That speakers take turns in interaction is a fundamental fact across languages and speaker communities. How this taking of turns is organised is less clearly established. We have looked at interactions recorded in the field using the same task, in a set of three genetically and regionally diverse languages: Georgian, Cabecar, and Fongbe. As in previous studies, we find evidence for avoidance of gaps and overlaps in floor transitions in all languages, but also find contrasting differences between them on these features. Further, we observe that interlocutors align on these temporal features in all three languages. (We show this by correlating speaker averages of temporal features, which has been done before, and further ground it by ruling out potential alternative explanations, which is novel and a minor methodological contribution.) The universality of smooth turn-taking and alignment despite potentially relevant grammatical differences suggests that the different resources that each of these languages make available are nevertheless used to achieve the same effects. This finding has potential consequences both from a theoretical point of view as well as for modeling such phenomena in conversational agents.
Bibliographic reference. Kousidis, Spyros / Schlangen, David / Skopeteas, Stavros (2013): "A cross-linguistic study on turn-taking and temporal alignment in verbal interaction", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 803-807.