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Hai X? 'Do you have X?' in the Italian request system


Rossi,  Giovanni
Human Sociality and Systems of Language Use, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Multimodal Interaction, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Interactional Foundations of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Rossi, G. (2012). Hai X? 'Do you have X?' in the Italian request system. Talk presented at the 5th Language, Culture & Mind conference [LCM V]. Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal. 2012-06-27 - 2012-06-29.

In a corpus of naturally-occurring Italian informal interaction, requests for objects are implemented in different ways. These include: an imperative format, a Mi X? format (an interrogative construction with a turn-initial dative pronoun, roughly 'Will you pass me X?'), and a Hai X? format ('Do you have X?'). These three formats share an important usage property: the transfer of object they are employed to request is normally immediate and effortless for the recipient, that is, low-cost. Building on this premise, I argue that Hai X? requests differ from imperative and Mi X? object requests in two ways. First, while objects requested with an imperative or Mi X? format are shared goods or goods for common use (e.g., a plate, a pen, a deck of cards), objects requested with a Hai X? format typically belong to the recipient (e.g., a lighter, a handkerchief, a notebook). Second, while imperatives and Mi X? interrogatives target objects that are readily available in the immediate environment, Hai X? interrogatives are concerned with objects that are not visible to participants, or that are presented by the speaker as possibly not available or accessible. The first aim of this talk is to examine the relationship of Hai X? interrogatives to the two main alternative forms that Italian speakers can use to request the transfer of an object, and to show how they are organised in a system of non-equivalent, functionally-distinct strategies. The second aim is to analyse the main interactional dimensions that are managed by speakers through a Hai X? request turn. The same linguistic form appears to conflate two functions: i) verify the availability of the object wanted, which is a pre-condition to its transfer, and ii) display the speaker’s awareness that the object is possessed by the recipient (a concern for ownership). The relationship between the two functions is discussed in relation to a 'core meaning' of the format that can be argued to underlie both of them.