An overview of the question-response system in American English conversation
Stivers, T. (2010). An overview of the question-response system in American English conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 2772-2781. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.04.011.
This article, part of a 10 language comparative project on question–response sequences, discusses these sequences in American English conversation. The data are video-taped spontaneous naturally occurring conversations involving two to five adults. Relying on these data I document the basic distributional patterns of types of questions asked (polar, Q-word or alternative as well as sub-types), types of social actions implemented by these questions (e.g., repair initiations, requests for confirmation, offers or requests for information), and types of responses (e.g., repetitional answers or yes/no tokens). I show that declarative questions are used more commonly in conversation than would be suspected by traditional grammars of English and questions are used for a wider range of functions than grammars would suggest. Finally, this article offers distributional support for the idea that responses that are better “fitted” with the question are preferred.
Max Planck Institute