Questions and tag questions

The three girls use question forms on only two occasions. G1 uses a question to include G2 and G3 in making a decision (line 28), and G3 uses a rhetorical question to emphasise a point (line 14). B1 however, who finds himself not participating in the discussion, uses questions three times (lines 35-36, 37, 47-48) , in an apparent attempt to gain access to the conversation. It has been argued that questions are very powerful discourse forms, because they require a response, and so B1 has selected an appropriate strategy when he attempts to join the discussion. However, his bid fails because the three girls and B2 do not respond to his questions. He receives a back channel support item from G1 in response to his informal tag "right?", but strikingly no response at all to his final direct question at lines 47-48.

47. G2: husband Bobby (.) well they split up=

B1: =what about all the

48. G1: (.) because it says in (2) my home town

B1: other songs though

49. G1: he's (.) s. sitting in a car with his father (.) how're

G2: uhuh

In this respect, B1's behaviour resembles that of the wives in the married couples who participated in Fishman's studies (1978, 1980a, 1980b), using the strategies open to a powerless speaker who wants to engage with others in interaction. This is a striking example of a boy using strategies which have been associated with female speakers, and suggests that the use of these strategies is depends on relative status rather than gender.

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