Turning the Tables: Do Discourse Particles Catalyze Conversational Turn-Taking?

Alex Chen, Dhanya Charan, Madurya Suresh, Yutong Shi

Discourse particles are often used in conversations to facilitate turn-taking. This process may be independent of the epistemic authority, or confidence level, of the speaker. Discourse particles may be used significantly as a turn-taking mechanism, but no more by confident speakers than unconfident speakers. A study was conducted on pairs of UCLA undergraduate students, aged 18 to 22, who had an established friendship of over three months but under three years. Their majors were used to sort them into confident and unconfident roles. After investigation, it was found that discourse markers are not significantly used to signal turn-taking. Furthermore, speakers in both the confident and unconfident roles use discourse particles much to the same extent. This suggests that discourse particles may not play as pivotal a role as formerly accepted in turn-taking and conversation, yet are virtually ubiquitous in speech – although, perhaps they maintain some yet undiscovered function.

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