Holding the floor: Eyes down

The eyes play an important part in human communication. They can signal an intention to communicate and sometimes act to facilitate turn transition. In this example here, we see Tom Watson, the  Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, using his eyes to hold the floor during an interview on Sunday.

Analysis

Tom Watson (TW) was being interviewed on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. About 6 minutes into the interview he revealed something about Labour’s position on a future Brexit referendum in line 05 below. Marr (AM) reacts to this revelation with a surprise ‘↓ah’ in line 06. It is at this point that Watson looks down as he tries to hold the floor and prevent Marr pushing him further on this point. The video link below shows how this happens.

AM=Andrew Marr (interviewer) TW=Tom Watson (interviewee)
TV studio; participants sitting facing each other


01 TW: ((looking at Marr))
02     so what [what
03 AM:         [what’s the alternative
04 TW: whatever the deal is
05     it it’s the status quo or the new deal=
06 AM: =↓ah
07 TW: ((looks down))
08     and it seems to me
09     [that that
10 AM: [so
11 TW: and it seems to me that that
12     ((looks at Marr))
13     that’s important
14     because three years ago
15     and of course [people voted
16 AM:               [er 
17     on the basis of lies and lawbreaking

External link to video clip

What is interesting with this example is the micro features that enable Watson to hold the floor just long enough to prevent Marr from interrupting and asking him a conflictual question. The structure of this turn is:

((looking at Marr))
    make revelation
    AM: =↓ah
((looks down to hold floor))
    continues talking until safe
((looks at Marr))

BBC, The Andrew Marr Show, 31st March 2019 (about 43 mins)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0003v8l/the-andrew-marr-show-31032019

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