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Journal Article

Questioning and responding in Italian


Rossano,  Federico
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Radboud University Nijmegen;
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany;
Interactional Foundations of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Rossano, F. (2010). Questioning and responding in Italian. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 2756-2771. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.04.010.

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Questions are design problems for both the questioner and the addressee. They must be produced as recognizable objects and must be comprehended by taking into account the context in which they occur and the local situated interests of the participants. This paper investigates how people do ‘questioning’ and ‘responding’ in Italian ordinary conversations. I focus on the features of both questions and responses. I first discuss formal linguistic features that are peculiar to questions in terms of intonation contours (e.g. final rise), morphology (e.g. tags and question words) and syntax (e.g. inversion). I then show additional features that characterize their actual implementation in conversation such as their minimality (often the subject or the verb is only implied) and the usual occurrence of speaker gaze towards the recipient during questions. I then look at which social actions (e.g. requests for information, requests for confirmation) the different question types implement and which responses are regularly produced in return. The data shows that previous descriptions of “interrogative markings” are neither adequate nor sufficient to comprehend the actual use of questions in natural conversation.