Crying and Crying Responses

Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

in Emotion in Interaction

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730735
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950034 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics

Crying and Crying Responses

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This chapter focuses on crying as an interactional phenomenon. It overviews traditional work on crying, highlighting its limitations, and contrasts an interactional approach illustrated with material from both mundane and institutional telephone calls. Crying on the telephone is characterised in terms of a collection of loosely associated and sometimes escalating practices: silences, sniffs, elevated pitch, tremulous or creaky delivery, reduced volume, increased aspiration and sobbing. This chapter documents the delicate interactional challenges involved in recognizing and responding to crying, and how these are fitted to the ongoing projects of the participants. The use of sympathy tokens, sympathetically inflected news receipts and turns that normalize the actions of the person crying are common. The complex practice of displaying empathy is discussed and its procedural and epistemic aspects highlighted.

Keywords: crying; upset; sobbing; emotion; empathy; sympathy; discursive psychology; helplines

Chapter.  7415 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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