Adjacency Pair

Harvey Sacks first used the word "adjacency pair" in sociolinguistics in the 1970s, and it was later adopted in conversation analysis to describe conversational sequences in which one speaker's utterance depends on another's, i.e., a form of turn-taking.
Adjacency Pair Sociology Definition


A series of two contiguous utterances generated by distinct speakers arranged as a first part and second part and typed so that a first part requires a certain second or range of second parts is known as an adjacency pair. Harvey Sacks first used the word “adjacency pair” in sociolinguistics in the 1970s, and it was later adopted in conversation analysis to describe conversational sequences in which one speaker’s utterance depends on another’s, i.e., a form of turn-taking.


The phrase “pattern-paired turns at the talk” was used by conversation analysis advocates to describe speech turns that take place in pairs, such as queries and responses, greetings and reciprocal greetings, invitations and acceptances, or invitations and declines. The key is that inquiries make replies normatively expected rather than that answers typically follow questions. Thus, it can be said that the second speaker is to blame for not responding. It could be interpreted as evasive or slippery to not respond. It might be considered a snub not to respond to a greeting. Conversation analysts contend that these normative details form the foundation of the regularity of interpersonal communication.

Single actions are components of more substantial, formally arranged things. Sequences are what these objects are known as. Adjacency pairs are the most fundamental and significant sequences, consisting of two actions in which one interactant performs the first action and urges another to conduct a specific kind of the second act. Examples of adjacency pairs typically include questions and answers, greetings and reciprocal greetings, requests granted and denied, and invitations accepted and declined. The first and second pair pieces are in a rigid, normative relationship. If the second speaker in the pair does not speak, the first speaker may repeat the first action or inquire as to why the second is absent.

Adjacency pairs frequently act as the foundation upon which larger sequences are created. Thus, an adjacency pair may be preceded by a pre-expansion; an insert expansion entails actions that occur between the first and second pair portions and enable the generation of the latter; and in a post-expansion, the speakers create actions that result from the initial adjacency pair.

Adjacency Pair Example

Example 1

Respondent 1’s example greeting: “How are you?”

Respondent 2: “Reciprocal Greeting” Okay, thanks.

Example 2

Invitee 1: Are you able to attend the movie?

Accepting the invitation, respondent 2 said, “Yes, I’d love to.”

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