A Conversation Analysis Approach to Attributable Silence in Moroccan Conversation

Samira Elouakili


This paper is an adaptation of one section in the theoretical part of a MA thesis on ‘The conversational role of silence in Moroccan Arabic’ obtained in 1990, and aims to account for attributable silence (Schegloff & Sacks, 1973) within the conversation analysis approach based on the turn-taking model advanced by Sacks, Schegloff, and Gefferson (1974). Attributable silence occurs when a speaker is selected to speak upon the completion of an utterance that solicits a particular response but chooses, for one reason or another, to remain silent. Systematic and comprehensive as the model has often been claimed to be, it does not deal with this category of silence, which is highly significant to conversation partners in daily interaction. Hence, we attempt to provide an account for it using some of the turn-taking mechanisms developed within the model itself. This silence is characterized as a violation of the turn-taking rule involving the current speaker selects next technique, and the repair of the violation is provided through the suggestion of a rule stipulating that if a selected speaker fails to start a next turn, then the current speaker has the right to pursue a response until he obtains one; otherwise, the conversation may discontinue. Features that reveal the significance of this silence are also discussed–namely noticeability, attributability, accountability, and reportability. The examples used to discuss and illustrate these points are taken from the observational and experimental data collected for the thesis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ire.v5i2.11369


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