4.2.7.7 Interruptions and overlap

Throughout this discussion there are many occurrences of more than one person speaking at a time, falling into the categories both of interruption and of overlap. Where occurrences are interruptions, they are usually of the least 'serious' kind, that is, simultaneous self-selection. Another frequently occurring type of interruption is that the second speaker begins to speak, assuming that a TRP and a pause in the turn of the previous speaker means that the floor is free, only to find that the original speaker continues to speak. It is notable, however, that although interruptions do occur in this discussion, they are not treated by participants as competition for the floor. There appears to be no sense of ownership concerning the floor. The group members appear as happy to share the floor, or to give it up to another speaker, as to hold it themselves. A speaker who has relinquished the floor to another speaker after both have been speaking at the same time may respond either with an explicit indication that they feel their turn has been violated, or with silence. There are no occasions of either of these reactions in this discussion; the most frequent response to this situation is explicit support for the speaker.

Some instance of overlap and interruption are given below:

15. G13: =yeah (.) cruel =uhuh

G14: hates him=

G15: =mmm he's sort of the enemy=

G13 and G15 simultaneously self-select in this extract, as they respond to G14's previous comment. Both G13 and G15 are endorsing G14's statement, and both appear to compete their turns, speaking at the same time without apparently feeling that they are competing for the floor. When G15 completes her turn, G13 latches on to give G15 back channel support, a further indicator that their behaviour is co-operative rather than competitive.

In another example, G15's overlap below begins before G14 has completed the main lexical items of her turn. G14 also attempts to continue her turn but after a second of indistinct speech, stops speaking. This appears to be a significant interruption:

23. G13: mmhmm

G14: it's because he's the enemy (XXXX) =cos

G15: just because he is the enemy=

24. G14: he thinks it's so mach

A possible reason why this interruption does not appear to be treated as such by the group is that G15's turn is a reiteration of G14's turn; G15 has accurately predicted the lexical item with which G14 completes the clause: "enemy". She overlaps rather than interrupts therefore, in the sense that she supports G14's utterance. Additionally, G14 latches onto the end of G15's turn when G14 begins her next turn, with a further reason for Johnson's behaviour towards the prisoner; she does not appear to feel resentment at losing the floor.

There are also occasional long periods of overlapping speech; the instance below occurs between G13 and G14.

30. G13: just like him= =because he does have a family and

G14: =uhuh he was just a human being doing his job

G15: =mmhmm=

31. G13: everything and he did care (.) he was just on the other

32. G13: side and that's really why (.) he was just the enemy

G13 pauses at a TRP; G14 begins to speak, latching her turn onto G13's, while G15 gives back channel support to G13. G13 begins to speak again immediately after G15's "mmhmm", which leads to G13 and G14 taking turns simultaneously. Both complete their turns. G13's is an extended turn; she repeats the points previously made in the discussion. G14's turn is shorter, expressing a similar idea in different words. In this instance, G14's turn seems to function like back channel support. It confirms G13's utterance without appearing to be competition for the floor.

One final example shows G13 and G14 participating in reconstructing part of the play they found amusing:

58. G13: been going away off with a Yank and (XXXX) calling MacLeish

G14: ((gasp of laughter)) and

59. G13: a Scotch haggis

G14: calling the Welsh (XXXX) and singing in the choir (XXXX)

G15: ((laughs))

60. G13: ((laughs))

G14: names (1) a Scotch haggis= ((laughs))

G15: =mmhmm ((laughs))

It is clear from the above examples that the three girls in this group share the floor with little sense of exclusive ownership: they build turns co-operatively, and 'joining in' describes their behaviour better than 'interrupting'.


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