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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 24, 2016

Extended concurrent speech and guānxì management in Mandarin

  • Weihua Zhu

    Weihua Zhu is Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Florida. Her research interests include discourse analysis, pragmatics, pedagogy and second language acquisition.

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From the journal Text & Talk


Most previous research on turn-taking mechanisms has not centered on extended concurrent speech for floor taking or topic switching, although brief overlaps have been discussed (e. g. Schegloff [2000, Overlapping talk and organization of turn-taking for conversation, Language in Society 29, 1–63]). This study departs from conversation analysis (CA) perspectives and attempts to uncover extended concurrent speech as a strategy for guānxì (relationship) management employed by non-familial equal-status Mandarin speakers in everyday practice in a southeastern city of mainland China. Spontaneous mundane conversations were analyzed and interpreted by means of a discursive-interactional approach, inclusive of interactional sociolinguistics. The participants were found to co-construct extended concurrent speech to maintain or enhance guānxì without any manifestations of negative evaluation. The study suggests the importance of situating research in local and large contexts, including the participants’ relational history, occupation, age, sex and social distance, and the necessity to examine extended concurrent speech, floor taking and topic switching in different varieties of Chinese. The findings can promote our understanding of intercultural communication that involves native Chinese speakers.

About the author

Weihua Zhu

Weihua Zhu is Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Florida. Her research interests include discourse analysis, pragmatics, pedagogy and second language acquisition.


This study is part of a larger research project that was partially funded by Language Learning. I would like to give special thanks to Prof. Jun Wang for her help with this project. I am also grateful to the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback on earlier versions of this paper. Any remaining errors are my own.

Appendix 1: transcription conventions (adapted from Schiffrin 1987)


a slight break between different parts of an utterance


rise in intonation


a notable pause at the end of an utterance

< >

code switching


an unfinished word

[ ]

overlapping utterances


contiguous utterances after an interruption



a short untimed pause




characteristics of the talk


items in doubt

Appendix 2: glossing abbreviations (adapted from Li and Thompson 1981)


associative de




currently relevant state le


genitive de


interjection [7]


nominalizer de


perfective aspect


question ma


reduce forcefulness


first person plural pronoun


first person singular pronoun


second person plural pronoun


second person singular pronoun


third person plural pronoun


third person singular pronoun


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Published Online: 2016-8-24
Published in Print: 2016-9-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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