Standard Article

Rhythm in Discourse

  1. Frederick Erickson

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal1019

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Erickson, F. 2012. Rhythm in Discourse. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


Speech is uttered in real time. It is experienced as a succession of “now” moments, each “now” preceded by an immediately past moment. The rhythmic organization of that timing contributes both to our capacities as interlocutors to communicate referential meaning with one another and to organize conjoint actions together as speakers and auditors, actions such as turn exchange, and listening responses. Moreover, the rhythmic organization of uttering speech simplifies the perceptual and information-processing tasks presented to an auditor, by marking the continuous stream of verbal and nonverbal behavior with prominence points whose emphasis underscores the current “now” moment and enables the auditor to anticipate the next “now” moment to come—a moment whose location in real time is projected by the rhythmic organization of verbal and nonverbal behavior at the current “now” moment.


  • discourse analysis;
  • language and social interaction;
  • language in the classroom;
  • rhythm in discourse;
  • child language