The importance of pauses in conversation

News

MARGARET THATCHER was known for a voice that brooked no disagreement. While still in opposition, she had taken elocution lessons to sound more forceful. Despite this, she was often interrupted in interviews as prime minister, and in 1982, three researchers set out to understand why. They played clips from one of her interviews to a variety of people. The clips included segments that ended in interruption (while editing out the interruptions themselves). More often than not, those hearing the interrupted phrases thought that the prime minister was ending her conversational turn. It seems her interviewer had come to a similar conclusion.

Why? Conversation, it turns out, is a finely tuned machine, as Nick Enfield, a linguist at the University of Sydney, suggests in “How We Talk”. Humans mostly follow a rule called “no gap, no overlap”, reacting to the end of a conversational turn by beginning their own in about 200 milliseconds—about the time it takes a sprinter to respond to the…Continue reading

Powered by WPeMatico

News
Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

News
Giorgio Vasari, the man who created art history

Vasari made craftsmen into stars The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art. By Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney. Norton; 432 pages; $29.95 and £23.99. TOWARDS the end of his life Michelangelo Buonarroti, the most famous artist of the Italian Renaissance, began burning his drawings. He did …

News
Esther Kinsky muses on a river in England

Esther Kinsky goes with history’s flow River. By Esther Kinsky. Translated by Iain Galbraith. Fitzcarraldo; 368 pages; £12.99. To be published in America this autumn by Transit Books. IN HER post-war childhood beside the Rhine, the narrator of Esther Kinsky’s third novel learns that “every river is a border.” Flowing …