With the same participants

The sequential and linguistic-phonetic design of indirectnessin talk-in-interaction

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project participant(s)

Department / unit(s)

Description

One core theme of work in pragmatic theory and discourse analysis is indirectness — how speakers can mean something else (or something more) than their words appear to say. Indirectness can take a variety of forms. For instance, the sentence (1)‘Can you open the door?’ officially asks a questions but conventionally functions as an indirect request to someone to open the door; an utterance such as (2) ‘She’s playing bridge’ in response to the question ‘Is Molly coming back this afternoon’, officially gives an account of what Molly is doing, but functions as an indirect negative response to the inquiry.

To date research into indirectness in speech of has predominantly focused on structures of the kind illustrated in (1) — indirect, initiating utterances which have largely been defined syntactically. Responsive indirect utterances such as (2) and other features of linguistic design (phonetic organisation, sequential positioning) have received little or no systematic attention.

This project seeks to provide a more integrated understanding of indirectness than is available to date by taking a holistic view of linguistic design which treats sequential positioning, lexical and syntactic choices, and phonetic design as equal partners in the construction of (indirect) turns at talk. To accomplish this the research will focus on responsive indirect utterances, such as (2), and explore particularly their phonetic design. Two environments which our preliminary work suggests are key sites for the production of responsive indirect utterances in everyday conversation are:

• accounts in response to enquiry
• disagreement sequences.

Aims
The aims of the project are to determine
• what linguistic resources speakers systematically use to design indirect utterances (ie. What clusters of phonetic parameters do speakers deploy and how do these relate to the lexical and syntactic structure of the indirect utterances?)
• what the interactional (ie. sequential) circumstances/contexts are in which speakers use indirect expressions; and what do they use such expressions to achieve
• how recipients respond to speakers’ indirectness (ie. What are the sequential patterns and consequences associated with indirectness in interaction?)

Through a combination of detailed parametric linguistic-phonetic and Conversation Analytic methodologies the research seeks to make a significant contribution to the formal specification of the pragmatics-phonetics interface and to understanding the issue of literal/non-literal interpretation of utterances.

Layman's description

Speaking 'indirectly' can take a variety of forms. For instance, the sentence (1)‘Can you open the door?’ officially asks a questions but in everyday talk functions as an indirect request to someone to open the door; an utterance such as (2) ‘She’s playing bridge’ in response to the question ‘Is Molly coming back this afternoon’, officially gives an account of what Molly is doing, but functions as an indirect negative response to the inquiry. This project seeks to understand how the way everyday talk is shaped (what words are used, how they are said and where in a sequence of turns in a conversation they are placed) allows people to mean something else (or something more) than their words appear to say.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/01/0731/03/10

Award relations

The sequential and linguistic-phonetic design of indirectnessin talk-in-interaction

Local, J. K. & Drew, P.

AHRC: £235,763.00

1/01/0731/03/10

Award date: 9/06/06

Award: UK Research CouncilsAward

Funding

  • AHRC: £235,763.00

    Research areas

  • P Philology. Linguistics - pragmatics, conversation analysis, phonetics

Research outputs

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations