Modulating Action Through Minimization: Syntax in the Service of Offering and Requesting

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Language in Society

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This study uses data from a shoe-repair shop, supplemented by data from medical and mundane contexts, to analyze three progressively minimal grammatical formats used to implement offers and requests in interaction (i.e. do you want…?, you want…?, and want…?). We argue that this cline of minimality reflects a cline of the action-initiator's stance, from relatively weak to strong (respectively), regarding their expectation that the action will be accepted or complied with. In doing so, we illustrate that, as part of the design of requests and offers, participants rely on more granular distinctions than a simple binary between interrogative and declarative morphosyntax. We conclude with a discussion of the interactional logic that undergirds the normative use of these grammatical formats, and of our findings’ implications for action formation and preference organization.


Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press



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