We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are Adjacency Pairs?

By Vincent Summers
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Linguistics, or the study of nature and structure of human speech, may be subdivided into topics. One such subdivision, pragmatics, describes the relationship of sentences to the environment in which they occur; one common type of relationship is known as "adjacency pairs." In this relationship, a proffered thought or question, known as the first turn, calls for a specific sort of response, chosen on the basis of logic and flow — this is the second turn. This response usually closely follows the first turn. In addition, the first turn limits the choice of sensible responses given in the second turn.

Adjacency pairs assume a variety of flavors. There is the greeting pair, in which Billy asks how Suzie is and to which she responds, "Fine." The question variety has Jackie asking what is for dinner and her mother responding, "Meatloaf." Theresa demands to know, using the complaint form of adjacency pair, why Geraldo ate her candy bar, with her brother responding that he did no such thing. Other types of adjacency pairs include the invitation, summons and assessment varieties.

In the assessment variety of adjacency pair, Joe wants to know how his mother’s car runs since he put in a new alternator. Clearly what is called grounding must exist between initiator and respondent, in order to stimulate adjacency pairs. Strangers can share grounding or commonality, but only in a very limited way. A businessman may ask, "How can I help you?" At a barbershop in a strange town, the weather suddenly is of great importance, leading to a question adjacency pair.

Sometimes the first turn in an adjacency pair elicits an answer only after what is termed a "significant silence." The pregnant pause may suggest a reluctance on the part of the respondent to agree to the premise. To illustrate, a young man invites a young lady to see his coin collection at his bachelor apartment. She pauses for a second or so before giving a response with the statement that she cannot do so. An answer may be given that sounds plausible, but is not what the young man hoped for.

Such a pause suggests the response immediately following will be "dispreferred." The respondent needed time to think of a plausible excuse. This may stimulate the initiator to generate additional adjacency pairs to clarify the meaning behind his first effort. Besides merely obtaining insight into the thinking of the respondent, extensive and subtle use of adjacency pairs with a measure of emotional pressure is sometimes made to overcome dispreferred responses.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.