University of Oulu

Patterns of stance taking : negative yes/no interrogatives and tag questions in American English conversation

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Author: Keisanen, Tiina1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2006
Publish Date: 2006-04-25
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on May 5th, 2006, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Cecilia Ford
Doctor Liisa Raevaara


This thesis reports on an empirical study of the forms and functions of two interrelated syntactic constructions, tag questions and negative yes/no interrogatives, in naturally occurring American English conversations. More specifically, the thesis focuses on examining the ways in which these interrogative constructions are involved in the intersubjective and interactional construction of stance. This involves describing the linguistic and interactional practices through which speakers index and negotiate their evaluative, affective or epistemic position or point of view towards some matter in the local context.

The data used in the study comprise naturally occurring face-to-face and telephone interactions the majority of which take place between family and friends. The data are drawn from the first three published parts of the Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English. The study is based on the methodological and theoretical principles of interactional linguistics and conversation analysis.

The first part of the study provides an examination of the linguistic and grammatical patterning of the chosen constructions in a database of naturally occurring interactions in English. This serves first of all as a study of the general linguistic patterning of utterances with negation or reversed word order in interaction. At the same time, however, the grammatical and semantic categories of person, verb type and tense are employed for establishing the high frequency of linguistic and semantic material that index the current speaker’s affective, evaluative and/or epistemic position towards the issue at hand.

The second part of the study expands the focus from individual utterances to the surrounding interactional context in which the interrogative constructions are located, and makes use of the conversation analytic methodology. I examine how discourse participants use negative yes/no interrogatives and tag questions as a resource for carrying out different actions such as requesting for confirmation, challenging, disagreeing and assessing, and the ways in which interrogative speakers convey their epistemic, affective or evaluative stances in so doing. In this section of the study the research proceeds through detailed analyses of interaction, and an examination of those sequential environments in which the interrogative constructions are found.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. B, Humaniora
ISSN-E: 1796-2218
ISBN: 951-42-8039-3
ISBN Print: 951-42-8038-5
Issue: 71
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2006. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.