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Front. Commun., 23 July 2021
Sec. Language Sciences
Volume 6 - 2021 |

Turn Continuations and Gesture: “And Then”-Prefacing in Multi-Party Conversations

  • University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

This article offers an analysis of turn-expanding practices with the connective å sen ‘and then’ in Swedish multi-party conversations in which the participants discuss and assess works of visual art. The connective is recurrently used to introduce a turn continuation, i.e. a stretch of talk that is produced after a possibly completed turn-constructional unit (TCU). We identify three types of continuations: same-speaker continuations, occurring post gap or post-other talk, and other-continuations by the next speaker. Some of the “and then” continuations are clausal, syntactically free-standing, while non-clausal continuations have more in common with TCU increments. “And then” continuations specify, restrict or redirect the unfolding contribution while at the same time orienting to a collective interactional project. In same-speaker continuations, the speaker can introduce a new aspect of the established theme or offer an account. Other-continuations can be used to achieve a shift in footing to introduce a somewhat non-aligning contribution. Both grammar and embodied resources (especially hand gestures) are activated in the management of the completion of a prior turn unit, the initiation of a turn continuation and the recompletion of the speaker’s turn. The typical multimodal trajectory is: syntactic completion of a first unit + retracted gesture; link to prior talk and upcoming talk with “and then” followed by the core of the continuation + a redeployed gesture; and finally, syntactic completion of the continuing unit + retracted gesture to a rest position.


This article offers an analysis of turn-expanding practices with the connective å sen “and then” in Swedish conversation. This linking element is highly recurrent in our data comprising group conversations in which the participants are engaged in a joint interactional project to discuss works of visual art. “And then” can introduce new items to an ongoing turn, for example, to build up complex phrases and sentences, but it is also used as a preface to an utterance that follows a possible turn transitional relevance place, a use that is in our focus here. In such sequential contexts “and then”-prefacing offers the speakers a way to expand their turns at talk as well as to make a turn entry as the next speaker. The connective å sen links a contribution to preceding talk indicating something about the status of the upcoming contribution as a “turn-in-a-series” (Sacks et al., 1974: 772). The basic semantic implication is addition and progression: what is said is sequent to preceding talk (å “and”) and enumerated as the next relevant thing to be said about what has been raised in preceding talk (sen “then”). In this sense, å sen is a combination of two lexical items, a conjunction and an adverb, but this collocation is so frequent in conversational talk1, typically produced as a chunk, that it is motivated to treat it as a compound in its own right.

Excerpt 1 shows an instance where the speaker (Lena at line 10) continues her turn with a contribution prefaced by å sen. The participants are discussing a painting by Frida Kahlo. At the beginning in lines 1–2, Emma picks up one visual impression of the male person that is depicted in the painting.

After minimal supporting responses by Amanda and Jonna, plus a gap of 1.1 s, Lena takes the turn and focuses on aspects of the painting’s visual composition (lines 6–7). This contribution appears to reach a point of possible syntactic, prosodic and pragmatic completion at the end of line 7 (see Ford and Thompson, 1996; Selting, 2005), which is recognized by Emma, who produces a weak receipt token (mm) in the final overlap. A gap of 0.6 s ensues and then Lena continues her turn at line 10 with a non-clausal unit prefaced by å sen to introduce some further visual elements in the Kahlo painting. Lena’s expansion, then, is a self-continuation, but å sen can also introduce a contribution by another speaker, i.e. as an other continuation (see Sidnell, 2012; cf. also; Stoenica et al., 2020). We return to the categorization of turn continuations in section Aspects of Turn Continuation.

When considering speakers’ turn-expanding practices we focus on the relevance and systematics of embodied action for turn completion and turn continuation and how these interplay with the verbal production. As shown by Li (2013), Mondada (2015), changes in posture, gesture and handling of objects matter for the achievement of turn and sequence completion. This is the case also in Excerpt 1 in which the timing of Lena’s pointing gesture during her turn in lines 6–10 matches the extent of her turn. We detail these visual aspects with images from the recording and a multimodal transcription of the focus lines:

When Lena initiates her turn at line six she stretches her arm over the table to point at some areas on the image of the Frida Kahlo painting (Images 1.1–1.2). She does not retract her arm to a rest (or home) position until she has completed her turn after line 11 (Images 1.3–1.4; cf. Sacks and Schegloff, 2002). This embodied practice suggests that the possible TRP at the end of line seven is a TCU boundary rather than a turn boundary. In other words, Lena’s holding her arm stretched over the table to point at the image embodies turn holding, and this visual cue, then, overrides the projection of a possible turn completion done by other cues at the end of line 7 (see Li, 2013). Emma’s receipt mm at line eight probably displays her understanding of these cues of an upcoming turn-continuation and can thus be analyzed as a “continuer” (see Schegloff, 1982) that, indeed, ratifies Lena’s projected continuation.

In the following, we will first provide a brief orientation on how turn continuations have been treated in previous research, then give an overview of our data and collection. In the section Analysis we present three examples of “and then”-prefaced continuations in three different sequential environments and how the grammar-body interface works in them. We also briefly compare linguistic and multimodal L1 and L2 speaker practices in the context of å sen and turn continuations, as the data contains recordings with both L1 and L2 speakers. Finally, section Conclusion provides a summary and conclusion.

Aspects of Turn Continuation

The production of utterances and grammatical units in spontaneous conversation is in a general sense incremental, an emergent process in which the speaker bit-by-bit builds and expands on what has been previously produced by the same or another speaker (see Hopper, 2011; Linell, 2013; Pekarek Doehler et al., 2020). From such a processual perspective, it has been demonstrated how utterances are quite freely rightward expandable in at least Germanic languages (Auer, 1992; Auer, 1996a), but such linear expandability may be less available in left-branching languages, for example, Japanese (Couper-Kuhlen and Ono, 2007a) and Chinese (Luke and Zhang, 2007).

Grammatical expansion is a phenomenon that in conversational talk is linked to matters of turn taking. This becomes pivotal when no turn transition from one current speaker to the next occurs; thus, the current speaker may continue talking, which counts as “a within-turn event” and is realized “as an increment to turn size” (Sacks et al., 1974: 711). This incrementation can be carried out in two ways: as a multiplication of units in a turn or by “increasing complexity of syntactic construction” within one and the same unit (ibid. p. 730). By now, there is a fairly rich body of literature of turn-expanding practices (for a quick review, see the contributions in Couper-Kuhlen and Ono, 2007b).

The bottom-line in the state-of-the-art approaches to practices of turn expansion is that there is a principal difference between the addition of new turn constructional units (TCUs)–that result in multi-unit turns–and some material that does not count as TCUs but that still extends a TCU. Turn continuation is the result of both expanding practices, but the concepts of incrementation and increment are reserved for the latter, TCU extensions (see Vorreiter, 2003; Sidnell, 2012). The common definition of increments relies on a conception of dependency. A classical increment is made of material that is syntactically and semantically dependent on the prior, potentially complete grammatical unit and it continues the action implemented by that unit, for example, in the form of an adverb, an infinitive clause, an adverbial or a relative clause (see Couper-Kuhlen and Ono, 2007b; Vorreiter, 2003). Such defining characteristics seem to rule out coordinated extensions as these often introduce syntactically independent, sentence-level continuations (cf. Ford et al., 2002).

However, as Auer (2007) has pointed out, it is not a straightforward task to demarcate increments (TCU-extensions) from other types of turn expansion with the above criteria, and the “and then” continuations that we address in this study are a case in point. The general grammatical function of additive coordination (through conjunctions of the type and) is to link units of the same type with one another, for example, a main clause is added to another main clause, to build up a bigger unit of the same kind, a clause combination. This is basically what happens in “and then”-continuations that consist of a full clause, like in Excerpt 2 in which an installation that depicts a cow and a calf is under discussion.

We can say that the turn continuation in lines 6, and 8–9 is syntactically independent of the prior clausal unit in lines 1–2, but it is barely “syntactically and semantically unrelated” (cf. Vorreiter, 2003 on defining increments). Å sen offers a lexical link to the preceding clause and the component adverb sen ‘then’ underscores that what is said is necessarily something that follows from the prior, that is, an utterance of this kind cannot stand alone and be the first one in a series. There is also a further semantic link in that the turn continuation elaborates on and, after recipients’ continuers (lines 3–4), specifies the initial description in lines 1–2.

Moreover, many of our “and then” continuations are non-clausal, which makes them clearly dependent on the prior host unit. To illustrate such instances, we can return to the focus lines in Excerpt 1.

The continuation in line 10 is not a self-contained syntactic unit as it lacks a predicate verb and it clearly extends Lena’s descriptive action from lines 6–7. It is possible to relate it back to the matrix verb tänker på ‘think about’ in line 6, in which case the construction in line 10 is elliptical. Another alternative is that the continuation extends the noun phrase in line 7, denhär (0.3) m:örka gränsen här ‘this dark border here.’ Whichever analysis we agree on, the turn continuation in line 10 is very increment-like if we follow the criteria of syntactic and semantic dependence and action continuation. Hence, it is as if the category of increments cuts across the “and then”-turn continuations, the clausal types falling out of the category in a strict sense, and the non-clausal types being mostly compatible with it. However, to use an inclusive concept we refer to all types of “and then”-prefaced expansions as turn continuations rather than as increments.

In previous studies of increments there have been useful categorizations of the phenomenon based on sequential grounds which we find applicable also to “and then”-prefaced turn continuations (cf. Sidnell, 2012; Stoenica et al., 2020). We thus identify continuations of three types, all of which are produced after a possibly completed TCU, i.e. a possible turn. First, we have continuations (C) that are produced by the same speaker (Sp-S) and follow a slight pause or gap at a possible turn-transition relevance place (TRP):

•post-gap continuation

[TCU by Sp-S] trp [C by Sp-S].

Second, the same-speaker continuation can appear after a brief intervening response (R) at a TRP by another participant (Sp-O), e.g. laughter, a minimal response token, a continuer or some other kind of supporting contribution2 as we can see in Excerpt 2) above:3

post-other-talk continuation

[TCU by Sp-S] [R by Sp-O] [C by Sp-S].

Third, a continuation can be produced by another speaker in the next turn to expand the interactional project or thematic thread (cf. Schegloff, 2007: 244) that the prior turn left off:


[TCU by Sp-S] trp [C by Sp-O].

Turn continuations can enable the speaker to specify, restrict or redirect the unfolding contribution. As Sidnell (2012) points out, especially other-continuations can be a resource for changing footing vis-à-vis the prior talk (see Goffman, 1981), i.e. to produce a non-aligning or a more personally attuned contribution to the collective interactional project.

In a more general sense, it can be argued that “and then” continuations are one type of “and”-prefaced utterances. Although the activity and sequence contexts under examination here are different from questioning in doctor–patient interactions that were studied by Heritage and Sorjonen (1994), we can see some common functional motivations in the use. Also “and then”-prefacing “sustains an orientation to the activity or course of action” that is established by prior contributions (ibid. p. 5). Moreover, although the conversations in our data are not agenda-based and routinized in the same way as doctor–patient consultations, there is, however, an implicitly agreed on agenda to follow up an interactional project, i.e. assessing a set of works of visual art (see data below). In this sense, “and then”-prefacing probably contributes to the maintenance of an orientation by all parties to this agenda by indicating that the current contribution is a relevant next one in a line of contributions (see Heritage and Sorjonen, 1994:6).

Data and Collection

In this study of turn continuations we draw on a specific data set that consists of task-based but non-moderated multi-party conversations: nine conversations amounting to 8 h and 40 min in total. The participants are Finnish university students discussing eight laminated pictures representing works of visual art. The conversations are in Swedish and the participants are both L1 and L2 speakers, divided into groups according to their native language. There are 12 L1 speakers forming three groups and 19 L2 speakers in six further groups. The level of the L2 speakers’ oral skills varies to some degree, but they are all advanced language users and pursue their studies in or on Swedish.4

The participants met voluntarily in the university’s facilities, 3–4 participants in each conversation, and it was emphasized that the students were not evaluated for their contribution. The artworks that were discussed span from the 17th century baroque to photography in the 21st century. A small description and some contextualizing information about the artwork and/or the artist were offered on the back of the laminated pictures. These descriptive texts are comparable to texts that often accompany artworks in museums or galleries. The typical physical setting for the group conversations was as in Figure 1: the participants are seated around a table and the laminated pictures lie on the table, occasionally handled by the participants.


FIGURE 1. Typical physical setting for the group conversations.

In addition to the pictures representing works of art, the participants were also offered a set of evaluative questions, should they have needed them to progress in the discussion. The participants usually treated the artworks one by one, bringing in their observations in a collaborative interactional project so that one participant contributed with one observation and another participant added a further observation. We soon noticed that the connective item å sen ‘and then’ was frequently deployed in these chains of collaborative contributions.

From an interactive perspective it is of interest to examine how these connectives are sequentially organized. Out of a total of 77 instances of “and then”’ connectives, we have excerpted the ones that occur at possible turn transition relevance points, that is, after a gap, after another participant’s (brief) talk, or as an entry device in the next turn by another speaker. That has left us with a collection of 34 cases in which “and then” prefaces a TCU that extends a preceding contribution.5 Of these, 23 continuations are produced by L2 speakers and 11 by L1 speakers. Table 1 shows the distribution of “and then”-prefaced turn continuations according to the sequential position, speaker category and whether the continuation is clausal (containing a finite predicate verb) or non-clausal.


TABLE 1. Distribution of “and then”-prefaced turn continuations in the collection.

Most continuations have a clausal form, but non-clausal variants also occur. Both L1 and L2 speakers produce turn continuations in all the three identified sequential positions. Having studied the data carefully, we have no reason to believe that the “and then” continuations are operated interactionally differently by L1 and L2 speakers. However, there are slight divergences in how grammar in detail is applied at the clausal level and how some embodied cues are deployed; these differences are addressed in a seprate section below.

In the following, we will carry out a sequential and multimodal analysis of “and then”-prefaced turn continuations, supported by multimodal transcriptions of conversational excerpts (see Mondada, 2019; Broth and Keevallik, 2020). We use the term embodied for the visual-bodily behavior besides language (cf. Mondada, 2014a: 138–139). The multimodal transcription is rendered with a lilac font and complemented with frame grabs (images) when it is relevant for the analysis. These images are indicated with the symbol #. The verbal talk is transcribed by the conventions developed within CA (see e.g. Jefferson, 2004). The Swedish original is in boldface and the idiomatic English translations are reproduced in italics. In addition, we provide interlinear word-for-word glossings. Transcription symbols for both verbal talk and embodied behavior are listed in the Appendix.


The analysis is structured according to the sequential status of turn continuations: whether they are produced by the same speaker–after a gap or some intervening talk by other participants–or by the next speaker. The section ends in a summary of our observations of the grammar-body interface in turn-continuing practices and a brief comparison between L1 and L2-speaker uses.

Post-gap Continuation

In this section we will illustrate how an “and then”-prefaced turn continuation works as a same-speaker continuation in a post-gap position. Prior to Excerpt 3, one of the participants, Harry, has asked Tanja if she could briefly provide the background of the artist Frida Kahlo, whose artwork the participants are discussing. Just before the sequence in (3), the participants have established that Kahlo was injured in a traffic accident and at line one Tanja is explaining what kind of consequences the accident had.

First, Tanja states that Kahlo’s legs did not work properly. On line 3, she starts another TCU, where she elaborates that one of the legs was shorter than the other, after which she modifies the description by adding and specifying that Kahlo suffered from a more comprehensive bodily injury (line 6). Here Tanja uses the Swedish discourse particle alltså ‘I mean,’ which indicates a specification, correction or reformulation of something that was stated earlier (see Lindström, 2008:108). Simultaneously with Tanja’s telling about Frida Kahlo’s injuries, Raila asserts that the traffic accident affected Kahlo’s hip (lines 2, 4, and 7–8).

Up to this moment, Tanja has been accompanying her speech with so-called depicting (or iconic) hand gestures that have moved up and down her thighs, legs and shoulders (lines 1–6). These gestures, alongside language, function as a kind of representation of Kahlo’s injuries as she knows them (see Streeck, 2009: 9). At her specification in line six of the fact that Kahlo’s whole body was broken, she pauses her gestures letting her hands rest on the table before she starts another explanative TCU in line 9, where she says that Kahlo always wore a long skirt because of her broken body. This explanation is again accompanied by depicting hand gestures moving alongside the speaker’s legs (lines 9–13).

In line 10, Harry receipts that Tanja’s description refers to something he can see in the artwork as well. Thereafter Tanja continues her turn in line 11 with the consecutive conjunction så att ‘so that’ specifying that by wearing a long skirt Kahlo could avoid people seeing her feet. Here Tanja’s intonation contour is falling, which suggests that her turn is completed. Harry reacts with the change-of-state token aijaa ‘right’ (see Green-Vänttinen, 2001) followed by okej ‘okay’, i.e. he marks receipt and acceptance of new information. However, Tanja still adds the short coordinated phrasal unit å ben ‘and legs,’ also with a falling intonation, which now suggests a definitive closure of her contribution (line 13) and reestablishes a TRP that was already reached at line 11. The sense of completion is enhanced by the movement of Tanja’s hands to a rest position on the table during the gap that follows in line 14 (see Image 3.1).

The slight gap at line 14 following Tanja’s recompleted turn leaves a space for her to extend the contribution at line 15, beginning with the linking element å sen “and then.” This post-gap continuation takes a new direction in Tanja’s descriptive project: she is not speaking about Kahlo’s injured body but more generally about her appearance which she, after some hesitation, labels as strange. She then elaborates on this and highlights Kahlo’s eyebrows, which she refers to in German (Augenbrauen), directing her gaze to the other participants and asking for help with the Swedish word (va e dihär “what are these?”), and by pointing with her index fingers at her own eyebrows. On line 19 Raili fills in the Swedish word for ‘eyebrows,’ which Tanja repeats (in an incorrect plural form), concluding that Kahlo’s eyebrows were strong.

Tanja has had her hands on the table during the gap prior to the “and then”-prefaced continuation in line 14. While producing the connective å sen, her hands still lie on the table in a rest position (Image 3.1), but as Tanja after a micropause sets out with the turn continuation, the hand position changes so that the palms of her hands turn flat against the table, preparing to move again (Image 3.2 in line 16). Thus, å sen is accompanied by multiple semiotic resources that work together to mark an incipient move forwards in conversation (cf. Mondada, 2015). Furthermore, as Tanja progresses by focusing on Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows, she again uses depicting gestures that support her verbal description (Image 3.3), as she did in the preceding talk about Kahlo’s injuries. Thus, throughout Excerpt 3, Tanja accompanies her speech with hand gestures that mark junctions between beginnings and completions of turn-units as well as references to the world as she knows it (Frida Kahlo’s appearance and injuries) and as a means to localize aspects of the immediate environment and tying them to the linguistic form (the word for eyebrows).

Sequentially, the post-gap continuation is enabled by no uptake by the other participants, which results in a short gap. The conjunctional preface links back to the prior talk but also suggests the next relevant thing that can be said about the topic: the continuation gives a new direction to the speaker’s account of Frida Kahlo, embodying a shift from the description of her injuries to her looks. Gestures play an important role in the trajectory of the extended telling. Depicting and pointing gestures occur during the central parts of Tanja’s account while retraction to a rest position marks completion and a possible TRP. It is noteworthy that gesticulation is activated just after the production of the lexical linker å sen ‘and then’–a pattern we follow up in the following excerpts.

Post-other-talk Continuation

In the section above we showed how an “and then”-prefaced turn continuation worked in a post-gap environment. In this section we will show how a same-speaker continuation works when it occurs post-other talk. In Excerpt 4, the participants are discussing an abstract painting by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The painting consists of small dots in different white and greyish shades. Prior to the sequence in (4), the artwork has been assessed as boring by Jenny, a stance that is acknowledged but modified by Katarina, who thinks that the painting is neutral, yet pretty. Peter then begins to render what comes to his mind when looking at Kusama’s work.

Peter starts off by claiming no-knowledge with ja vet int vaffö men ‘I don’t know why but,’ accompanied with a slight head shake, when reporting what has made him think of a certain children’s fantasy fiction character while looking at the painting (line 1). After a small pause, he then continues with an explanative clause när här finns dehär ‘because here is this,’ with which he foregrounds an area in the painting. Simultaneously, with this verbal element he moves out from a bodily rest position and locates the relevant area in the artwork with his right arm and index finger (line one and Image 4.1 in line 3) describing it as a little darker than the rest of the painting, still circling around this area with his index finger (lines 3–5). He then retracts his arm so that he can rest his head against his hand and continues by mentioning that for some reason the Moomin character, The Groke, comes to his mind (lines 7–8 and Image 4.2). The coordinated verbal demonstratives (‘here,’ ‘this’) and pointing gestures enable Peter to establish a certain place in the picture (and draw the other participants’ attention to that place) before progressing with more elaborated thoughts about the painting (cf. Goodwin, 2017: 223–227; Heath and Luff, 2013).

Peter’s turn-ending in line eight can be understood as a local pragmatic completion point–signaled by complete syntax, falling intonation and a return to “a thinking rest position” (Image 4.2)–that is, “a point at which the speaker is projecting more talk, but at which another speaker might reasonably take a minimal turn” (Ford and Thompson, 1996: 150). Accordingly, Peter’s contribution evokes a change-of-state reaction from Jenny, aijaa (‘right’) followed by okej “okay,” who thus expresses some surprise. The other participants respond to Peter’s characterization with laughter (lines 9–11). In response to these receipts, Peter extends his turn in line 12 with a continuation prefaced by å sen, which here comes post-other talk (that consisted of minimal responses and laughter). With this expansion he gives a motivation of how his impression of The Groke could be understood. Peter’s account contains several discourse particles that relativize the description, such as liksom “like, sort of” and sådär “like, sort of,” or appeal to intersubjectivity (vet du “you know”).

The turn continuation beginning with å sen (lines 12–13) is accompanied by Peter’s move from a rest position to a gesture. He is now trying to explain the reason for his association of The Groke, swaying his fingers loosely in the air at the same time as he suggests that the area that he has pointed to looks a bit like mist (line 12, image 4.3). He then retracts his arm to the same kind of “thinking” rest position as he did at the previous completion at line 8 (Image 4.2) while continuing to describe in a little more detail how he pictures the Moomin character fuzzily in the misty, wintery background (see line 13).

Nevertheless, Peter’s multimodal explanation does not yield any more convinced responses from the other participants at this point. In overlap with Peter’s description both Jenny, Roni, and Katarina produce minimal responses, and after Peter has finalized his extended turn in line 13 with a falling intonation contour, Jenny responds with a hesitant mhm intressant ‘mhm interesting’ (line 17). In the following lines (19–21), Peter tries to convince the others again of what can be seen and imagined in the picture. With a lengthened (‘well’) in line 22, Jenny still does not display any great conviction, but Roni approves of Peter’s suggestion by responding sant (‘true’) in line 23, which Jenny then also registers with a quiet mm in line 24.

The post-other talk continuation in Excerpt 4 is designed interactionally as an elaboration of a point that was presented and projected in a previous turn by the speaker. At the intervening TRP, i.e. a local pragmatic completion point, the other participants take a recipient position and produce minimal responses that ratify Peter’s upcoming turn continuation. By expanding his turn with the additive-enumerating å sen, Peter offers an account of what he is experiencing in the artwork. The gestures at these kinds of motivating continuations are of a conceptualizing nature, where content is made sense of (cf. Streeck, 2009: 9, 160–171). In comparison, the continuation that was produced post-gap (see section Post-gap Continuation) added something new and was accomplished with more depicting gestures that aimed to represent the world as the participant knows or imagines it (cf. Streeck, 2009: 9). The division between these two kinds of gesture is not strict, and they are often lumped together and labeled as iconic or imagistic gestures (Streeck, 2009: 9; Kendon, 2004: 101–106). Yet, as the activity that is in focus for this study is task-based, where the participants describe, interpret, and assess artworks, it seems to be significant that the gestures also have a qualitative difference depending on whether the participants are describing something known to them or if they are trying to make sense of their observations. The general dynamics of the embodied cues around possible TRPs is nonetheless a trajectory starting from a rest position to gesture and back to a rest position, where retraction signifies possible completion.


The turn extensions that have been analyzed above were produced by the same speaker. In this section we will illustrate how the next speaker can make a turn entry through å sen and continue the thematic thread from the prior talk. In Excerpt 5, the participants are discussing the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s naivistic painting Mona Lisa, which is painted in a quite childlike-manner entailing many symbols, like dollar signs. The participants discuss the painting and the representation of Mona Lisa and the connotations that the artwork evokes.

Prior to the excerpt, Lena and Amanda have noted that the face in the portrait looks distorted or like a man who is a heavy drinker. Amanda then makes a reference to a vivid story about the Norse god Thor (lines 1–3). Thor had flaming eyes when he was getting married and the portrait makes Amanda think about this connection. The other participants meet Amanda’s description with laughter and Jonna displays vague recognition with the particle a ‘ah’ (line 6). As a response to the amused reactions, Amanda at line seven reiterates her point that the person portrayed is somewhat reminiscent of Thor.

Amanda’s description is met with minimal responses in the lines that follow (8–9), from Lena with a hesitant hm and from Jonna with the receipt ha ‘right.’ A gap of 0.4 s follows, when everyone is looking at the artwork and a series of minimal response tokens, possibly signifying that the topic is ebbing away, are produced. At line 13, Lena takes the turn by introducing it with å sen, in so doing constructing it as an expansion of the collective interactional project on assessing the Basquiat painting. Through this continuation Lena brings in a new quality of the artwork that has nothing directly to do with the Norse god that Amanda had talked about. Instead, Lena points out the breasts’ appearance in the portrait and tries to find a suitable adjective to describe the visual impression.

During the pause in line 10 that precedes Lena’s next-turn continuation, the participants have retracted to bodily rest positions, leaning toward the table and keeping their arms and hands on the table. When Lena takes the turn at line 12, she moves her right hand over the image of the artwork to point at the new item she wants the others to focus on. At the demonstrative här ‘here’ she keeps her right index finger ready to point at both breasts in the picture (Image 5.1), thus, singling out one describable element from potential other ones. Lena’s pointing is done with an open palm, which gives the others a better visual access, but also presents the describable element as something worth examining (cf. Kendon, 2004: 2010–214). The pauses and hesitating sounds in lines 14–16 indicate that Lena is searching for a suitable descriptive label for the breasts, which is also the point where she retracts her arm to a rest position (line 15–16). Amanda makes a collaborative completion with the adjective glansiga ‘glossy (plural)’ in line 17, which Lena accepts with ‘yeah’ in line 19. Amanda then elaborates on this with the jocular question about whether the person in the portrait is wearing spandex (line 20), which invites laughter from the other participants. At lines 24–25 Emma adds an aspect she notices in the artwork (the flag of Finland), which is again met with laughter. Finally, in line 29 Lena responds with an alternative

to Amanda’s previous suggestion about spandex, eller som glänsande läder ‘or like shiny leather.’ This is met with some minimal responses that bring the descriptive sequence to a closure (lines 31–34). The participants have not really agreed on any specific description or interpretation of the painting; rather, they have introduced different noteworthy, more or less serious visual aspects of the artwork in a collective effort in trying to make sense of the unconventional portrait.

The connective å sen links Lena’s contribution to the prior talk, but also clearly moves in a new direction within the thematic progression. It brings in something that is important from the current speaker’s perspective and does not elaborate on or align with the prior speaker’s line of reasoning. It is possible that the additive meaning of “and then” makes both the speaker change and the shift of footing more subtle in the flow of interaction (cf. Stoenica et al., 2020), i.e. the local transition is masked as an expansion of the prior talk and as a collaborating effort in the face of it. Other-continuations are almost exclusively accompanied by a gesture that points out the new aspect that is brought into discussion. The embodied pointing is related to the verbal making of a point, tying gesture to language and the ongoing and situated meaning making (cf. Goodwin, 2017: ch. 15; Streeck, 2009: 9).

Summary of the Body–Grammar Interface

In our data, where the participants actively discuss and evaluate artworks, language is necessary for operations like description, interpretation, and other forms of reasoning. However, to make sense of the artworks, multimodal cues serve as resources in the collective, ongoing, and incrementally emergent arguing and sense-making. In our analysis in sections Post-gap Continuation–Other-Continuation, we have illustrated how different gestures and their trajectories work together with the verbal language to single out turn closings (retractions to a rest position), to localize and point out observables in the artworks (pointing gestures), to serve as reference to the experience that is known to the speaker (depicting gestures), and as a resource for making sense of experiences (conceptualizing gestures).

The TRPs that precede self-continuations, both post-gap and post-other talk, are indicated with multiple cues: complete syntactic gestalts,6 falling intonation, and hand/arm and body movements that settle in a rest position. Following either no uptake (Excerpt 3) or ratifications of listenership (Excerpt 4), the speakers then produce a continuation prefaced with å sen ‘and then,’ where å sen initiates another multimodal sequence where talk and gestures work together to both depict and point out observables (Excerpt 3) as well as to support a line of reasoning (Excerpt 4). In both types of continuations (post-gap and post-other talk), the connective å sen serves as the linking element that enables expansion, and it is produced with the speaker still in a bodily rest position. Only after the verbal link is established do hands start to move and accompany the speech. Hence, it seems that gesture is not participating in making a link to the prior talk–that may be an abstract discursive-temporal task that is reserved for the connective element7–but belongs to the content part of the contribution. This embodied dynamics in the organization and achievement of self-continuations, sensitive to possible TCU completions and TRPs, can be schematized as follows:

In relation to the linking practices, something similar can be observed in the studies by Keevallik (2017) of dance classes, where conjunctions and prepositions link demonstrations of correct and incorrect performances in instructing activities. In Keevallik (2017) the subsequent embodied turn was often accomplished without speech, and some body orientation was observable when the linking conjunction was produced; however, the verbal link seemed necessary although the rest of the demonstration could be embodied. The activity at hand in our data is more language driven. Yet, as illustrated in our analysis, the participants also rely heavily on gestures, both as additional referential material for a description (esp. with L2 speakers) and for making sense of an experience (with L1 speakers).

Finally, other-continuations also show a clear pattern, where a pointing gesture typically occurs simultaneously with a verbal demonstrative. This is in line with previous studies that have established that pointing localizes observables in the surrounding environment and directs the participants’ attention to the next relevant thing to talk about (cf. Goodwin, 2017: 223–227; Mondada, 2016: 341–347, Mondada, 2014b; Kendon, 2004: 205–208). At the onset, the next speaker is–having listened to the prior turn–in a rest position. Similar to same-speaker continuations, the linking element is established first without a prominent embodied act. Only after the link å sen ‘and then’ is produced, does the speaker make an embodied move, stretching out an arm to point at the focused items in the image on the table in front of the speakers. In these “and then”-prefaced turn continuations, then, grammar in the form of the lexical linker precedes and paves the way for other multimodal resources to contribute to meaning-making in the content-wise more central and complex turn-parts (cf. Keevallik, 2017, Keevallik, 2013).

A Comparison of L1 and L2 Uses of the Connective and Multimodal Resources

As the data contains recordings of conversations with both L1 and L2 speakers it deserves to be commented on whether we can see some differences in the deployment of turn-continuing practices in the respective groups. The L2 speakers in our data are at an advanced level and their proficiency in Swedish oral use is very good. When we have compared the use of å sen ‘and then’ as a linker of turn continuations in L1-speakers, we cannot see any differences in the interactional deployment among L2 speakers. Both L1 and L2 speakers use å sen to link continuations post gap, post other talk and in the next turn. The discursive motivations seem to be similar: to give a new direction to what the speaker’s just completed turn has presented or, as the next speaker, to change the footing and introduce a thematically linked but a more personal, and thus potentially non-aligning, continuation to the collective interactional project. In other words, the L2-speakers have learnt and internalized the use of an interactional device in their second language (see e.g. Berger and Pekarek Doehler, 2018 and Skogmyr Marian, 2020 for L2 interactional competence).

However, there are some L2-specific features of how å sen is deployed grammatically. The syntactic norm is that the adverbial item sen ‘then’ triggers subject–verb inversion in accordance with the basic Germanic verb-second constraint in declarative sentences (cf. Dutch and German). This means that å sen operates within the clausal frame (although the conjunction å ‘and’ does not). Some of the L2-speakers in the data treat å sen as an item outside of the clausal frame, in the so-called “pre-front field” (see Auer, 1996b), which results in a non-canonical V3-structure, i.e. adverbial–subject–verb. This happens in five instances out of the total of 24 continuations, which means that it is not a dominant pattern, but is nonetheless a pattern that has been identified as a typical L2 feature in previous research (Viberg, 1992) but also as a characteristic of contemporary Swedish urban vernaculars (Ganuza, 2010). Such syntactic variation does not seem to depend only on the speaker’s grammatical skills, however. We can consider an enlightening part of Excerpt 3 below. In line 11, Tanja initiates a clause with the adverb därför ‘therefore,’ which correctly triggers inversion in her talk. Interestingly, in line 17, she introduces a turn continuation with å sen that is followed by a clause with a straight, non-inverted word order.

Apparently, the speaker masters the V2-rule as well as the fairly advanced placement of the negation before the finite verb in a dependent clause, as seen in line 13 (så att man inte kunde se, lit. ‘so that you not could see’). The deployment of å sen outside of the clausal frame in line 17 suggests that this compound connective is treated on a par with ordinary conjunctions and discourse markers. It is followed by a micropause, which reflects its production as a chunk and a unit of its own, but also as a prominent element that organizes progressivity in the speaker’s description. Similar uses of the adverbial (å) sen in contemporary urban vernaculars have been attributed to a more liberal realization of information-structural strategies than in standard varieties (Freywald et al., 2015). Furthermore, it is worth considering that å sen, produced as a chunk and followed by a micropause above, offers the speaker a light-weight turn-entry device (see Sacks et al., 1974: 719), which is one of the functional motivations of pre-front-field elements and favors early starters (see Auer, 1996b). When the right to the turn space has been established with an opening, the speaker can start to organize the core of the contribution from a clean slate, so to speak, as suggested by the straight word order following å sen above.

Indeed, something similar occasionally happens in L1 talk. We have two cases in our L1 data in which å sen does not trigger inversion, one of them presented in Excerpt 6, line 11. The painting under discussion is Frida Kahlo’s A Few Little Nips, which has some unconventional solutions concerning perspective.

In lines 1 and 3, Magnus is finding out the name of the painting, first reading it in the background material about the artwork, and then he deduces that the name is also spelled out in Spanish in the artwork itself. Sabina ratifies this observation rather emphatically in line 6, and then she possibly marks sequence closure with the acknowledgment token mm in line 9. In line 11 she initiates a post-gap continuation with å sen. This continuation diverges considerably from what the prior sequence was about, i.e. Magnus’s reference to the name of the painting. Instead, Sabina continues to talk about the artist’s use of perspective. The deployment of å sen outside of the clausal frame, i.e. as a typical discourse marker, may be connected to this greater discursive shift: there is a sequence boundary and Sabina’s continuation does not address any further what Magnus had pointed out but continues with something that is a personal issue, presented as a “pondering” (ja funderar “I wonder”).

It is also of interest that Sabina is very fluent and the most talkative of the participants in the conversation, having quite a fast speech rate. She regularly deploys different kinds of light turn and clause entries that are abandoned and followed by a restart with a new clausal unit. All this enables her to inhabit the turn space and produce more language. We can see several of these phenomena in the internal organization of Sabina’s turn in lines 12–13: varför har konstnären valt- ‘why has the artist chosen-’; de e ju liksom, ‘it’s like you know,’; domhä perspektiven e ganska, ‘these perspectives are quite.’ The use of å sen in the pre-front field fits in this pattern; it offers the speaker a turn entry with a weak projecting force, leaving the syntactic gestalt opening underdetermined (see Auer, 1996b: 297). Moreover, the complement-taking predicate (see Thompson, 2002) ja funderar following å sen at the beginning of Sabina’s turn in line 11 often appears in the pre-front field in spoken Swedish (see Lindström and Lindholm, 2009). Sabina’s turn beginning reflects such a spoken-language use: ja funderar också ‘I’m pondering also’ is followed by the complementizer att and an interrogative with main clause syntax, instead of just an embedded interrogative as the object. Thus, Sabina seems to construct her turn entry with a series of discourse-marker like fragments, possibly to patch up the thematic-sequential boundary to the previous speaker’s contribution.

This observed syntactic variability in L1 talk suggests that å sen may be practiced strategically in certain discourse contexts and the dynamics of turn-taking. This pattern of use may be in a somewhat more liberal use in L2 talk, but not only as a feature of a language learner’s speech but with a functional motivation that can be activated when necessary, as has also been observed in speakers of contemporary urban vernaculars. As a compound unit with the conjunction å ‘and,’ å sen can be on a grammaticalization cline toward the category of discourse markers (where å belongs) that in syntactic terms inhabit the pre-front field.

As for the embodied conduct, there are some converging and diverging tendencies in the practices of L1 and L2 speakers. The embodied pattern is similar when it comes to how the speakers construct a turn as current, completed and recompleted: gesticulation is active during a current turn and a turn continuation, while gesture retraction to a rest position occurs at possible turn completion. This is perhaps not so surprising in light of previous research that has established this kind of embodied orientation in speakers of different languages and cultures (Sacks and Schegloff, 2002; Li, 2013; Mondada, 2015), i.e. an embodied sensitivity to a turn’s status as current or completed may be an interactional universal. However, we can see a more prominent L2 feature in the occasionally heavily used depicting hand gestures that can also relate to the speaker’s own body parts as a reference point (see Excerpt 3). These depicting gestures accompany the verbal language and may be felt as a useful support when the speaker is not completely reliant on the mastery of a specific vocabulary.


This article has described how verbal and embodied turn-organizing practices were used in the construction and achievement of turn continuations prefaced with the Swedish connective å sen ‘and then.’ “And then”-prefacing constitutes a linking resource through which participants in a multi-party conversation can introduce an elaboration of already established thematic threads or bring in new observations, descriptions or interpretations that fit in the collective interactional project. In this sense, “and then”-prefacing contributes to the maintenance of the participants’ orientation to an interactional agenda by indicating that the current contribution is a relevant next one in a line of contributions (see Heritage and Sorjonen, 1994:6 on and-prefacing). Some of the “and then” continuations are clausal, syntactically free-standing, although not semantically unrelated or independent as actions, while non-clausal continuations have more in common with TCU increments with a grammatical form that is dependent on a preceding host.

We have discussed turn continuations of three sequential types, all of which are produced after a possibly completed TCU/turn: same-speaker continuations, which can occur post gap or post-other talk, and other-continuations. Same-speaker continuations are produced in the absence of others’ contributions or after brief intervening talk by other participants, such as continuers. Both grammar and embodied resources are activated in the management of the completion of a prior unit, in the initiation of a continuation and in the re-completion of the speaker’s turn. Because the participants in our data are discussing images of visual art that are lying on a table in front of them while they are seated around the table, hand gestures in particular have a significant role as embodied interactional cues. The typical trajectory is: syntactic completion + retracted gesture to a rest position → link to prior and upcoming talk with “and then,” followed by the verbalization of the continuation + a re-deployed gesture → syntactic completion + retracted gesture to a rest position (see Figure 2).


FIGURE 2. Typical trajectories for the grammar-body interface in the construction of turn continuations.

Although this is the robust normal pattern in our data, in which verbal and embodied cues about completion and recompletion coincide, we have also attested instances in which an embodied cue overrides the verbal ones (see Li, 2013). That is, verbal cues may suggest possible TCU completions in a multi-unit turn, but a bodily return to a rest position marks in the end which TCU completions are possible turn completion points (see Excerpt 1).

Turn continuations are a means to specify, restrict or redirect the unfolding contribution. In same-speaker continuations, the speaker can introduce a new aspect of the established theme or offer an account of what was said in the prior talk. Other-continuations can be used to achieve a shift in footing (Sidnell, 2012): to bring in a perspective that is compatible with the general thematic thread but that is more concerned with the next speaker’s interests. In such circumstances, the basic additive meaning of “and then” can be interpersonally beneficial because it possibly makes the speaker change and possible non-alignment with the prior sound less abrupt: something that appears to be a continuation is readily hearable as a contribution to a shared interactional agenda. Also generally, “and then”-prefaced expansions–signifying that something of a similar kind is continued–can be a subtle way of dealing with interactional hitches by skipping problematic discontinuities.

Data Availability Statement

The data analyzed in this study is subject to the following licenses/restrictions: The data contains personal information and is not open access.. Requests to access these datasets should be directed to JL

Ethics Statement

Ethical review and approval was not required for the study on human participants in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author Contributions

All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication.


This work was supported by Academy of Finland under grant 1316865. It is a contribution to the project “Emergent clausal syntax for conversation: Swedish in a cross-language comparison” directed by JL (2018–2022). The data were collected as part of the same project.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


The present study is a contribution to the project Emergent Clausal Syntax for Conversation: Swedish in a cross-language comparison (Funding), We want to thank the reviewers and editors for their valuable comments on earlier versions of our text.


1Å sen ranks in the 40th position among two-word collocations in spontaneous Swedish talk (see Allwood 1999).

2From the point of turn-taking, such responses generally display the speaker’s (adequate enough) understanding of what has been said and of declining the opportunity to take a turn at talk, thus encouraging the prior speaker to produce a continuation. We thank an anonymous referee for pointing this out.

3The distinction between post-gap and post-other-talk continuations can be fuzzy because continuers and other tokens of support can be produced in overlap with the current speaker’s talk, that is, not exactly in a neat TRP with no simultaneous talk but in the more comprehensive area of turn-transitional space that starts in the final parts of the current speaker’s turn (see Excerpt 1).

4We have not tested the participants’ language proficiency, but their output in our recordings suggests that they are on the proficiency levels C1 and C2 as defined in The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR 2001).

5Cases that we have excluded from the collection are coordinations that occur within a sentential TCU and with no pause in the production, e.g. vi har kor som då måste (.) kalva för att (.) vi får mjölk å sen tar man då kalvarna ifrån ‘we have cows that have to (.) calve so that (.) we get milk and then the calves are taken away.’

6The syntactic completion in Extract three is not clear-cut, though, because of the linguistic problems that the speaker encounters toward the end of her contribution in line 17.

7Theoretically, this observation could connect to the question of different modalities and their affordances, for example, text and image (see Jewitt and Kress, 2004: 14). That is, certain modalities, like verbal language and gesture, may be better, or differently, suited to convey certain kinds of content and meaning.


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Appendix Transcription symbols

Keywords: turn continuation, turn increment, turn completion, and-prefacing, interactional project, multimodality, gesture, multi-party conversation

Citation: Rönnqvist S and Lindström J (2021) Turn Continuations and Gesture: “And Then”-Prefacing in Multi-Party Conversations. Front. Commun. 6:670173. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2021.670173

Received: 20 February 2021; Accepted: 21 June 2021;
Published: 23 July 2021.

Edited by:

Simona Pekarek Doehler, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Reviewed by:

Ioana-Maria Stoenica, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Margret Selting, University of Potsdam, Germany

Copyright © 2021 Rönnqvist and Lindström. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jan Lindström,