Towards a typology of silence

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The article presents a typology of silence in social interaction, based on a number of features, including the number of participants in the interaction, the identity of the text that is left unsaid, and the intention of the silent person. Four types are proposed-conversation, thematic, textual and situational. Since conversational silence has been extensively discussed elsewhere, the focus of the article is on the other three types, and several problematic cases are discussed concerning not only the classification of instances of silence but also whether what has been called silence is in effect silence. The types of silence are illustrated by examples such as silence in the library, during classroom lessons, in political speeches, remembrance ceremonies, and theatrical and musical performances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1673-1688
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Intentional
  • Silence
  • Situational
  • Social interaction
  • Textual
  • Thematic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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