Marking a 'noticing of departure' in talk: Eh-prefaced turns in Japanese conversation

Makoto Hayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using the methodology of conversation analysis, this study explores the meaning of "eh", a nonlexical response token in Japanese, by examining its deployment in a range of sequential and activity contexts. Evidence from participants' orientation displayed in these diverse contexts indicates that "eh" is used by its producer to propose a noticing of something in the talk that departs from his/her pre-existing knowledge, supposition, expectation, or orientation. The specific sense of this generic noticing of departure proposal by "eh" is particularized by reference to a number of contextual aspects of its deployment, including the types of sequences in which it occurs, its placement within such sequences, the types of turn-constructional formats in which it is employed, and its prosodic features. To demonstrate this, the study examines three types of turns prefaced with "eh" produced in three different sequential environments: (i) "eh"-prefaced questions after informings; (ii) "eh"-prefaced responses to assessments; and (iii) "eh"-prefaced responses to inquiry. Analysis of the situated workings of "eh" in these contexts shows that the contextually based variability of the specific sense of the generic meaning of "eh" allows for the accomplishment of a diverse range of social actions in ways attuned to the contingencies of interactional contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2100-2129
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009


  • Conversation analysis
  • Departure
  • Japanese
  • Response cries
  • Turn-initial position

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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