After a long period of neglect, silence is currently receiving an increased amount of attention in the literature of sociolinguistics and pragmatics. Since the publication of Tannen and Saville-Troike and Jaworski, many international conferences, books, monographs, articles, PhD theses and book chapters continue to emerge. Many of those publications recognized silence as a powerful tool of communication; and that it is not peripheral to speech because any form of analysis that is applied to speech could also be applied to the analysis of silence. Silence has been broadly classified as communicative and non-communicative, and it serves both positive and negative functions. As silence performs two opposite functions, its interpretation depends on some factors such as the socio-cultural background of the actors involved in the use and the interpretation of the silence act, and the context of its use. This chapter starts with an introduction which covers review of related literature, and then proceeds with the classification of silence. It continues with discussing some functions of silence, and then talks about interpretation of silence in social contexts. Finally, the chapter examines some instances of the power of silence in conversation.
Part of the book: Types of Nonverbal Communication