linguistic and interactional mechanisms drive that variability.


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Transcription conventions.

Transcriptions are given on several lines. The basic transcription is a modified orthography, with occasional phonetic details included. More detailed phonetic information is provided above the line. A gloss is provided below the line in courier italics (derivational morphemes not included), and a free translation in Times font below that. Underlining is used on the orthographic line to mark accented syllables.

^ unexpectedly high pitch
. low final pitch
? high final pitch
; non-low final pitch
- word cut off abruptly
: lengthening
(.) pause (<.> c. 0.2s)
(0.5) measured pause of 0.5s
h exhalation
.h inhalation
( ) transcriber uncertainty
(( )) transcriber’s comment
[ start of talk in overlap
] end of talk in overlap
= immediate start/end of turn
Æ relevant line in the extract
{ start of extent
} end of extent
C creak
W whispery
H voiceless
all faster than surrounding talk
l slower than surrounding talk
f louder than surrounding talk
p quieter than surrounding talk

Principles of glossing.
(Conventions adapted from Marja-Leena Sorjonen’s work, eg. Sorjonen 1996.) The following forms are treated as unmarked and not indicated in the glossing: (i) nominative (ii) singular (iii) active voice (iv) present tense (v) 2SG imperative.

ablative ABL off,from
accusative ACC object
adessive ADE at, on
allative ALL on to, to, for
essive ESS as
genitive GEN possession, object, subject
elative ELA out of, about
illative ILL into, for
inessive INE in
instructive INS with, by
nominative NOM subject, object
partitive PAR ‘some’, subject, object
translative TRA new state

1 first person
2 second person
3 third person
4 impersonal
ADJ adjective
ADV adverb
CLI clitic
COM comparative
CON conditional
IMP imperative
INF(1-4) infinitive (one of four forms)
NEG negation (= auxiliary verb)
PAS passive
PC participle
PL plural
POS possessive suffix
PPC past participle
PPPC passive past participle
PRT particle
PST past tense
Q interrogative
SG singular
SUP superlative


This work was supported by a grant from the Academy of Finland (Suomen Akatemia). Thanks are due to Marja-Leena Sorjonen, Auli Hakulinen, and members of the group working on spoken interaction at the University of Helsinki and the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotimaisten Kielten Tutkimuskeskus) for their help, support and enthusiasm; and to Traci Curl, Paul Foulkes, John Local, Marja-Leena Sorjonen, and Bill Wells for comments on earlier drafts of the paper.