Multi-unit questions in institutional interactions: Sequential organizations and communicative functions
Text - Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse
This article deals with multi-unit questioning turns used in different genres of institutional interactions. Analyzing in detail a corpus of about 400 multiunit questions from health care interactions, court trials, police interrogations, and social welfare office talks from Sweden and Finland (all in the Swedish language), a number of sequential patterns are established. Some of these sequential organizations revolve around the interplay between declarative and interrogative units. Several
... units. Several interrogatives in a series usually narrow down questions, for example, by suggesting candidate answers to the initial more general questions. However, many multi-unit questioning turns are concluded with an appended generalizing question. The communicative functions of these different question delivery structures are summarized. We argue that the theory must be sensitive to differences between communicative activity types. However, on the general level, we propose that designing a multi-unit question is an attempt at solving a complex communicative task, which typically involves several, possibly mutually conflicting, demands on the speaker. For example, in court trials, the avoidance of leading questions must be balanced against the need for precise answers. At the same time, the use of an appended generalizing unit might be formulated to secure anything that could count as an acceptable response.