Reasons for requests

Baranova, J., & Dingemanse, M. (2016). Reasons for requests. Discourse Studies, 18(6), 641-675. doi:10.1177/1461445616667154.
Reasons play an important role in social interaction. We study reasons-giving in the context of request sequences in Russian. By contrasting request sequences with and without reasons, we are able to shed light on the interactional work people do when they provide reasons or ask for them. In a systematic collection of request sequences in everyday conversation (N = 158), we find reasons in a variety of sequential positions, showing the various points at which participants may orient to the need for a reason. Reasons may be left implicit (as in many minimal requests that are readily complied with), or they can be made explicit. Participants may make reasons explicit either as part of the initial formulation of a request or in an interactionally contingent way. Across sequential positions, we show that reasons for requests recurrently deal with three possible issues: (1) providing information when a request is underspecified, (2) managing relationships between the requester and requestee and (3) explicating ancillary actions implemented by a request. By spelling out information normally left to presuppositions and implicatures, reasons make requests more understandable and help participants to navigate the social landscape of asking assistance from others.
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