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Responding to pre-requests: The organization of hai x ‘do you have x’ sequences in Italian

Rossi, G. (2015). Responding to pre-requests: The organization of hai x ‘do you have x’ sequences in Italian. Journal of Pragmatics, 82, 5-22. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2015.03.008.
Among the strategies used by people to request others to do things, there is a particular family defined as pre-requests. The typical function of a pre-request is to check whether some precondition obtains for a request to be successfully made. A form like the Italian interrogative hai x ‘do you have x’, for example, is used to ask if an object is available — a requirement for the object to be transferred or manipulated. But what does it mean exactly to make a pre-request? What difference does it make compared to issuing a request proper? In this article, I address these questions by examining the use of hai x ‘do you have x’ interrogatives in a corpus of informal Italian interaction. Drawing on methods from conversation analysis and linguistics, I show that the status of hai x as a pre-request is reflected in particular properties in the domains of preference and sequence organisation, specifically in the design of blocking responses to the pre-request, and in the use of go-ahead responses, which lead to the expansion of the request sequence. This study contributes to current research on requesting as well as on sequence organisation by demonstrating the response affordances of pre-requests and by furthering our understanding of the processes of sequence expansion.
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