- Not Exactly Rocket Science
Pregnant pauses and rapid-fire – how do different cultures take turns to talk?
Talking with someone comes so naturally that we forget sometimes how skilful it is. Rhythms of conversation and cues of grammar need to be judged so that people can take their turns at talking without cutting off their partner or without leaving pregnant pauses. The former is rude, the latter awkward.
That’s certainly how things are usually conducted in English, but a new study suggests that this pattern of turn-taking applies across human cultures. By studying 10 languages from all over the world, Tanya Stivers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics discovered a universally consistent pattern of avoiding overlaps and minimising pauses.
There are small variations certainly, but they are far smaller than stereotypes might suggest. Anecdotes and academic literature alike