2014 Volume 26 Issue 4 Pages 793-801
By analyzing participants' interactive behavior, we demonstrate how everyday table talk conversations are structured. Unlike previous works, which have focused on the utterances and eating behavior of speakers, this study analyzes the behaviors of the hearers. Three groups of triadic female conversations during a meal were videotaped and transcribed, and the relationship between hearers' utterances and eating actions were analyzed. An analysis of the hearers' 869 responsive utterances and 343 eating actions reveals that when hearers are highly involved (e.g., being directly addressed) in conversations, their eating actions generally occur just after their responses. When their involvement is lower, their eating actions often occur after the others' responses and sometimes they eat without their own or others' responses. When speakers are silent, hearers tend to eat their food and may wait until the current speaker's next utterance. We discuss that table talk has a structure in which hearers adjust their responses and eating actions to the level that is necessary to maintain cooperative conversations.