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Asking questions and doing other actions in political debates: How citizens manage to speak in public

Applicant van Schepen Nynke
Number 172021
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity University of Helsinki
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Romance languages and literature
Start/End 01.03.2017 - 28.02.2018
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Keywords (6)

Conversation Analysis; Yes/no interrogatives; Question-answer sequences; Interactional Linguistics; Multimodal analysis; Institutional talk

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Asking questions and doing other actions in political debates: How citizens manage to speak in public
Lay summary

Ce projet de recherche s’efforce d’étudier comment des citoyens dans des réunions politiques de démocratie participative posent des questions en plein public. Les questions sont non seulement un type d’action ordinaire dans les conversations quotidiennes, elles constituent également un type d’action spécialisée dans certains contextes institutionnels, comme les réunions politiques, où elles forment une pratique ne consistant pas uniquement à chercher des informations, mais aussi à afficher une opinion politique et à exprimer des positions critiques. Plus précisément, ce projet fournit une analyse détaillée de l’organisation systématique séquentielle des questions interrogatives en oui/non, utilisées par les citoyens lors de ces réunions politiques comme moyen de faire des suggestions, de vérifier la compréhension et de demander des confirmations critiques de la part des professionnels. Les interrogatives en oui/non (Raymond, 2006, 2010) représentent un des formats généralement associés aux questions (mais, voir Schegloff, 1984) et imposent des contraintes particulières sur la réponse, en faisant de « oui » ou « non » le format de la réponse préférée (Raymond, 2003 ; Koshik, 2005). Contrairement à la plupart des interactions institutionnelles étudiées, ou les professionnels posent des questions et c’est aux non-professionnels d’y répondre, ici c’est aux citoyens en tant que non-professionnels de poser les questions – et donc d’initier une séquence – pour que les élus et/ou les experts répondent. Cette thèse a donc pour objectif d’étudier certaines pratiques clés permettant aux citoyens non seulement de participer à la création et à l’établissement de l’agenda politique, mais aussi de le faire de manière critique, autonome et responsable en posant des questions.

 

 

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.01.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
Political transparency matters: Citizens challenging officials via ‘have you planned X’-type questions
van SchepenNynke (2019), Political transparency matters: Citizens challenging officials via ‘have you planned X’-type questions, in Discourse and Society, 30(5), 525-531.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Centre of Excellence, University of Helsinki Finland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Work-in-Progress seminar Centre of Excellence Individual talk Citizens’ participation in political debates: “questions” embedded in multi-action turns 06.10.2017 Helsinki, Finland van Schepen Nynke;
International Pragmatics conference Talk given at a conference “Est-ce que c’est pas un peu incongrue de mettre ça au milieu d’un parc?”: citizens claiming (political) entitlement to challenge politicians 16.07.2017 Belfast, Great Britain and Northern Ireland van Schepen Nynke;
Speed-data Event Individual talk Citizens asking officials questions in public: Some reflections on turn-design 20.06.2017 Helsinki, Finland van Schepen Nynke;
Intersubjectivity in Action conference Talk given at a conference "Est-ce que vous avez prévu des stationnements?": attributing a cognitive activity to a co-participant 11.05.2017 Helsinki, Finland van Schepen Nynke;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
177079 Confocal Microscope with spectral detection, FLIM and laser ablation 01.12.2017 R'EQUIP
144376 Speaking in public: Social interactions within larger groups. Contributions from a conversation analytic multimodal perspective 01.03.2013 Project funding

Abstract

This research project, located in Conversation Analysis (hereafter CA) and interactional linguistics, strives to study how citizens in participatory political meetings ask questions in public. Questions are an ordinary type of action in everyday conversation, yet they are also a specialised type of action within some institutional contexts, such as political meetings, in which they represent a powerful way in which citizens might not only seek out information, but also display a political opinion and express critical positions. More specifically, my project provides a detailed analysis of the systematic organisation of French yes/no interrogative questions used by citizens in these political meetings as a means to make suggestions, check understanding and request critical information and confirmation from professionals - politicians and/or experts. In addition to wh-questions and alternative questions, yes/no interrogatives (Raymond, 2006, 2010) form one of the formats generally associated with doing questioning (see, however, Schegloff, 1984). All of these different formats are utilised to achieve initial actions and, as such, launch a new sequence (Schegloff, 2007). They thereby not only make an answer conditionally relevant, but they also make different types of answers the sequentially relevant next action. Whereas wh-questions make relevant an answer containing the particular piece of information requested in the initial action and alternative questions project one of the two alternatives provided in the initial action as the preferred next, yes/no interrogatives put even more constraints on the answer, making a yes or a no (according to the initial format) the preferred answer (Raymond, 2003; Koshik, 2005). As such, this type of question-answer sequence is the most frequently occurring adjacency pair made during these political meetings - this is the case for most institutional interactions as well (Heritage, 2004). However, whereas in most institutional interactions the professionals ask questions and the laypersons respond (see, for example, McHoul, 1978 on classroom interaction; Atkinson & Drew, 1979 on interactions in the court; or Maynard, 1991 on doctor-patient consultations), in this specific interactional context of public participatory political meetings, the citizens as laypersons ask the questions - and thus initiate a sequence - for the politicians and/or experts to answer. Yet, they use and exploit the question-answer sequence, and more particularly the yes/no interrogative format, not only to make an answer relevant next, but to do other types of actions, such as proposing, suggesting, criticising, etc.The present study analyses yes/no interrogatives in political meetings held within the context of a participatory democracy projecting concerning the transformation of an old military site into a public park. It is based on a large corpus of video-recorded meetings that have been extensive studied within the SNF project “Speaking in Public” (see Mondada, 2011, 2012a, 2012b, 2013, 2014a, 2015, 2016, in press), from which this dissertation is being elaborated. The dissertation contributes to the project by highlighting some key practices through which citizens are able not only to participate in the creation and establishment of the political agenda, but also to do so in a critical, autonomous and responsible way.
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