A conversation analytic study of yes/no questions which convey reversed polarity assertions

Irene Koshik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some "conducive" yes/no questions are treated by recipients as conveying an assertion of the opposite polarity to that of the grammatical form of the question. A study of these "reversed polarity questions (RPQs)" within a conversation analytic framework suggests that the interpretation of the questions as RPQs, rather than as 'real' questions, is not dependent on the design of the question alone, but on the actions which the questions are being used to perform and on the displayed knowledge state or epistemic strength from which the questions are asked. I will show in detail how this interpretation is interactionally accomplished with a type of yes/no question used by teachers in problem-solving sequences in one-on-one second language writing conferences at the post-secondary level. These questions, all of which are affirmative yes/no questions, reverse their polarity from affirmative to negative by conveying a negative assertion which shows what is problematic about a portion of student text or talk and, in the process, points to a possible solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1851-1877
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Conduciveness
  • Conversation analysis
  • Pedagogical talk
  • Reversed polarity questions
  • Teacher-student interaction
  • Yes/no questions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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