2018 Volume 21 Issue 1 Pages 160-174
This study investigates overlapping responses, especially agreements to assessments/assertions, in three typologically unrelated languages—Finnish, Japanese and Mandarin, using videotaped face-to-face conversation as data. Adopting conversation analytic methodology, we argue that the basic motivation for agreeing to an assertion-type turn at a position earlier than a TRP is to show epistemic independence and to manipulate the responding turn’s sequentiality. In the overlapping, agreeing responses, we found two common patterns: (i) agreeing particle + demonstration of understanding, and (ii) repetition with epistemic modification. Grammatical resources used in the overlapped turns common to all three languages include bi-clausal structures, such as conditional (‘if–then’) clauses and causal (‘because–so’) clauses, and the Topic + Comment structure. One resource available to Finnish and Mandarin was SVX word order, while quotation construction was found to be available only to Japanese. In all of these structures, the first or early part strongly projects what is going to be produced next, and this helps the other participant start his or her response before a TRP. Our study suggests that it is a common practice in human cultures, at least in the three examined here, to negotiate the participants’ relative epistemic positions in conversation by manipulating the turn-onset position and linguistic design.