Questions in argumentative dialogue


January 1, 2022

Hautli-Janisz, Annette, Katarzyna Budzynska, Conor McKillop, Brian Plüss, Valentin Gold, and Chris Reed. “Questions in argumentative dialogue”. Journal of Pragmatics, 188: 56-79, 2022.

Teaser image for publication. Despite questions having a long-standing history in theoretical linguistics, the interface between empirically grounded corpus linguistics of questioning behaviour and analytically driven pragmatic theory of question structure and context has received significantly less attention. This paper aims to contribute to this field of research by showing that a four-way categorisation into question types, namely, pure questioning, assertive questioning, rhetorical questioning and challenge questioning, allows us to capture and represent questions in over two million words in natural language argumentative dialogue. In this type of dialogue questioning has been claimed to serve as the engine that drives the shape and development of a discourse. Our investigation covers three genres of argumentative discourse in which questions play a key role, namely political debates, moral dilemmas and sessions of participatory deliberative democracy. Through deep algorithmic analysis of the data, we test a variety of hypotheses from argumentation and linguistic theory, clearly demonstrating for the first time that (particular types of) questions directly catalyse argument structure and that the illocutionary consequences of non-canonical questions are much more varied than previously thought.

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