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Responsibility and Action: Invariants and Diversity in Requests for Objects in British English and Polish Interaction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jörg Zinken, Eva Ogiermann

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-276
Number of pages21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

King's Authors


We compare the use of two formats for requesting an object in informal everyday interaction: imperatives, common in our Polish data, and second-person polar questions, common in our English data. Imperatives and polar questions are selected in the same interactional “home environments” across the languages, in which they enact two social actions: drawing on shared responsibility and enlisting assistance, respectively. Speakers across the languages differ in their choice of request format in “mixed” interactional environments that support either. The findings shed light on the orderly ways in which cultural diversity is grounded in invariants of action formation.

[Supplementary materials are available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of Research on Language and Social Interaction for the following free supplemental resource(s): subtitled video clips of the analysed object request sequences.]

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