Interruptions in Roman Comedy: Gender, Status, and Power in Interaction
The article addresses the pragmatic and sociolinguistic constraints of interrupting in Roman comedy. It starts with a redefinition of the phenomenon informed by the methods of Conversation Analysis (CA): apart from syntactically incomplete utterances (as a result of interruptions by others), the analysis also includes the cases of interruptions reported by the characters. Furthermore, a distinction is made between intrusive (disaligning) interventions and other forms of competitive turn encroachments. The term ‘interruptions’, however, has been reserved only for the former, antagonistic type which serves to express disagreement and disinterest or to usurp the speaking turn. Using the revised criteria, the article proceeds to comment on quantitative data extracted from all the extant plays by Plautus and Terence. Accordingly, interruptions are viewed in relation to gender, age and status of the speakers, whereas some more detailed analysis concerns male and female citizens, prostitutes and servants. After comparing every character’s share of talk with their proportional use of turn incursions (both collaborative and disruptive), it is argued that the violation of the turn-exchange system is significantly associated with some interlocutors and less so with others. The last section presents interrupting as a pragmatic means of exerting power in interaction while discussing the phenomenon also from a (sociolinguistic) cross-gender perspective.
interruption, gender, social status, Plautus, Terence, Conversation Analysis, turn taking, male speech, female speech
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