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SLLLC Speaker Series presents Dr. Xiaoting Li

The SLLLC Speaker Series is pleased to welcome, Dr. Xiaoting Li (University of Alberta), "Why Don’t Chinese Speakers Finish Their Turns?―Multimodal construction of syntactically incomplete turns in Mandarin conversation"

Friday, December 2, 2016
3:00 pm  |  CHD 420


In everyday conversation, people normally take turns to speak and recipients usually initiate their talk upon the possible completion of the speaker’s turn (Sacks et al., 1974). However, speakers sometimes do not complete the verbal delivery of their turns. That is, a speaker’s turn is and remains syntactically incomplete. Adopting the methodology of conversation analysis, interactional linguistics and multimodal analysis, this paper examines 8 hours of natural Mandarin conversation and investigates how participants deploy multimodal resources such as lexico-syntax, prosody, and bodily-visual conduct to construct and interpret the syntactically incomplete turns (SIT), and the interactional grounds for the syntactically incomplete turns in Mandarin conversation. The study shows that syntactically, many incomplete turns in the data are in the Topic-Comment structure (a typological syntactic feature of Chinese) with the Comment verbally unproduced. Prosodically, the syllables immediately prior to the termination of the syntactically incomplete utterance are usually produced with noticeably lower volume and pitch movement. Body movements such as head shakes, gestures and gaze also provide resources indicating the end of speaker’s verbal delivery and sometimes even the type of elements that are left unsaid. In the data, SITs may be used to deal with delicate or problematic matters in Mandarin interaction.

Speakers Bio

Dr. Xiaoting Li is Assistant Professor of Chinese linguistics at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Alberta. Her research interest is language in social interaction and multimodal interaction. She uses the methodology of conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, and multimodal analysis to study language and body movement in Chinese talk-in-interaction. Her book Multimodality, Interaction, and Turn-taking in Mandarin Conversation (John Benjamins, 2014) is the first book-length work on turn-taking and multimodality in Chinese interaction. Her work on Mandarin conversation has been published widely in international journals such as Journal of Pragmatics and Language Sciences.