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 "Jennifer". 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
Many actions in conversation are accomplished through established adjacency pairs, examples of which include:
- call/beckon → response
- "Waiter!" → "Yes, sir"
- complaint → excuse/remedy
- "It's awfully cold in here" → "Oh, sorry, I'll close the window"
- compliment → acceptance/refusal
- "I really like your new haircut!!" → "Oh, thanks"
- degreeting → degreeting
- "See you!" → "Yeah, see you later!"
- inform → acknowledge
- "Your phone is over there" → "I know"
- greeting → greeting
- "Hiya!" → "Oh, hi!"
- offer → acceptance/rejection
- "Would you like to visit the museum with me this evening?" → "I'd love to!"
- question → answer
- "What does this big red button do?" → "It causes two-thirds of the universe to implode"
- 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"
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