From Spanish paintings to murder: topic transitions in casual conversations between native and non-native speakers of English

Muna Morris-Adams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article explores some of the strategies used by international students of English to manage topic shifts in casual conversations with English-speaking peers. It therefore covers aspects of discourse which have been comparatively under-researched, and where research has also tended to focus on the problems rather than the communicative achievements of non-native speakers. A detailed analysis of the conversations under discussion, which were recorded by the participants themselves, showed that they all flowed smoothly, and this was in large measure due to the ways in which topic shifts were managed. The paper will focus on a very distinct type of topic shift, namely that of topic transitions, which enable a smooth flow from one topic to another, but which do not explicitly signal that a shift is taking place. It will examine how the non-native speakers achieved coherence in the topic transitions which they initiated, which strategies or procedures they employed, and show how their initiations were effective in enabling the proposed topic to be understood, taken up and developed. It therefore adds to our understanding of the interactional achievements of international speakers in informal, social contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-165
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date12 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014



  • casual conversation
  • conversational coherence
  • non-native speaker discourse
  • topic transitions

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