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Turn-taking strategies in Vietnamese and English casual conversations

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VNU Journal of Science, Foreign Languages 27 (2011) 22-29

Turn-taking strategies
in Vietnamese and English casual conversations
Nguyen Thi Mai Huu*
Faculty of English, University of Languages and International Studies,
Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Pham Van Dong Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Vietnam
Received 02 September 2010

Abstract. Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson [1] stated that “the organization of taking turns to talk is
fundamental to conversation, as well as to other speech-exchange systems.” Since these scholars
developed a systematic mechanism of turn-taking in English conversations in 1974, much research
has been conducted on the field and turn-taking has become a central issue in pragmatics and
conversation analysis. Under the scope of conversation analysis, this study was conducted to
discuss the turn-taking mechanism in general and the turn-taking strategies in particular in casual
Vietnamese conversations. Video ethnography and stimulated recall were applied to collect data
for analysis, with which a system of turn-taking signals in Vietnamese conversations were
developed. The system included both verbal and non-verbal signals, namely adjacency pairs, name
nomination, appositionals, recompleters, overlaps, syntactic cues, prosodies, pause, gaze directions,
head movement, kinesics, and postures. These strategies were, then, compared and contrasted to
those applied by the English speakers to detect any patterns that stand out. On the whole, many
strategies applied in the two languages are identical; whilst differences were spotted in the use of
prosodies, pause between turns, lexicons, and overlap in the two languages. With such findings,
implications for teaching English in Vietnam are discussed to wind up the study.
Keywords: Conversation analysis, turn-taking organization, turn-taking strategies, transition
relevant places, turn constructional units.
*

1. In a recent study about turn-taking,
Tanya Stivers, Steven Levinson, Makoto
Hayashi [1] and other linguists stated that
“informal conversation is where language is
learned and where most of the business of
social life is conducted. A fundamental part of
the infrastructure for conversation is turn-taking,
or the apportioning of who is to speak next and
when.” Actually, much research has been
conducted to study the organization of turntaking in English; however, little has been done

about that in the Vietnamese language. Also, I
have queried a lot whether there is a universal
set of rul...
VNU Journal of Science, Foreign Languages 27 (2011) 22-29
22
Turn-taking strategies
in Vietnamese and English casual conversations
Nguyen Thi Mai Huu*
Faculty of English, University of Languages and International Studies,
Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Pham Van Dong Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Vietnam
Received 02 September 2010
Abstract. Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson [1] stated that “the organization of taking turns to talk is
fundamental to conversation, as well as to other speech-exchange systems.” Since these scholars
developed a systematic mechanism of turn-taking in English conversations in 1974, much research
has been conducted on the field and turn-taking has become a central issue in pragmatics and
conversation analysis. Under the scope of conversation analysis, this study was conducted to
discuss the turn-taking mechanism in general and the turn-taking strategies in particular in casual
Vietnamese conversations. Video ethnography and stimulated recall were applied to collect data
for analysis, with which a system of turn-taking signals in Vietnamese conversations were
developed. The system included both verbal and non-verbal signals, namely adjacency pairs, name
nomination, appositionals, recompleters, overlaps, syntactic cues, prosodies, pause, gaze directions,
head movement, kinesics, and postures. These strategies were, then, compared and contrasted to
those applied by the English speakers to detect any patterns that stand out. On the whole, many
strategies applied in the two languages are identical; whilst differences were spotted in the use of
prosodies, pause between turns, lexicons, and overlap in the two languages. With such findings,
implications for teaching English in Vietnam are discussed to wind up the study.
Keywords: Conversation analysis, turn-taking organization, turn-taking strategies, transition
relevant places, turn constructional units.
*
1. In a recent study about turn-taking,
Tanya Stivers, Steven Levinson, Makoto
Hayashi [1] and other linguists stated that
“informal conversation is where language is
learned and where most of the business of
social life is conducted. A fundamental part of
the infrastructure for conversation is turn-taking,
or the apportioning of who is to speak next and
when.” Actually, much research has been
conducted to study the organization of turn-
taking in English; however, little has been done
______
*
Tel: 84-912098093
E-mail: maihuu@yahoo.com
about that in the Vietnamese language. Also, I
have queried a lot whether there is a universal
set of rules governing the turn-taking system
across cultures or that set varies culture to
culture. With that thinking in mind, I came up
to carry out this research, which is about the
turn-taking strategies in Vietnamese casual
conversations and comparing those to turn-
taking strategies applied in English
conversations. More significantly, in the main
course of doing the research, it became more
practical when I looked at it from the
standpoints of a language teacher, a sociologist,
and a technocrat.
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