Failed summons: Phonetic features of persistence and intensification in crisis negotiation

2019-02-01T09:33:42Z (GMT) by Rein Sikveland
This paper explores crisis negotiators’ practices for summoning persons in crisis who are unavailable, unable or unwilling to respond. A corpus of audio recorded interactions between a UK police hostage and crisis negotiation unit and (suicidal) people in crisis was analysed. The analysis shows how low to moderate phonetic upgrades in pitch, and small variations in loudness, duration and articulatory setting are associated with interactionally ‘re-doing’ a subsequent summons. In contrast, marked phonetic upgrades in pitch, loudness and articulatory setting are associated with an increase in danger or concern. And whereas phonetic upgrading of a self-repeated summons is found in cases where the recipient is unavailable, unable or unwilling to respond, phonetic downgrading treats the silence as responsiveness in progress, where the summons repetition does extra work to further secure the person’s joint attention to a projected new course of action. I discuss the complexities of applying an ‘upgrade-downgrade’ continuum to account for repeated action and consider the wider implications of phonetic design on crisis management.