'Is that your coat on the floor?' Agency and Autonomy in Indirection

Dr Rebecca Clift (University of Essex)

Event details


Nov 14, 2016
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM


Ken Edwards Seminar Room 527, University of Leicester

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Why might a parent say to a child ‘Is that your coat on the floor?’ as a means of getting them to pick it up, rather than using a directive, ‘Pick up your coat’?.

Work on indirect utterances has focused exclusively on what the speaker is assumed to gain from indirectness. In contrast, this talk uses insights and video-recorded data of family interaction from Conversation Analysis (CA) to illuminate observable recipient conduct as a means of identifying the interactional motivations for a speaker to be indirect. Central to the analysis is the observation that recipients do work of various kinds to exert agency in response; to establish that what they are doing has a degree of autonomy, rather than being purely acquiescent in response to a prior turn. It turns out that linguistic mechanisms deployed in the pursuit of autonomy figure centrally in this empirically-grounded account of indirectness.

Dr Rebecca Clift

Dr Rebecca CliftRebecca Clift is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. She studied English Literature as an undergraduate at Durham and went on to do a PhD on misunderstandings in conversation at Cambridge. Her research interests are in Conversation Analysis. She has published work on the relationship between grammar and interaction, evidentiality, knowledge claims in interaction and reported speech. She is the co-editor, with Elizabeth Holt, of Reporting Talk: Reported Speech in Interaction (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and is the author of Conversation Analysis (2016) in the Cambridge University Press Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics series

 This free lecture is open to graduates, staff and members of the public.

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