Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

First Advisor

Lee, Janie

Major or Concentration

English (Creative Writing Concentration)


In the linguistic field, silences are typically studied as barriers between utterances. However, silences can also be studied as independent utterances. This paper examines silence in the latter context by analyzing an hour-long audio recording of an in-class discussion that took place during a senior linguistics seminar at the University of Mary Washington. Specifically, this paper looks at the role of silence as an independent utterance within classroom discussion. The 33 silences (referred to as "prolonged" silences within the paper) range in length from 10.01 seconds to 92.99 seconds. The analysis of the data is divided into three sections: first responders (those who responded immediately after a silence), second responders (what response occurred immediately after the first responder), and initiators (what initiated the silence). By analyzing the discourse in which these silences took place--as well as the previous research on the subject, possible external factors, and the researcher's experience within the environment--this paper seeks to uncover why prolonged silences occur in classroom discussion.