Simultaneous Speeches: Interruptions, and Overlaps in a Female-to-Female Conversation Dyad of College Students

Topics: The Conversation, Conversation, History of South Africa Pages: 21 (3584 words) Published: August 21, 2013
University of San Carlos Technological Center


A Mini-Thesis in ENGL116


Florence Mae R. Bornales

Anna Lei G. Lucmayon

Anthony Gibben A. Sinco

Department of Languages and Literature


I. Research Questions

The aim of this study is to look into the two kinds of simultaneous speeches which are interruptions and overlaps, present in natural conversation dyads. In order to shed some light on the topic, the following research questions have been posed:

• Among the two kinds of simultaneous speeches namely interruptions and overlaps, which is the most frequent? Why?

In the present study, the linguistic performance or language skills of the participants will not be evaluated as such. Looking into the frequencies of each simultaneous speech, however, provides some social and pragmatic information.

II. Theoretical Background

A. Distinction between Interruptions and Overlaps

There are many linguists who have already tried to define and to distinguish between the two features under simultaneous speech. West and Zimmerman, for example, define interruption as "a device for exercising power and control a conversation" and "violations of speakers' turn at talk". Schegloff stated in 1987 that interruption is a "violation of the turn exchange system", whereas overlapping is "a misfire in it". A third linguist, called Esposito, considered in 1979 that "Interruption occurs when speaker A cuts off more than one word of speaker B's unit-type.

Thus far, overlap has simply been seen as a case of where more than one speaker speaks simultaneously. For some purposes, however, it can be useful to distinguish two specific types of simultaneous talk.

A very basic distinction can be made as follows: overlap does not violate the current speaker's turn - often because it occurs near a possible TRO; interruption on the other hand, does not violate the current speaker's turn - it is an attempt to take the floor from the current speaker while they are still producing their TCU. (Hutchby and Wooffitt, 1998)

B. Participatory Dominance and Speech Interruption

West and Zimmerman (1975, 1077, 1983) characterize interruption as a form of simultaneous speech, which is defined as a violation of a speaker's turn at a talk and as a device of exercising power and control in conversation. More, technically, it is an incursion initiated more than two syllables away from the initial or terminal boundary of a unit type (West & Zimmerman, 1975). From the perspective of interrupter, Esposito (1979) indicates that interruption occurs when a second speaker begins speaking at what could not be a TRP, and when a speaker A cuts off more than one word of speaker B's unit type. From the perspective of interruptee, Beattie (1981) states that interruption occurs when a speaker loses the floor before he has intended to relinquish it, leaving his current utterance incomplete. An idealized schema for interruption is provided by Drummond (1989:50) as in Figure 1.


The term "participatory dominance" refers to a speaker's willingness to control next speaker's partnership in conversation by restricting his/her rights to speak especially by interruption, overlapping and appendors (completing recommendations). A speech interruption will be successful if one of the two parties interrupts the other and do not let him/her to conclude his/her speeches, continuing to speak till the other one gets silent. Zimmerman and West define interruption as: "Violation of speaker’s turns to talk which disrupt the speaker’s turn to speak"...

Bibliography: Rahbar, B., Rezagholizadeh, M., & Moemeni, F. (2012). Speech Interruption and Gender: A Study in Sociolinguitics.American Journal of Scientific Research, Issue 44 (2012),
Cowie, C. (2000). Gender Language. Interruption and Overlapping: How to interpret the two categories of simultaneous speech.
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