Anadolu Üniversitesi
Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi
Anadolu University
Journal of Social Sciences
Pragmatic Functions of Interrogatives in the Conversations of Monolingual
Turkish-Speaking Children
Türk Çocuklarının Söyleşilerinde Kullanılan Soru Cümlelerinin İşlevleri
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fatma Hülya Özcan
Abstract
Form and function relationship in discourse is important as different functions can be expressed through
one form. Interrogatives in discourse can perform more
than one act such as questions, offers, requests. Questions also serve different functions in discourse such as
“attracting attention, asking for information, confirmation and clarification” and many others. In this study,
we studied the pragmatic functions of interrogatives in
group conversations of monolingual Turkish-speaking
children. The findings show that the functions of questions are determined not only by context but by personal
relations as well. Questions that seek information and
that propose action are frequently asked since participants in the study work in groups in a collaborative
task. Through these questions, participants ask for information related to the task and ask for permission,
request an object or suggest ideas on the task they deal
with. On the other hand, the collaborative nature of the
task does not lead to questions used to ask for opinions.
The tendency which the participants display suggests
that the nature of the task and social relations are more
effective than the social and cultural environment.
öneride bulunmak gibi farklı edimsel işlevleri için kullanılabilmektedir. Aynı şekilde, sorulan sorular da
bağlam içinde farklı anlamlar ifade etmektedir. Bu çalışmada, anadili Türkçe olan tekdilli çocukların grup
söyleşilerinde sordukları sorular edimbilim açısından
incelenmiştir. Bulgular, soruların işlevlerinin belirlenmesinde hem bağlamın hem de konuşucuların birbirine karşı olan ilişkilerin rol oynadığını göstermiştir. Bilgi
soran soruların ve işlem başlatma sorularının sık olarak kullanılması konuşucuların birlikte tamamlamaya
çalıştıkları göreve odaklanmalarından kaynaklanmaktadır. Çünkü sorularla, göreve odaklı bilgi istemekte ve
ileri sürdükleri fikirleri onaya sunmaktadırlar. Diğer
yandan, yaptıkları görevin işbirliği yapmalarını gerektirmesi fikir sorularının daha az kullanılmasına yol açmıştır. Katılımcıların bu eğilimi, yaptıkları görevin ve
kendi aralarındaki sosyal ilişkilerin, kültürel ve sosyal
çevreden daha etkili olduğunu göstermektedir.
Keywords: Conversational Skills, Interrogatives,
Pragmatic Functions
Each utterance performed by a speaker may serve different functions. In some cases, there is a one-to-one
relationship between form and function meaning that
one form may lead to a performance of a single act;
while, in most instances, there is no one-to-one relationship between form and function meaning that one
form may have various functions. One such form is
the interrogatives. Interrogatives are considered as “a
category of grammatical form” (Huddleston, 1994, p.
412) while questions are considered as “a category of
meaning and function” (Ibid). Henceforth, the term
Öz
Doğal dillerde yapı-işlev ilişkisi karmaşık bir olgudur.
Tek bir işlev birden fazla yapı ile gerçekleştirilebildiği
gibi tek bir sözdizimsel yapı birden fazla işlevi yerine
getirmek amaçlı kullanılabilir. Örneğin soru cümleleri temel işlevleri olan soru sormak dışında rica etmek,
Anahtar Kelimeler: Söyleşi
Cümleleri, Edimbilimsel İşlevler
Becerileri,
Soru
Introduction
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fatma Hülya Özcan, Anadolu University Faculty of Education, [email protected]
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123
Pragmatic Functions of Interrogatives in the Conversations of Monolingual Turkish-Speaking Children
“question” is used since we aim to focus on the functions which are expressed during the conversations.
1. What is the frequency of questions in the group
conversations?
Language acquisition studies have focused on the
production of questions. Questions is considered
as a medium to understand children’s thinking process (Piaget, 1970), their intellectual abilities and social competence during communication with others
(Przetaunik-Gierowska & Lige+za, 1990). Questions
also reveal information not only about the semantic
development but pragmatic development as well.
Pragmatic development, as Ninio and Snow (1999,
p. 27) stated, is closely related to the development of
other language domains.
2. What are the functions of questions in group
conversations of monolingual Turkish-speaking
school age children?
Pragmatic aspects of questions have received a considerable amount of attention both in child and adult
language as pragmatic analyses of the questions also
provide information on “the appropriateness and
the felicity of the utterance as the occasion requires”
(Ninio & Snow, 1996, p. 9).
Tsui (1994) and Wu (1996) studied the questions
adults asked. Tsui (1994) proposed six different functions of questions which are eliciting information,
eliciting confirmation eliciting agreement, eliciting
commitment, eliciting repetition and clarification
and Wu (1989, 1999) concluded that the form and
function relationship is rather a complex one. James
and Seebach (1982) studied the pragmatic functions
of questions of children from the age of 2 to 5 and
stated that young children use questions to serve different functions, which are conversation function,
information seeking function and directive function and these functions change with the increasing
age. Gloric (2010), considering James and Seebach’s
classification of functions too broad, suggested a detailed classification of functions. The diversity of the
types and the functions are likely to show a change
in relation to the linguistic context and the partners
involved. Besides, as Bloom-Kulka (2004) discussed,
most sociolinguistic studies lack a developmental
data or they are concerned with toddlers and preschool children than school children. Questions,
having different pragmatic functions, convey different meanings and have an impact on the negotiation
of meaning.
Research Questions
This study, therefore, was designed to answer the following questions:
124
3. Do the functions of the questions posed show
any change in different grades?
4. Do these functions show any change in terms of
gender?
Methodology
The Project
This study is a part of a large-scale project which is
designed both as a cross sectional and a longitudinal study in cooperation with the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The project was first started in
Køge by the University of Copenhagen with bilingual
Turkish-Danish speaking children. Then, in 1997,
the Anadolu Project, which was funded by Anadolu
University, was started to collect spoken data from
monolingual Turkish-speaking school children living
in Eskişehir, a provincial town in Turkey, in order to
provide a control group for the data collected in the
Køge Project to allow comparative analysis. One of the
main concerns of this project was to collect data from
the second generation of immigrant, working class families. The reason for choosing the second generation
of immigrant working class families is to collect the
data from children of similar background since Køge
Project consisted of the language samples collected
from second generation of immigrant working class
families. There are 48 monolingual Turkish-speaking
children in this study, who were born in Turkey and
had parents who migrated to Turkey earlier. They
were attending to a school, situated in a socio-economically lower district, where mostly children of working class families attend. The data of this study was
collected longitudinally from the same children when
they were in the 1st grade, 3rd grade, 5th grade, 7th grade
and 8th grade. Each grade has three subgroups; a group
of only boys, a groups of only boys, and a mixed group
consisting two girls and two boys.
Participants
For this present study, all grades from the 1st to 8th
grade were included. All the subgroups of each grade
Anadolu Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi Eğitim Özel Sayısı
were included in the analysis in order to reveal any
possible gender differences in the data. Therefore, we
have 15 groups and 60 participants in total.
were excluded in this study since tag questions, rhetorical questions and conducive questions have various
sub-functions and require a detailed study.
Data Collection
Language samples of the participants were produced
during problem-solving tasks. For the group conversations, the students gathered in a separate room at
the school. In the mixed- gender groups, they were
seated in order to match diagonally according to their
sexes. The students had the small microphones pinned on their clothes and the recording was done by
mini disc recorders.
The functions were assigned by identifying the information questioned in the question. Having reviewed
the taxonomy of functions in the previous studies
(Tsui, 1994; James & Seebach, 1982), we took the taxonomy suggested in HoShukWai (2000) as the basis
and adapted this taxonomy taking our data in consideration.
1st and the 3rd graders were asked to furnish a house.
They were given a large sheet of a cardboard and a
stack of furniture catalogs. For each group, 3 pairs of
scissors, 3 marker pens and 3 glue sticks were given.
The number of the scissors and the glue sticks and
marker pens were less than the number of the participants in the group. The instructions were given in
Turkish by the native speakers of Turkish. The students were told that they were to prepare a furnished
house on the white cardboard by cutting out the furniture pictures from the catalogue in order to furnish
the house and were asked to decide together how to
furnish.
Seeking information
5th, 7th and 8th graders were asked to prepare a collage
on either a topic they chose or to illustrate a day they
spent together in Eskişehir. They were given a stack
of pictures too and were told that they were free to
write or to draw on the poster. While preparing the
collage, they had to decide together and negotiate on
the suggestions each of them made.
Each data collection session lasted for 45 minutes including attaching the mikes and explaining the task.
Data Analysis
The conversations were transcribed in compliance
with the Childes conventions (MacWhinney, 1995).
The data from monolingual group was transcribed
by a native speaker of Turkish and then reviewed by
a bilingual Danish-Turkish speaker. The data for the
present study were analyzed in terms of the pragmatic functions of the questions. The first step was to
identify all the questions in the conversations. Tag
questions, rhetorical questions, statements which are
formulated as questions and which do not require an
answer, and conducive questions, questions which
the speakers believe that they know the answer to,
HoShuk Wai’s taxonomy:
I. Seeking information
A. Discussion
observable topics
non-present topics
inner state and feelings
B. negotiating ongoing activity
II. Non information-seeking
Proposing action
Clarification
Confirmation
III. Rhetorical
Attracting attention
Exclamation
Maintaining contact
Upon close examination of our data, we saw that the
conversations were mostly around negotiation since
the participants had a problem solving task at hand.
That is why, “negotiating ongoing activity” was excluded as a category since it would not be explanatory
enough. The data showed that they ask each others’
opinions frequently. Besides, the data further showed
that participants ask questions to express criticism.
Therefore, we added two more categories of functions, which are “asking for opinion” and “criticism”.
Therefore, the functions were assigned according to
the following taxonomy.
I. Seeking information
1. on observable topics
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125
Pragmatic Functions of Interrogatives in the Conversations of Monolingual Turkish-Speaking Children
2. on non present topics
3. on inner state and feelings
Table 2. Distribution of info-Seeking and Non-İnfo
Seeking Questions
II. Non information-seeking
1. asking for opinion
2. proposing action
Questions that propose, suggest, request, impose, offer or invite possible future actions
3. clarification
4. confirmation
5. criticism
For assigning the functions, the two raters first assigned the functions to each question asked in one
of the groups independently and then reviewed the
assigned functions to reach a consensus. Then, 20%
of the interrogatives were analyzed by two raters independently and reviewed. The percentage of agreement between the raters is 90%.
Questions
Total
Info seeking
questions
Non info seeking questions
N
2338
%
1417
61%
921
39%
Questions are asked more frequently to seek for information from the group members (61%). Non information seeking questions, on the other hand, form
the 39% of the questions asked during the conversations.
We, then, pursue the functions of questions in detail and analyze the functions our participants convey
through questions.
Table 3. Distribution of Functions of Questions
MONOLINGUAL
Info seeking
questions
Seeking info. (observ.)
Seeking info. (non obs)
Seeking info. feelings
Total
Results and Discussion
We first looked at the frequency of the questions asked in general.
Table 1. Frequency of Questions Across Age Groups
questions
Total N.
questions
( % )
1st
grade
458
3rd
grade
734
5th
grade
368
7th grade
444
8th
grade
649
21%
21%
17%
16%
19%
1st and 3rd grade children ask more questions than the
older children. Although the percentage of the questions does not show a steady increase or decrease, 5th
grade and 7th grade participants ask fewer questions
than the younger groups. When we look at the conversations going on during the task, we gather that older children spare their own working space and each
participant prepares a quarter of the collage. One
other reason may be that older children get familiar
with the task in time.
Having a glance at the general profile of the questions,
we focus on the two main functions of the questions,
which are information seeking and non information
seeking questions, excluding rhetorical and conducive questions.
126
N
1358
56
3
1417
%
96%
4%
-
Monolingual participants’ questions focus around
seeking information on the observable environment.
(Table 3)
Examples:
(1) *HAL: yatak odası neresi
‘Where is the bedroom?’
(1st grade)
(2) *HAT: ama başka ne bulacağız ki
‘But what else are we going to find?’
(7th grade)
This finding conforms to the idea that children seek
information about ongoing activity and people and
objects present in the immediate environment (Przetaunik-Gierowska & Ligeza, 1990). In face-to-face
interactions, the conversational exchange may take
place at different levels but immediate social situations have significant influence on the content of interaction (Ninio and Snow, 1996, p.30).
Seeking information questions are mostly asked for
the observable topics and are frequent at every age
level. (Table 4)
Anadolu Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi Eğitim Özel Sayısı
Table 4. Distribution of Functions Across the Grades
Info
seeking Q.
Seeking
info.
(observ.)
Seeking
info. (non
obs)
Seeking
info.
(feelings)
1st
grade
61%
3rd
grade
62%
5th
grade
45%
7th
grade
56%
8th
grade
61%
2%
4%
1%
2%
2%
In earlier grades, they ask about what to do and how
to do, how to carry on with the task.
(3) *HAL: ya ya kızlar burada kızlar neleri yapacağız
ben şunları anlayamadım ne koyacağız.
‘hey girls, what are we going to do here,
girls? I didn’t understand these. What are
we going to put (there)?’
(8) *HAT: kızlar kaçta çalıyor zil.
‘Girls, what time does the bell ring?’
(5th grade)
(9) *RAS: acaba bize neden vermiyorlar ki.
‘I wonder why they don’t give us (the cards)
to us?’
(8th grade)
(1st grade)
(4) *UFU: hikaye mi yapacağız şimdi.
‘Are we going to create a story now?’
(3rd grade)
In later grades, on the other hand, they ask questions
related to how to organize the pictures they have and
what to write or whether they have completed a particular step.
(5) *ELI: bu kadın da kimmiş.
‘Who is that woman?‘
(7th grade)
(6) *AYL: <İ. bu ne demek> [<] look ne demek.
‘What does this mean ? What does ‘look’
mean ?’
(8th grade)
(7) *DIL: bu ney [//] bundan ne anlıyorsunuz.
‘What is this ? What do you understand
from this?’
(8th grade)
Information seeking questions for non-present topics
are used to question personal matters or topics in the
environment but are not directly related to the immediate context.
In non information seeking questions, questions that
propose actions are the most frequently asked questions (43%) followed by asking for opinions (34%),
confirmation (15%), and clarification (8%) type of
questions.
Table 5. Distribution of Non-info Seeking Questions
Non info seeking
questions
proposing actions
asking for opinions
confirmation
clarification
criticism
Total
395
314
136
72
4
921
43%
34%
15%
8%
-
Participants ask questions to express requests for the
objects such as scissors, glues or pictures, permission
to stick a picture or write something, or come up with
suggestions and offer actions and ideas.
(10) *UFU: <kim adam istiyor. (offer)
‘Who wants a (picture of a) man?’
(3rd grade)
(11) *HAL: adama len bıyık yapalım mı len. (suggestion)
‘Shall we draw a moustache?’
(3rd grade)
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Pragmatic Functions of Interrogatives in the Conversations of Monolingual Turkish-Speaking Children
(12) *SEV: şu dergilerden verir misin K.. (request)
‘Would you give (some of) these magazines?’
(5th grade)
(13) *FAY: bakabilir miyim. (permission)
‘May I have a look (at it)?’
(7th grade)
We, then, analyzed the distribution of non information seeking questions across the grades.
Table 7. Distribution of Non İnformation Seeking Questions Across Grades
Non info
seeking
Q.
NIS
proposing
actions
NIS asking
for opinions
NIS
confirmation
NIS
clarification
NIS criticism
1st
grade
14%
3rd
grade
13%
5th
grade
12%
7th
grade
12%
8th
grade
15%
Total
N
395
16%
12%
34%
15%
15%
314
1%
3%
4%
4%
3%
136
6%
6%
4%
11%
4%
72
-
-
-
-
-
4
Although 8th graders used proposing action questions
more than the other graders, the percentages are quite close among the grades. These types of questions
are used to request items or suggest actions.
(14) *FER: makas verebilir misiniz.
‘Could you give me (a pair of) scissors?’
(8th grade)
(17) *ESR: İ. bu da harita olabilir mi duvara.
‘Can this be a map on the wall?’
(5th grade)
(18) *UFU: ne yapalım çizdiğin köye.
‘What shall we do on the village you have
drawn?’
(5th grade)
(15) *RAS: gençlerle el ele yazayım mı.
‘Shall I write “hand in hand with youth”?’
(8th grade)
7th and 8th graders prefer working in their own working space therefore they seem not to be interested in
each other’s ideas.
(16) *ILK: aa N. sen bunları böyle keser misin.
‘N. would you cut these like that?’
(1st grade)
Questions that seek clarification are more frequently
used by 7th graders.
5th graders used more “asking for opinion’ questions.
Task familiarity may play an important role in this
because in the earlier grades, they keep asking questions seeking information about what to do or what
objects or people in the pictures to choose but as
the time passes, since they get familiar with the task,
and become more eager to collaborate, they ask each
other’s opinions more.
128
(19 *AYL: biz banyo yaptık mı.
‘Have we had a bath?’
*XXX: banyo mu.
‘A bath?’
We finally looked at whether gender of the participants has a determining effect on the functions of the
questions. (Table 7)
Anadolu Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi Eğitim Özel Sayısı
Table 8. Distribution of Functions of Questions Across the Genders
Info so
Info sno
Info sf
opinion
Prop. act
Clarific.
Confirm.
criticism
Questions
(N)
Info so
Info sno
Info sf
opinion
Prop. act
Clarific.
Confirm.
criticism
Questions
(N)
1st grade
mixed girls
%
%
55
57
2
3
1
16
19
18
16
2
7
5
161
107
7th grade
mixed girls
%
%
57
39
4
1
12
15
17
11
4
5
4
12
1
214
110
boys
%
74
8
13
4
1
114
boys
%
68
5
14
4
9
69
3rd grade
mixed girls
%
%
72
47
5
boys
%
70
8
8
8
1
6
23
13
6
11
8
11
2
1
17
39
167
243
224
8th grade
mixed girls
%
%
64
47
3
12
14
3
6
1
218
The findings show that boys asked information seeking questions on observable topics more frequently
while girls ask more opinion asking questions. In the
5th grade, mixed group has more asking opinion questions. When we take a close look at the conversations
of the mixed 5th grades, 59% of the opinion questions are asked by the girl participants. These findings
show that boys look for information and girls tend to
take other groups members’ views into consideration.
Proposing action questions are more frequent in mixed groups in the 1st and 7th grades and in girls in the
other grades. That is because girls use questions for
requests and permissions more often than boys.
(20) *AYS: makası verir misin.
‘Would you give (me) the scissors?’
(1st grade-mixed-girl)
(21) *HAL: o mutfak mı o salak bunlar kesilmeyecek
onu bırak.
‘Is that a kitchen? Silly, these won’t be cut,
leave it.’
(1st grade-mixed-boy)
5th grade
mixed girls
%
%
37
33
2
2
boys
%
70
5
10
45
6
4
9
14
4
3
98
124
97
boys
%
78
3
24
19
4
3
2
11
1
5
241
148
(22) *MEH: hey versene # makası versene.
‘hey, give me the scissors.’
(1st grade-mixed-boy)
7th grade boys are being more polite when they are
with girls.
(23) *RAS: şunu verebilir misin # hadi.
‘Can you give this (to me? Come on.’
(7th grade-mixed-boy)
(24) *RAS: uhuyu alabilir miyim?
‘Can I have the glue?’
(7th grade-mixed-boy)
Clarification questions, although in small percentages, are again used by the girls more.
(25) *AYL: göz reklamı.
‘eye commercial’
*CIG: göz mü.
‘eye?’
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Pragmatic Functions of Interrogatives in the Conversations of Monolingual Turkish-Speaking Children
One possible explanation may be that girls are quite
involved in what they are doing and feel like asking
for clarification frequently.
HoShukWai, G. (2000). The Pragmatic Functions of
Children’s Questions. BSc Dissertation. Hong Kong:
The University of Hong Kong.
Confirmation questions are more frequent in the mixed groups in the 1st and 7th grades and in girls in the
3rd and the 5th grades. When we had a close look at the
conversations of the mixed groups, we are not able
to find a consistent and plausible pattern in terms of
gender.
Huddleston, R. (1994). The contrast between interrogatives and questions. Journal of Linguistics. 30,
411-439. Doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.30.411.
Tannen (1990) found striking gender differences as
girls being collaborative and boys being competitive.
Our results indicated girls’ tendency of being collaborative but to be able to say boys are being competitive,
more qualitative analysis is required.
Ninio, A. and Snow, C. E. (1996). Pragmatic Development. Boulder: Westview.
Conclusion
Choice of functions seems to depend on the context
to a great extent (Athanasiadou, 1990). In our study,
it is the task which determines/defines the context.
Therefore, the choice of functions is mostly determined by the requirements of the task. That is why information seeking questions are more frequent than
the non-information seeking questions. This context
could also trigger “asking for opinion” type of questions. However, the relatively lower frequency of these
questions may indicate non collaborative tendency of
some of the participants especially boys in the groups. Therefore, apart from the context, personal relations and tendencies could dominate the emergence
of different functions. Proposing action questions are
widely used since these questions comprise the functions of requesting, asking for permission, and suggesting which are appropriate in such a context. The
nature of the task and the social relations with their
peers seem to shape their choice of functions. A further analysis of the data from discourse and pragmatic
point of view will contribute to draw a more detailed
developmental profile.
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