Talk: An Analysis of Speech and Non-Verbal Behaviour in Conversation

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Conversation is the foundation stone of the social world. Human beings learn to talk in it, find a mate with it, are socialised through it, rise in the social hierarchy as a result of it and (it has even been argued) may develop mental illness because of it. Conversation is primarily a social event but complex cognitive processes are nevertheless brought to bear on the planning and generation of the spontaneous speech within it.
In research on conversation there has been a tendency to separate the social, psychological and linguistic strands and to separate verbal and non-verbal behaviour. Beattie attempts to move towards a synthesis where all these are treated together.
A primary tool is the microanalysis of video recordings and audio recordings of natural conversation - seminars, phone calls, televised political interviews - natural in that they do not owe their existence to the presence of a conversational analyst. Using this kind of research Beattie explores, for instance the roles of:
hesitation in cognitive planning in conversation
eye contact and gesture and their relationship to speech
turn-taking and interruption (including the analysis of how Mrs Thatcher interrupts, and is interrupted, in political interviews).
Geoffrey Beattie explores in this book the fundamental question of how spontaneous speech and non-verbal behaviour are geared to the demands of our everyday talk.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMilton Keynes
PublisherOpen Univeristy Press
Number of pages180
ISBN (Print)978-0335104147
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1983


  • empirical investigations
  • conversation
  • eye contact
  • gesture
  • speech


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