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Why Do You Ask?The Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse$
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Alice Freed and Susan Ehrlich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306897

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.001.0001

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“I'm Calling to Let You Know!”

“I'm Calling to Let You Know!”

Company‐Initiated Telephone Sales

Chapter:
14 “I'm Calling to Let You Know!”
Source:
Why Do You Ask?
Author(s):

Alice F. Freed (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.003.0014

This chapter, written by Alice Freed, examines outbound telemarketing calls made by sale representatives of an American telecommunications company that is introducing local telephone service to new markets in the United States. The chapter focuses on the role that questions play in shaping the identity of both the institutional representative and the customer and considers the nature of the talk that occurs between them. Freed shows that there are long sequences during which the institutional representative relinquishes control of the interaction; thus, the sorts of restrictions and constraints on the distribution of turns and turn types, documented for much institutional discourse, are often absent. More specifically, the use of questions and answers diverges from what typically occurs in institutional settings, and stretches of ordinary personal talk, usually absent in institutional talk, are often present. The analysis calls into question some of our central assumptions about the distinction between institutional and ordinary conversation.

Keywords:   question use, telemarketing, company‐initiated calls, institutional versus ordinary conversation, personal talk, institutional identities

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