The speed of response white taking turns about 200 milliseconds on average, about the same time as it takes to blink is astonishing when we appreciate the slow nature of language encoding: it takes 600ms or more to prepare a word for delivery, the study said.

This implies a substantial overlap between listening to the current speaker and preparing our own response. In human infants, turn-taking is found in the 'proto-conversations' with caretakers. These infant-caretaker interactions are initially adult-like in terms of how fast infants can respond.

But as they develop into more sophisticated communicators, infants' turn-taking abilities slow down, likely due to both learning more and more complex linguistic structures and having to find a way to squeeze these into short turns, said researcher Stephen Levinson from Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

Levinson reviewed new research on turn-taking, focusing on its implications for how languages are structured and for how language and communication evolved.

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