Effects of talker familiarity on communication breakdown in conversations with adult cochlear-implant users

Nancy Tye-Murray, Shelley Witt, Lorianne Schum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This investigation had three objectives: a) to determine the types of repair strategies that cochlearimplant users implement to rectify communication breakdowns during ongoing conversation when talking to either familiar or unfamiliar communication partners, b) to determine how communication partners respond to particular types of repair strategies, and c) to describe the use of conversational behaviors that might circumvent communication difficulties. In Experiment 1, cochlear-implant subjects were videotaped while talking to familiar and then unfamiliar communication partners. In Experiment 2, a second group of cochlear-implant subjects were videotaped while speaking with an unfamiliar partner for 6.5 minutes. Analysis of the videotapes revealed that the cochlear-implant subjects in the two experiments most commonly asked “what?,” “huh?,” or “pardon?” after not recognizing a spoken message (e.g., following a communication breakdown), regardless of whether the communication partner was familiar or unfamiliar. Communication partners’ most common response to this repair strategy was to repeat the original message. When cochlear-implant subjects repeated back the segment of a message that they understood, communication partners most often confirmed or corrected them. When they requested information, communication partners usually provided it. The cochlear-implant subjects were more likely to use controlling conversational behaviors when interacting with unfamiliar than familiar communication partners. We conclude that repair strategyresponse adjacency pairs may emerge during spontaneous conversations. Use of both specific and nonspecific repair strategies may indicate cochlearimplant users’ adherence to a cooperative principle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-469
Number of pages11
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1995


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