Abstract Pat Healey 8th May 2014

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Studies of the use of non-speech signals in communication have conventionally focused on the use of gesture or expression to aid either the communication of semantic content e.g. through iconic or metaphoric gestures and pantomime expressions or to aid the process of communication such as turn holding or yielding gestures or using nods to provide backchannels.

This talk will explore the extent to which the distribution of non-speech communicative signals is associated with miscommunication. More specifically, it examines the association of nods and gestures with the different conversation analytic categories of repair. We describe two corpora of conversations, one triadic and one dyadic, that have been motion captured using an optical marker based system, transcribed and coded for repair types. We then compare the frequency of nods and gestures in turns involving repairs with ‘ordinary’ turns.

The results suggest that non-speech signals by both speakers and their listeners appear to be strongly associated with the occurrence of position one self-repairs in which a speaker may repeat or substitute a word mid-turn (also sometimes referred to as ‘disfluencies’) and with clarification requests (position two repair initiations) and their answers. These effects are consistent with the idea that non-speech resources such as gestures and nods are of greatest value to communication at the points where inter-subjectivity is threatened. They also underline the fundamentally collaborative nature of conversation since both speaker and listener respond strongly to the speaker’s troubles.


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