Questions and tag questions

There are 19 "proper" questions in this discussion, of which eight are the set questions which G14 reads in her role as chair. G14 asks three questions before reading out set questions, to monitor whether the other group members are ready to move on, as for example at lines 12-13:

12. G14: (.) right (.) d'you want

G15: (.) right

13. G13: (.) mmm

G14: to go onto the next question then (.) how does

G15: (.) yeah

She also asks two questions which are requests for help while reading out a set question; one instance of this occurs at lines 36-37:

36. G13: care for the (XXXX)= ((giggles))

G14: ((giggles)) uh where

G15: =uhuh (.) right ((giggles))

37. G13:

G14: am I= =what do you learn about him from

G15: =what do you learn=

Thus of the 19 questions, 13 are asked by G14 in her role as chairperson, and five of these have the effect of bringing the other two group members in to help with the role of chairing the discussion, reducing the distance between G14 as chairperson, and G13 and G15 as non-chairing group members.

G13 asks two questions to clarify information, and two more to invite the opinions of the other two group members. G15 only asks one question, when she seems to be seeking the opinions of the others. In this case, G13 answers her:

164. G13: (2secsXXXX) (.) but

G14: (.) right (.) why does

G15: (2) right Jean

165. G13: =because of

G14: MacLiesh lose his temper?

G15: (1.5) why does he?=

166. G13: his stripes

Group members also use questions in this discussion to hedge contentious opinions, as in the case of G13's partially completed question at lines 118-120:

118. G13: =but (.) but (.) do you

119. G13: not think that's just a big a. (.) it could be just a

120. G13: big act (1) he might not

G15: (1) he might be just putting it

121. G15: on

Two tag questions are used as hedges in the negotiation of areas of potential disagreement, by G14 at line 142, and by G13 at line 154. The instance at line 154 is analysed below.

151. G15: (.) you know when Bamforth

152. G15: is annoying Evans about his girlfriend (1) I think it got

153. G13: yeah it showed a bit

G15: to him then (.) although he didn't (.) show it (.) well

154. G13: he broke a bit didn't he just to let it

G15: it did a bit yeah mhmm

155. G13: show (.) but then he sort of pulled himself together=

G14: =aye

G15: =yeah

G13 has wrongly predicted what G15 is going to say at line 153, and they have gone on record expressing opposing opinions. G15 modifies her first statement, which was unhedged: "although he didn't show it", to one which no longer contradicts G13's statement: "well it did a bit yeah". G13 also works to reduce the distance between the opinions she and G15 initially expressed. G13's original statement was already hedged "yeah it showed a bit". She repeats the hedge "a bit" and adds the tag question: "he broke a bit didn't he", which produces a back channel response from G15 at line 154. G13 completes her turn with "but then he sort of pulled himself together", which concedes to G15's first statement without contradicting G13's. G15 and G14 both indicate they accept this with "aye" and "yeah" latched on at the completion of G13's turn. Thus the apparent conflict has been resolved by the efforts of both G15 and G13. G14, who does not speak during the exchange, also acknowledges the satisfactory resolution of the disagreement with her "aye". In this case, therefore, the tag question is used in a context where the speaker appears to be hoping for a response from her addressee that shows the speaker has the support of the addressee.

Overall then, questions are used co-operatively in the discussion.

Back to Abstract and Contents Page