Questions and Questioning

Irene Koshik

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Any discussion of questions and questioning needs to distinguish between questions as a linguistic form and the various social actions that are accomplished through this form. Questions can be formed in a variety of ways. Wh-questions use question words such as “which,” “when,” “why,” “where,” “who,” “whose,” “whom,” or “how” (e.g., “Who was that lady?” “Where did you play basketball?” “Met whom?”). Polar (yes/no) questions, are usually formed in English by inversion of subject and auxiliary (or “do-auxiliary”; e.g., “Is Al here today?”). Increasingly, in informal oral English, the auxiliary is left out (e.g., “You home?”). Other languages use phrases or particles, rather than inversion, to indicate that a preceding or following utterance is a polar question. Polar questions can also be formed by using rising instead of falling intonation (e.g., “You're home?”). Quirk et al. (1985) call these declarative questions. Even declarative statements with falling intonation can, in some contexts, be heard as questions (Heritage 2012). For example, when a speaker makes a statement about something in the recipient's knowledge domain (e.g., “You're married”), it is up to the recipient to confirm or disconfirm that statement. These declarative statements therefore act like polar questions. Other types of questions are tag questions, which are a type of polar question (e.g., “They're a lovely family now aren't they?”) and alternative questions (e.g., “Didju say widespread or whitespread?”).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Communication
EditorsWolfgang Donsbach
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Ltd
ISBN (Electronic)9781405186407
ISBN (Print)9781405131995
StatePublished - Dec 10 2015


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