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Two forms of requesting in Italian conversation


Rossi,  Giovanni
Human Sociality and Systems of Language Use, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Multimodal Interaction, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Interactional Foundations of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Rossi, G. (2011). Two forms of requesting in Italian conversation. Talk presented at the 21st Anéla/VIOT Juniorendag. University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. 2011-02-05.

Cite as:
When making requests, speakers need to select a form from a range of concurrent alternatives available to them. In Italian conversation and everyday interaction imperatives and Mi X? interrogatives (of the kind “You pass me a pen?”) are commonly employed by speakers to request low-contingency activities that are relevant to a here-and-now purpose or need. Given this common domain of application of the two strategies, the aim of this work is to account for a specific functional distinction between them. A first distributional pattern is observed: while imperatives are overwhelmingly used within joint activities, Mi X? interrogatives are instead usually found where participants haven’t been interactionally involved in the recent past. On a closer inspection, however, the selection appears to be informed by a more locally determined logic. Imperative requests are normally licensed by a mutually accessible and traceable earlier turn or sequence. This prior interactional event entails some form of agreement or convergence by participants on a joint project the action requested is consistent with or necessary to. Conversely, a MiX? formatting assumes that what is requested be not part of a joint undertaking, but rather something in the requester’s self-interest alone that is unrelated to participants’ prior interaction.