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The request system in Italian interaction


Rossi,  Giovanni
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
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, Nijmegen, NL;
Interactional Foundations of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Rossi, G. (2014). The request system in Italian interaction. Talk presented at the 4th International Conference on Conversation Analysis [ICCA 2014]. University of California at Los Angeles, CA. 2014-06-25 - 2014-06-29.

In this talk I examine the range of interactional resources used by speakers of Italian to make requests, by which I mean any attempt to get another person to carry out a practical action. My data consists of 5 hours of video recorded everyday interaction in Italian, in which I systematically identified all requests (n=344) and classified their linguistic forms (9 types). These include lexico-syntactic constructions such as Passami il sale ‘Pass me the salt’ or Mi passi il sale? ‘Will you pass me the salt?’ as well as nonverbal forms, such as pointing to the salt. Drawing on methods from linguistics and conversation analysis, my goal is to account for the variation with which requests are formally realized. The analysis reveals a set of social-interactional factors that influence a speaker’s selection of a request form from those available to them. Among these factors are the relative anticipability of the request, the recognition of potential obstacles to its granting, and the relation of the request to what the recipient is currently doing, that is whether the requested action is consistent with or departs from the larger course of action of the recipient. I argue that the mapping between selection factors and request forms can be described as a system, where forms are functionally distributed according to their affordances and in relation to their alternatives. The results of this study further our understanding of how human agents manage everyday cooperation and provide an illustration of the social motivations of linguistic form.