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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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The Design and Positioning of Questions in Inquiry Testimony

The Design and Positioning of Questions in Inquiry Testimony

Chapter:
2 The Design and Positioning of Questions in Inquiry Testimony
Source:
Why Do You Ask?
Author(s):

Jack Sidnell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.003.0002

This chapter, written by Jack Sidnell, considers question‐answer sequences in public inquiries, a context in which lawyers are mandated to ask questions and witnesses to answer them. Sidnell shows that while many of the lawyers' turns‐at‐talk do not “do questioning” in any straightforward way, they are nonetheless allowed in these contexts. Conversely, some of the lawyers' turns that are designed as questions (i.e., as interrogatives) are negatively sanctioned as not being questions. Sidnell concludes that it is not question design alone that determines whether turns count as questions; the sequential positioning of turns also plays a role. In particular, Sidnell shows that the negatively sanctioned interrogatives are in fact understood as third‐position comments rather than the first‐position utterances of question‐answer adjacency pairs.

Keywords:   public inquiries, question design, sequential positioning, adjacency pairs, lawyer‐witness interaction, interrogative

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