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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 April 2021

Interrogating Tears

Interrogating Tears

Some Uses of “Tag Questions” in a Child‐Protection Helpline

4 Interrogating Tears
Why Do You Ask?

Alexa Hepburn

Jonathan Potter

Oxford University Press

This chapter, written by Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter, examines the use of tag questions by child protection officers (CPOs) in calls to a child abuse hotline. Hepburn and Potter find that tag questions are particularly common during crying sequences in these calls, that is, when callers are crying and having a difficult time expressing the reasons for their call. CPOs typically adopt a neutral or even skeptical stance with respect to callers and their predicaments, but during crying sequences CPOs “sympathetically acknowledge” the (upset) mental state of the callers. Combined with other features of the CPOs' turn, Hepburn and Potter argue that tag questions during crying sequences have an affiliative function and a weak response requirement. The use of this particular type of question means that callers are not held strongly accountable for answering and are thus encouraged to stay on the phone even if they fail to participate.

Keywords:   child protection helpline, tag questions, crying sequences, child abuse, weak response requirement, affiliative function

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