Behind the invisible curtain: Silence as a multimodal negotiation space in group Q-and-A sessions at a Japanese university

(1) * Junko Takahashi Mail (Doshisha University, Japan)
*corresponding author


The interactional phenomenon of silence is interpreted in numerous ways from different perspectives. In many Western pedagogical settings, it is typically considered a void to be filled, and seen as potentially representing a lack of knowledge or interest (Baurain, 2011), while many researchers have analyzed how and why silence occurs so frequently and is more widely accepted in Asia (Bao, 2014; Harumi, 2011, among others). Using the lens of conversation analysis (CA), this study is twofold. First, it focuses on the frequent silent spaces that Japanese presenters create during question-and-answer sessions in their group presentations at a Japanese university; second, it examines how teachers effectively steer such silences in a certain direction in the classroom discussion. In looking at the use of what I call multimodal silent negotiations and how presenters engage in themsilence no longer seems empty or meaningless, but instead “generative” (Fiumara, 1990) of new voices and ideas. 


silence; conversation analysis; multimodality



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