Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The Role of the Current Speaker in Conversational Turn Taking – Theoretical, Experimental, and Corpus Linguistic Perspectives on Speaker Contributions to Aligned Turn-Timing

Workshop @HU Berlin, 14/15 January 2021


As a rule-of-thumb, smooth unmarked turn taking is generally characterized by showing neither long gaps nor overlap between adjacent turns. How interlocutors achieve this high degree of temporal alignment between the end of a turn and the beginning of the next turn in light of the latencies involved in speech production is still a question of debate, even though considerable advances have been made recently (Barthel, 2020; Garrod & Pickering, 2015; Gísladóttir, 2015; Heldner & Edlund, 2010, Holler et al., 2016). Current theories describing the mechanisms subserving smooth conversation locate the computational pressure underlying successful turn transfer primarily on the side of the listener who intends to become the next speaker. However, in order to arrive at a holistic description of the turn taking system, conversation can be more accurately conceptualized as a sequence of actions that is jointly coordinated by all of its participants, no matter whether they assume the role of the speaker or listener at a given moment. For such collaborative orchestration of conversational moves, interlocutors in pursuit of efficient temporal alignment of speaking turns need to be mutually supportive at any point in time. In that cooperative framework, the (para-)linguistic tools available to interlocutors who are in the role of the current speaker remain understudied and are in need of systematic description, both theoretically as well as empirically.


The workshop will focus on the questions whether and in what ways current speakers are actively supporting smooth turn transitions and how and when they use the resources available to them.


Submissions for 30 minute talks on the following (and related) questions are invited:


  • What affordances of grammar are employed by current speakers to aid smooth turn taking?
  • How do speakers and listeners manage smooth turn taking collaboratively?
  • When and how do speakers make use of multimodal or paralinguistic signals, such as gestures, gaze, or prosodic cues, to aid temporally aligned turn transfer?


Several research traditions have studied the phenomenon of conversational turn taking from different perspectives, including psycholinguistics, grammar theory, corpus linguistics, and conversation analysis. These traditions are recently beginning to join forces in this overlapping research agenda. Research primarily employing methodologies common to any of these fields as well as cross disciplinary research projects are explicitly invited in order to discuss possibilities of future methodological fusion and to support collaborative research crossing the boundaries of disciplines. The languages and communities under study will not be restricted.



Find the workshop program here. [updated on Jan. 14]


Important Dates

Workshop: 14 and 15 January 2021

Deadline for submissions: 31 July 2020 (any time zone)

Notifications: 7 September 2020

Deadline for camera-ready abstracts: 15 November 2020

Deadline for Registrations: 31 December 2020

Registration confirmations and the meeting link have been sent out to all participants. If you have not received a confirmation, please send an email to currentspeakers2021 [at] easychair [dot] org.

Participation will be free of charge.



(Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)

The workshop will be held online via Zoom. The link has been sent to all registered participants.



Abstracts may not exceed one A4 page with 1-inch margins on all sides written in 12pt Times New Roman font using APA citation style plus an optional additional page for figures, tables, and references. Please send your submissions in a single PDF file via the workshop's easychair website.


Keynote speakers

Prof. Peter Auer (Department of German Linguistics, Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany)

Dr. Judith Holler (Department of Communication in Social Interaction, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Prof. Lorenza Mondada (Department of General and French Linguistics, University of Basel, Switzerland)

Prof. JP de Ruiter (Departments of Computer Science and Psychology, Tufts University, Boston, USA)



Mathias Barthel (Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities, Humboldt University Berlin)


Programme committee

Rasha Abdel Rahman (Department of Psychology, Humboldt University Berlin)

Sara Bögels (Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen)

Markus Egg (Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin)

Pia Knöferle (Department of German Studies and Linguistics, Humboldt University Berlin)

Anna Kuhlen (Department of Psychology, Humboldt University Berlin)

Mingya Liu (Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt University Berlin)

Katharina Spalek (Department of German Studies and Linguistics, Humboldt University Berlin)

Giovanni Rossi (Department of Sociology, UCLA)



Barthel, M. (2020). Speech planning in dialogue – Psycholinguistic studies of the timing of turn taking. Doctoral thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen.

Garrod, S., & Pickering, M. J. (2015). The use of content and timing to predict turn transitions. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

Gísladóttir, R. S. (2015). Conversation electrified: The electrophysiology of spoken speech act recognition. Doctoral thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen.

Heldner, M., & Edlund, J. (2010). Pauses, gaps and overlaps in conversations. Journal of Phonetics, 38(4), 555–568.

Holler, J., Kendrick, K. H., Casillas, M., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2016). Turn-taking in human communicative interaction. Lausanne: Frontiers Media.





This workshop is funded by the Department of English and American Studies as well as the Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities of Humboldt University Berlin.


Any questions concerning the workshop can be sent to currentspeakers2021 [at] easychair [dot] org.