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Clicks and percussives in English conversation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2013

Richard Ogden*
Department of Language & Linguistic Science, University of


Clicks are known to occur in English conversation, and have traditionally been assumed to convey affective meaning, generally negative. This is indeed the lay interpretation of clicks. In this paper, we build on the work of Wright (2011a, b), who shows that clicks are also used in the management of sequences of talk. Firstly, we consider similarities and differences in the production of clicks and percussives. We consider some distributional properties of clicks in one variety of English. Drawing on a wide range of conversational data from Britain and the USA, we show some of the functions of clicks and percussives in conversation, which include stance-taking and sequence management (projection of a turn constructional unit and word-search), and handling aspects of timing between turns. We also consider some of the visual behaviours that may accompany clicks. The meaning or function of clicks and percussives, it is argued, must be considered in a fuller interactional context.

Research Article
Copyright © International Phonetic Association 2013 

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