4.2.1.4 Epistemic modality and hedging

The girls demonstrate they are competent at using hedges to negotiate disagreement, and do not use hedges or epistemic modality when they are in agreement. Lines 1, 30, and 63 below illustrate utterances which are agreed on by the three girls and are not hedged.

1. G2: there's Bobby and Randolph

30. G2: =uhuh Bobby marries her

G3: Bobby must marry her=

63. G2: it starts off when they're really young

At other stages in the discussion, however, the three girls are not in total agreement, and use a high frequency of hedging devices. For example, when G3 first introduces the character of Kate into the discussion as a candidate for a leading role in the film of the songs, G1 does not initially accept G3's suggestion to concentrate on the character of Kate. G1, G2 and G3 make use of hedges and other devices for mitigating their conflict (for example, G1 leaves her objection incomplete at line 5), and reach agreement after hedged negotiation. Mitigating forms are in italics.

3. G3: yeah they're mentioned and there's somebody called Kate

4. G1: (.) but that's just like a mention in a song (.)

G2: (.) oh aye

5. G1: it's not really (.) you know

G2: yeah (.) but it doesn't have to be a

G3: I know (.) but you could build it up

6. G2: character

G3: you could build it up though (.) because (.)

[G3 supports her argument here by giving a sample plot]

10. G3: so (.) you could build it up or you could just (.) fade it

11. G1: =you could

G2: (1) yeah (.) you could=

G3: away

G2 and G1 support G3 at this point, with "yeah (.) you could", and "you could" respectively. G2 takes up the argument:

11. G2: (.) it'd probably be

12. G2: better if sh. she was the main character (.) cos (.) I mean

13. G1: yeah

G2: it (.) it would be just the two boys

G3: just the two boys (.) I

14. G1: ((laughter))

G2: ((laughter))=it'd be pretty boring

G3: mean what're the girls going to do=

15. G1: =yes okay

G2: boring for them=

G3: =I mean (.) so

At line 15 G1 agrees "yes okay"; consensus has apparently been reached by G1, G2, and G3.

B1 shows signs of tentativeness in his first contribution to the discussion. He hedges, using well twice (1.35, 36) and you know once (l.35); he also hesitates (l.35, 36), makes a false start (l.37), and uses pause fillers (l.35) - all features of disfluency, and also possible signals of insecurity. It seems probable that his language use indicates that making a contribution to a discussion which has proceeded without him so far, and to which he has not been invited to contribute, is a face-threatening act for B1:

35. B1: yeah (.) well uh you know ehm (2) in

36. B1: that (1) last verse in (.) in m. my home town? (3) well it

37. B1: says that (.) he's thirty five now right? (1) tha. so

38. B1: (.) if you go back a bit (.) and there's

He also hedges the second time he speaks as well (lines 47-48): "what about all the other songs though". On both occasions, his contributions are ignored by the three girls despite his hedging.

Hedging and epistemic modal forms are used co-operatively by the three girls with each other to negotiate areas of potential conflict, and not used when they are in consensus. The three girls do not use these forms in interaction with B1, however. B1 uses the same forms in the manner of a subordinate addressing dominant speakers, and the three girls treat him as subordinate and ignore him.


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