Wlodarczak, M., & Heldner, M. (2020). Breathing in Conversation. Frontiers in Psychology, section Language Sciences, 11(2574), Article 575566. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.575566 

About the project

This work revisits the problem of breathing cues used for management of speaking turns in multiparty casual conversation. We propose a new categorization of turn-taking events which combines the criterion of speaker change with whether the original speaker inhales before producing the next talkspurt. We demonstrate that the latter criterion could be potentially used as a good proxy for pragmatic completeness of the previous utterance (and, by extension, of the interruptive character of the incoming speech). We also present evidence that breath holds are used in reaction to incoming talk rather than as a turn-holding cue. In addition to analysing dimensions which are routinely omitted in studies of interactional functions of breathing (exhalations, presence of overlapping speech, breath holds), the present study also looks at patterns of breath holds in silent breathing and shows that breath holds are sometimes produced toward the beginning (and toward the top) of silent exhalations, potentially indicating an abandoned intention to take the turn. We claim that the breathing signal can thus be successfully used for uncovering hidden turn-taking events, which are otherwise obscured by silence-based representations of interaction.