Adjacency pairs

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In pragmatics, a branch of linguistics, an adjacency pair is an example of conversational turn-taking. An adjacency pair is composed of two utterances by two speakers, one after the other. The speaking of the first utterance (the first-pair part, or the first turn) provokes a responding utterance (the second-pair part, or the second turn).

For example, a question such as "What's your name?" requires the addressee to provide an answer in the following turn, thus completing the adjacency pair. A satisfactory response could be "I'm James". To provide an irrelevant response, or to fail to complete the pair, is noticed as a breach of conversational maxim. A reply like "I'm allergic to shellfish" would not satisfy the adjacency pair, as it violates Grice's conversational maxim of relevance.

Examples of pairs[edit]

Many actions in conversation are accomplished through established adjacency pairs, examples of which include:

  • greeting → greeting
"Heya!" → "Oh, hi!"
  • offer → acceptance/rejection
"Would you like to visit the museum with me this evening?" → "I'd love to!"
  • request → acceptance/rejection
"Is it OK if I borrow this book?" → "I'd rather you didn't, it's due back at the library tomorrow"
  • question → answer
"What does this big red button do?" → "It causes two-thirds of the universe to implode"
  • complaint → excuse/remedy
"It's awfully cold in here" → "Oh, sorry, I'll close the window"
"See you!" → "Yeah, see you later!"
  • inform → acknowledge
"Your phone is over there" → "I know"

See also[edit]

Conversational analysis
Pragmatics

External links[edit]