A Contrastive Study of Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Modern Plays

Master's Thesis, 2013

123 Pages, Grade: 19.80 out of 20







1.1. Preliminaries
1.2. Objectives of the Study
1.3. Significance of the Study
1.4. Scope of the Study
1.5. Outline of the Study

2.1. Introduction
2.2. Pragmatics
2.2.1. Definition
2.2.2. Speech Acts
2.2.3. Speech Events
2.3. Description of Conversation
2.3.1. Approaches to the Description of Conversation
2.3.1. Discourse Analysis Characterization of Discourse Text Context
2.3.3. Conversational Analysis Conversational Descriptive Units Turn, Pair, Sequence Act, Move, Exchange Conversational Structure Adjacency Pair Three-part Exchange Move Structure Conversational Functions Structural Location Prospective Classification Retrospective Classification Conversational Process
2.4. Question
2.4.1. Quirk, et al.’s Classification of Questions
2.4.2. Questions as Illocutionary Acts
2.4.3. Questions as Requests
2.4.4. Tsui’s Classification of Questions Responses to Elicitations Follow-up Acts
2.5. Some Related Studies

3.1. Introduction
3.2. Definition of Key Terms
3.3. The Corpus
3.4. Analysis of the Data
3.5. Processing and Presentation of the Results

4.1. Introduction
4.2. Results
4.3. Discussion

5.1. Introduction
5.2. Summary
5.3. Conclusions
5.4. Theoretical and Pedagogical Implications
5.5. Suggestions for Further Research




I would like to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation to Professor L. Yarmohammadi, my thesis advisor, for his invaluable guidance, attention, encouragement and comments in all stages of writing this research.

I would also like to extend my special thanks to my thesis reader, Mr. G. Tajalli, for his thoughtful remarks, careful reading of the manuscript, and constructive suggestions on the thesis.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dr. M. Yamini for his fruitful suggestions, meticulous reading of the manuscript, and wonderful assistance, especially in statistics.

I would also like to express my heartiest thanks to my parents for their sincere encouragement and support over the years.


A Contrastive Study of Elicitation

Questions in English and

Persian Modern Plays


Janin Jafari

Questioning is one of the important skills in language learning. Moreover, understanding the discourse function of questions will help learners master the uses of questions. The purpose of the present study was to verify the applicability of Tsui’s (1995) model of conversational analysis, specifically to the different subclasses of ‘Elicitation questions’ (i.e., inform, agree, commit, repeat and clarify) in English and Persian. This study also intended to contrast the subcategories of ‘Elicitation questions’ in English and Persian modern plays. To achieve the objectives, three modern English plays and three modern Persian plays were selected. In order to determine the frequency of each subcategory of ‘Elicitation questions’ of each language 361 instances from the English plays and 337 instances from the Persian plays were analyzed and compared. A Chi-square test was used to determine whether the difference was statistically significant.

The results indicated that Tsui’s characterization of the elicitation regardless of its syntactic form is feasible. Furthermore, Tsui’s classification of ‘Elicitation questions’ into five subcategories in terms of discourse functions of the utterances is applicable. The findings also showed that first, both English and Persian texts used more Elicit: Inform and Elicit: Clarify; second, English and Persian texts used less Elicit:

Commit and Elicit: Repeat respectively; third, Persian texts used Elicit:

Agree twice more than those of English texts. The stated differences were shown to be statistically significant.


Persian examples are rendered in transcription. The symbols represent the sounds similar to the English sounds except for the cases stated in the following:

illustration not visible in this excerpt


1. The Frequencies and Percentages of Elicitation Question in English Texts

2. The Frequencies and Percentages of Elicitation Questions in Persian Texts

3. The Frequency of Different Types of Elicitation Questions in the Two Languages

4. Different Types of Elicitation Questions in English Texts

5. Different Types of Elicitation Questions in Persian Texts

6. Different Types of Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Texts


1.1. Preliminaries

Questioning is not only one of the most important skills in language learning, but also one of the main objectives of learning English in our chools. ‘Questioning’ here refers to the act of asking or putting or using questions through which a good number of functions can be served.

Educators have long recognized the effect of teacher questions on the thinking process of pupils. According to Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (1992), ‘questions’ in general, refer to the utterances which are addressed to a listener/reader and ask for an expression of fact, opinion, idea, etc. Although there are a number of defmitions, it seems that the term ‘question’ has never been clearly defined. With the changes occurring within the linguistic theories, the term has been characterized in different ways.

Since the inception of linguistics considering language as a specialized tool or system for the expression and communication of thoughts, feelings and purposes; and question as an instrument for getting information, linguists have attempted to provide different theories of language.

One of the important schools of linguistics which was established in the early decades of the twentieth-century was Structuralism. Structuralists paid more attention to the form than meaning and described linguistic elements in terms of structure. In fact, syntax and form played a central role in this analytical approach. The result of structural practice was the ability to produce a range of forms, but not the ability to use forms appropriately. In other words, in the structural view the interest was in the form of language rather than the function. In this view an utterance is identified as a ‘question’ because it is interrogative in form and it is regarded as a syntactic category. However, many linguists gradually began to shift their attention to language in its context and social setting, and to language users and their purposes of communication.

The new approach in which linguists emphasized the study of language in relation to its setting, participants, and their relationship was called Functionalism. Different from the structuralists who studied language as an, autonomous system with little reference to its meaning and social functions, functionalists tried to study language as a means of social interacticri and analyze different ways in which people use language in order to fulfill some functions such as requesting, greeting, etc. within the social organization. They focused on meaning and function rather than grammatical elements, so they provided a principled way of linking function and form. In this approach, linguists defined ‘questions’ as a semantic class which is primarily used to seek information on a specific point.

Recently, linguists have realized that performing certain functions in a language might extend beyond the surface of the language, thus they are concerned with the analysis of human discourse and communicative interaction. Meanwhile, the attention of many linguists has shifted from sentence to text. According to Thomas (1995), there are many times that people state sentences in their real-life and normal situation, but they mean more than what they exactly say. This relatively new area of linguistics which is one of the three divisions of semiotics, (i.e., the scientific study of sign and symbol system) is concerned with the study of language in use and with the relationship between utterances and the context in which they occur, that is, Pragmatics. This approach not only studies the exact and literal meaning of words and sentences, but also deals with the aspects of meaning that has to do with the intention of the speaker. Thomas (1995: 23) further defmes pragmatics as”... meaning in interaction, since this takes account of the different contributions of both speaker and hearer as well as that of utterance and context to the making of meaning”. Elgin (as quoted in Chastain, 1998: 68) considers pragmatics as “. . . the interaction between a sequence of language and the real world situation in which it is used”. Meaning in this sense has a central role in communication which occurs in social organization. So, the study of semantics to understand utterances becomes more and more important. Pragmatics takes into consideration both the study of meaning and parts of linguistics which connect language with social, psychological and philosophical aspects of linguistics. In this context, ‘question’ can be characterized as an utterance with a particular illocutionary force, which refers to the speaker’s commutkicative intention in producing an utterance.

There are two major approaches in relation to the analysis of conversation within pragmatics. Levinson (as reported in Rostampour, 19974: 4(holds that these two approaches are “. . .discourse analysis and conversational analysis”. Sinclair and Coulthard (1995: 8) propose that “Grammar is concerned with the formal properties of an item, discourse with the functional properties, with what the speaker is using the item for”. In discourse category an utterance is identified as a ‘question’ because it expects an answer or some verbal performance from the addressee. Franck (as cited in Tsui, 1995: 32) maintains that:

Conversation is an interactive process, during which the meaning and illocutionary force of utterance are negotiated between the speaker and the addressee, not interchange of utterances with speaker-determined illocutionary forces.

Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) explain that there are three major acts (i.e., the lowest rank of discourse) in all forms of spoken discourse -- elicitation, directive, and informative -- which occur in classroom discourse as the heads of initiating moves. They declare that “. . .the meaning of an utterance is its predictive assessment of what follows” (12). Thus, an utterance which expects a linguistic response of supplying a piece of information is characterized as an elicitation. In this regard Tsui (1995) considers the term ‘Elicitation’ as any utterance whose function is to elicit an obligatory verbal response or its non-verbal surrogate. The six subcategories of ‘Elicitation’ are formulated as follows:

1) Elicit: inform

The first subcategory is Elicitations which invite the addressee to supply a piece of information.

2) Elicit: confirm

The second subcategory is Elicitations which invite the addressee to confirm the speaker’s assumption.

3) Elicit: agree

The third subeategory, elicit: agree, invites the addressee to agree with the speaker’s assumption that the expressed proposition is self-evidently true.

4) Elicit: commit

The fourth subcategory is Elicitation which differs from the above three subcategories in that it elicits more than just a verbal response from the addressee. It also elicits commitment of some kind.

5) Elicit: repeat and 6) Elicit: clarify

The fifth and sixth subcategories of Elicitation are metadiscoursal and refer to the discourse itself. One prospects a repetition of the utterance preceding the Elicitation and the other prospects a clarification of a preceding utterance or preceding utterances.

Tsui (1995:81-88)

Tsui (1995: 89) maintains that “. . . any utterance in the initiating move which prospects an obligatory verbal response can be characterized as an elicitation irrespective of its syntactic form”. She adds:

This characterization avoids the inconsistency of using syntactic criteria for some utterances and discourse criteria for others. It avoids confusing labels such as ‘exclamatory questions’ and ‘declarative questions’ -- where, in the former, the term question’ refers to the interrogative form, whereas in the latter, the term ‘question’ refers to the discourse function. It also avoids the lumping together of utterances which have different discourse consequences, such as the characterization of questions as requests.

1.2. Objectives of the Study

The present study tries to accomplish the following:

1) To identify five subclasses of Elicitation (except Elicit: confirm) by analyzing a modern literary genre in both English and Persian plays. Elicitconfirm is not included in the study because the discourse function in it depends on the intonation the speakers employ
2) To see if any other Elicitation acts are used in English and Iersian texts.
3) To determine which of these subcategories is the most frequently used in English and Persian modem plays.
4) To compare and contrast the results of the analysis between English and Persian texts.
5) To consider the universality and applicability of these Elicitation subcategories indicated by Tsui (1995).
6) To cultivate the applicability of the results in teaching tasks.

1.3. Significance of the Study

Elicitation questions are the most important aspect of second language learning ability. Understanding the purposes and the conditions in which questions work best will help one master their use. This study can be considered as a frame-work in discourse characterization both in English and Persian. No comparative study of Persian-English of this type has yet been carried out. Therefore, the study can shed some light on the theoretical description of Elicitations in the two languages. Also, this will possibly be of interest to those involved in contrastive studies. Moreover, the information can be used for pedagogical and translation purposes.

As for the pedagogical aspect, educational research has seen questions as a tool to enhance students’ thinking. It has been clear that one of the main forms of interaction between the language teacher and the learner is through questions. Dillon (1981: 53) points out that “The outcome of a question-answer relationship is usually an evaluative decision on the part of the questioner”. Meij (1991: 358) reveals that “When students ask, learning follows in answer”. So, the result of this investigation will be useful for interactional purposes as well.

1.4. Scope of the Study

The present study investigates the feasibility of Tsui’s (1995) model of conversational structure, specifically with respect to different subclasses of elicitations in both English and Persian modem plays.

The data for this study are Elicitation questions taken from Trifles

(Glaspell, S., 1948), The Glass Menagerie (Williams, T., 1944), The Time of Your Life (Saroyan, W., 1939), ?arusiye-xubaan (Makhmalbaf, M.,

1987), vaay bar maqlub (Saedi, Gh., 1977), rozane-ye-?aabi (Radi, A., 1961).

Data analysis is based on this assumption that any utterance whose function is to elicit an obligatory verbal response should be characterized as one of the five subcategories of Elicitation questions.

The selected modem plays in English and Persian are analyzed as follows:

1) The conversants or dyads in which there are subcategories of Elicitation are picked up.
2) These dyads are studied carefully to determine which subcategory is used.
3) The elicitation acts which are new are identified.
4) The dyads are categorized under five elicitation subcategories.
5) The results are compared and contrasted in Persian and English and relevant discussions are provided.

1.5. Outline of the Study

The present study includes the following chapters:

1. INTRODUCTION: Here, the concept of ‘Elicitation’, and a very brief background on the ‘questions’ classifications are presented.
2. REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE: The second chapter attempts to provide the readers with the theoretical description of the context and conversational analysis. Moreover, review of the related literature contributes to the categorization of questions in different periods of time, the inception of the Elicitation question and its subclassification.
3. METHODOLOGY: The third chapter including four other subsections gives a clear explanation about key terms, corpus and the procedures of the study. The first sub-section, i.e., ‘Key terms ‘gives the defmition of key terms in the present study. The second sub-section, i.e., ‘Corpus’ explains about the selected modem plays. The third and fourth sub-sections explain the frame-work of the study and procedure of data analysis.
4. RESULTS AND DISUSSION: The fourth chapter gives the results along with the discussion about them. The discussion of the results accompanies with the related tables and statistical data.
5. SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: The fifth chapter gives a summary as well as the conclusion of the study. At the same time it refers to the most important issues and fmdings of the study. This chapter also provides the reader with theoretical and pedagogical implications. It also draws the attention of school book designers to the importance of providing the students with the most appropriate instruction to answer the questions. It also introduces a number of suggestions for further studies in this area.


2.1. Introduction

This chafter aims to briefly survey the following: 1) definition of pramatics including speech acts and speech events, 2) description of conversation and the two different approaches used in the analysis of conversation, 3) questions based on different view points and 4) some related studies.

2.2. Pragmatics

2.2.1. Definition

Pragmatics is a relatively new area of linguistics. Charles Morris (as cited in Levinson, 1983) distinguishes three distinct branches of semiotics, the general study of signs, as follows: 1) Syntax which studies the formal relation between signs, 2) Semantics which studies the relation between signs and their references and 3) Pragmatics which studies the relation between signs and their interpreters.

Yule (1988) expresses that pragmatics examines the use of language in communication with respect to the relationships between sentences and the contexts in which they are used. Hatch (1992) maintains that since the speakers’ intent and sentence meanings are not always the same, an utterance cannot be completely context free in terms of meaning or function. Levinson (1983: 24) describes pragmatics as “...the study of the ability of the language users to pair sentences with the contexts in which they would be appropriate. Thomas (1995: 23) defines pragmatics as “...meaning in interaction, since this takes account of the different contributions of both speaker and hearer as well as that of utterance and context to the making of meaning.”

2.2.2. Speech Acts

Communication is the intentional exchange of ideas, feeling, information, etc. between two or more persons. So communication consists of a series of communicative acts. These communicative or speech acts refer to the social functions performed by utterances such as offering, requesting, complimenting, etc.

Austin (1962) makes a distinction between form and function. He clarifies that one form in a language may convey a very finite set of functions, and one function may be expressed through different forms. For instance, in saying “Can you pass the salt?” while there is an inquiry about the ability of somebody to do something, the speaker requests for an action. Therefore, to produce correct sentences in a foreign language, learners should make themselves master of the knowledge of the speech functions.

Austin (as mentioned in Thomas, 1995:51) introduces the term ‘speech act’ as “An utterance and the total situation in which the utterance is issued.” Moreover, he recognizes three distinct components for a speech act‘locutionary act’, which is the basic literal meaning or sense of the words; ‘illocutionary act’ or ‘force’, which is the communicative intention behind the words; and ‘perloeutionary act’, which is the effect(s) that speakers produce on the hearers. Austin (as cited in Coulthard, 1985:18) distinguishes locutionary from illocutionary acts and asserts that “...the interpretation of the locutionary act is concerned with meaning, the interpretation of the illocutionary act with force.” And Hatch (1992) states that speech act analysis is concerned with the functional meaning of individual utterance.

Searle (as quoted in Brown and Yule, 1993:232) makes a distinction between direct and indirect speech acts which is on the basis of “...the recognition of the intended perlocutionary effect of an utterance on a particular occasion.” He also adds that indirect speech acts are “...cases in which one illocutionary act is performed indirectly by way of performing another.”‘Thus, indirect speech act refers to an utterance whose linguistic form does not directly reflect its communicative purpose. Direct speech act, on the other hand, is performed as to the literal illocutionary content in the utterance.

2.2.3. Speech Events

Hymes (as cited in Coulthard, 1985) declares that speech events are’ communicative and governed by rules and norms of the use of speech, which can be different in different communities. Since all genres have contexts to which they are fitted, the structure of speech event would be varied according to the genre they belong to. Coulthard (1985: 42) clarifies that “Speech events are the largest units for which one can discover linguistic structure and are not necessarily conterminous with the situation.” For example, a conversation at a party in which several speech events occur simultaneously. He further claims that “...the relationship between speech events and speech acts is hierarchical”; an event may take place within a speech situation and consists of one or more speech acts.

Hatch (1992: 152) maintains that “In sociolinguistics, speech event analysis would include a description of the speech setting, the participants and the structure of the event set in a template sequence.” So speech setting refers to the time and space of the occurrence of speech events, participants consist of speaker who transmits a message and a listener who receives it, and an event set which is a conversation, an interview, a debate, or various types of discussions.

2.3. Description of Conversation

2.3.1. Approaches to the Description of Conversation

Conversation has been analyzed and examined from different points of view. The bulk of the study on the analysis of conversation has been carried out by sociologists and anthropologists who are largely concerned with the social and cultural aspects of conversation.

Among different approaches used in the analysis of converstion, discourse analysis and conversational analysis are the most important in the study of conversation.

2.3.2. Discours Analysis Characterization of Discourse

Richards, et al. (1992: 111) define discourse analysis as “The study of how sentences in spoken and written language form lager meaningful units such as paragraphs, conversations, interviews, etc.” The analysis of discourse is, inevitably, the analysis of language in use. In discourse analysis, linguists make connections between language form and use and also investigate what that language is used for. Brown and Yule (1993) state that discourse analysis cannot be limited to the description of linguistic forms separate from the functions which those forms are designed to serve in human affairs. They point out that in pragmatic approach the discourse analyst “...brings into consideration a number of issues which do not generally rceive much attention in the formal linguist’s description of sentential syntax and semantics” (27).

Coulthard (1985) suggests that any approach to discourse analysis has, presumably, to consider both the characterization of speaker/writer meaning and its explanation in the context of use. On the one hand, discourse analysis must describe the structure of suprasentential text or social transaction by imposing some framework upon the data. On the other hand, it should present a characterization of how participants go about the process of interpreting meaning in the context of negotiation. Therefore, in the first part disöourse analysis and text linguistics display the sequential relationship in some social encounters, and their aim is to determine the interactive acts and put them within some larger interactional frame. In the second part discourse analysis is involved in the assessment of the communicative function of utterances at every moment, with respect to general and specific background knowledge in the process of making inference. So their object is to get the illocutionary force with regard to general pragmatic principle, to understand the negotiative process among a variety of contextual factors, together with knowledge of how information may be structured.

Brown and Yule (1993) conclude that the discourse analysts deal with their data as the record of a dynamic process in which a speaker/writer has used language in a context to state meanings and achieve intentions. Since the discourse analysts investigate the use of language in context by a speaker/writer, they should concern with the relationship between the speaker/writer and the utterance/sentence, especially on the particular occasion of use. Discourse analysis is mainly interested in formal and deductive methods of analysis. Text

According to Brown and Yule (1993: 6) text is the reflection of discourse process of “verbal record of communicative act” or the representation of discourse.” Widdowson (as cited in Brown and Yule, 1993) describes text as the rules and linguistic knowledge shared by the speaker/writer and listener/reader which are necessary in a successful communication. Therefore, texts are as units of meaning realized by sentences which are not defmed by their size.

It is important to draw attention to the distinction between the linguistic expressions, i.e. sentences, and their use in context, i.e. utterances, which is fundamental to both semantics and pragmatics. As Brown and Yule (1993) explain: the features of spoken language can be viewed as utterances’ features, and the features typical of written language as sentences’ characteristics. Generally, a sentence is an abstract theoretical entity defmed within a theory of grammar, while an utterance is the issuance of one or more sentences in an actual context.

Widely, work in semantics deals with the description of sentence - meaning and pragmatics is concerned with utterance - meaning. Context

Since the begining of the 1970s, linguists have become increasingly aware of the importance of context in understanding and interpreting sentences/utterances. ‘Context’ has been analyzed and investigated from two different perspectives: static and dynamic. Traditional linguists paid more attention to static model in which the context, i.e. field, tenor and mode, is supposed to be fixed over the interaction. However, recently, researchers have been mainly concerned with the dynamic model in which context changes throughout an interaction.

Martin (as cited in O’Donnel, 1999) states that the term ‘dynamic’ is used in reference to kinds of models: ‘dynamic’ models design the interaction as it unfolds, while ‘synoptic’ models describe an entire interaction in a single pass. The former tries to show the process of interaction, while the latter tries to represent the products.

Berry (as mentioned in O’Donnel, 1999) proposes a synoptic model for modelling basic exchanges which will also be the basis of many of the dynamic works presented later. In this model, Berry presents the exchange choices open at each place throughout an exchange. The crucial problem with synoptic models is that they generate structures without considering who makes the decisions within the process. However, dynamic models present the interactional choices open to each interlocutor at each point.

Linguists study dynamic contexts in terms of the formal modelling of interaction and fmd that context plays two roles in the model: first, as the activator of what linguists can do; second, as an object affected by action. They express that fully dynamic models model both of these actions - context interactions. To describe the factors conditioning our interactional choices as ‘context’, linguists make a distinction between the context of situation and the context of text. The former refers to elements of interaction which lie outside of the text itself like: field (general subject), tenor (participants’ relationship) and mode (communicative medium). The latter refers to what actually happens in the text/interaction.

Since the context of situation changes as the interaction becomes known, the discussion of dynamics focuses on the role of dynamic context in formal Models of interaction. As noted in O' Donnel (1999), there re three levels of dynamic modelling: a) ‘global context model’ which designs typical ‘behavioral choices’ in a complete text/interaction; b) ‘contextual activation model’ which models the restriction on ‘behavior potential’ at each place during an interaction and determines what participants can do next and c) ‘full dynamic model’ which represents both contextual imposition on ‘behaviour potential’ at each point and the outcome of instantiated behavior on context, therefore, it shows what options are available to the participants at each point of the interaction.

Based on contextual activation model, Berry (as depicted in O’Donnel, 1992: 72) introduces ‘single-point potentials’ approach as a dynamic model which is made up of a number of descriptions of the options available at each place in the exchange.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Berry uses ‘at ai’ to refer to the available options, the participants can choose from the network. Tsui (1989) also uses Berry’s method of modelling the exchange which is on the basis of the available choices at labeled places within the exchange. Another approach is ‘generalised behavior potention’ model, whereby the options will be available at each point of an interaction.

O’Donnel (1999: 75) demonstrates that “An explicit representation of the dynamic context is provided in terms of a system network of the possible states of exchange development.”

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Dynamic exchange context (O’Donnell, 1991)

The context network identifies four types of information about an ongoing exchange:

1) Negotiator status: it shows the level of progress in proposition being negotiated. The terms are derived from Berry’s ‘ideational slots labels’: PB stands for incomplete, PC stands for unsupported and PS stands for supported.
2) Commodity: the commodity being negotiated which can be action or information.
3) Knowledge role: the participants’ roles which refer to their roles with reference to the proposition being discussed and can be classified into the primary knower or actor (PK) and secondary knower or actor (SK).
4) Speaker turn: it determines whose turn is to talk in response to the current exchange. It also can be divided into two options: ownturn (which is the turn of speaker who makes the behavioral decision) and other turn (the other speaker).

It is observed that the generalised potential approach provides a context with more details in terms of a ‘system network’. However, the model of context in single-point potentials approach being represented only in terms of position in the interaction.

To describe how it is possible to represent the effect of behaviour on context, O’Donnell (1999) adopts the following main approaches:

1) Berry’s Transformational Model: It shows how single - point potentials are connected together. The mechanism focuses on the selection which is made in the initial slot of the exchange. The structure of the exchange will be predicted by this move, in terms of which of the expected elements will occur and what their orders are.
2) Transition Network: It is a set of single - point potentials linked together by transition arcs. Winogard (as quoted in O’Donnell, 1999:82)

clarifies a transition network as:

A transition network consists of a set of states, connectedby arcs. Each arc represents a transition between two states...each transition along an arc corresponds to a single (element) in the sequence. The pattern is used by “stepping through” the transition from stafe to state, following the arrows.

Woods (as quoted in O’Donnell, 1999: 82) explains that “...each arc of the transition network can carry an arbitrary condition which must be satisfied in order for the arc to be followed.” In fact, this mechanism allows two states which represent identical situation but treat as different roles.

3) Flowcharts: This dynamic model is similar to a transition network. Moreover, it allows more explicit labelling of the decision process. It contains two components: a) diamonds for representing choices which are of two types showing actual behavior decisions and showing questions as to the context and b) squares for representing the realization of a component. Since flowcharts can place any number of decision diamonds in sequence, they can represent more complex decisions and improve over transition networks.
4) Systemic Flowcharts: Fawcett, et al. (as cited in O’Donnell, 1999) combine the principles of flowcharts into the systemic model. Fundamentally, they allow small system networks, representing the options open at a specific point of an exchange, to be joined together by lines labeled flowchart relations. Systemic flowcharts use a single - point potentials approach and show that an interaction is constructed on the basis of the decisions made by both participants.
5) Dynamic-Systemic Approach: O’Donnell (1999) tries to make sense of all these disparate approaches to model the dynamic of interactioll. He clarifies that flowcharts have no clear model of context. Although Halliday’s notion of a genealised behavior potential is very natural in examining the dynamics of interaction, the Hallidayan model lacks any means to represent how speaker moves from one point of the interaction to the next.

O’Donnell (1999: 87) introduces context modification model in which “...there is assumed to be an existing selection expression (the set of contextual states before the move is enacted), and the selection is changed as a result of the application of the modification rule.” Therefore, the context can be seen as a continuous object whose parts have been modified over time.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Context Modification Rules

Finally, O’Donnell (1999) concludes that all of these dynamic models should change their prescriptive orientation in a way that dynamic models allow participants to choose contextually inappropriate options.

2.3.3. Conversational Analysis

‘Conversational analysis’ according to Richards, et al. (1992: 85) is “The analysis of natural conversation in order to discover what the linguistic characteristics of conversation are and how conversation is used in ordinary life.” They further point out that conversational analysis includes the study of the “rules of turn-taking”, i.e. the study of how speakers decided when to speak during a conversation, the relationship between the sentences of two or more speakers and the study of different conversational functions.

Larsen-Freeman as cited in Devine (1982) emphasizes that to learn a second language, well, learners should acquire three types of rules : a) knowing the structure of discourse units like greetings and conversational opening, b) learning the communicative functions of the discourse units and c) acquiring pragmatic competence in order to be able to turn out forms appropriate to the situation.

Hence, the bulk of the conversational analysis carried out by sociologists and anthropologists who paid more attention to the social and cultural features of conversation. However, linguistic description of conversation focuses on the linguistic features of conversation which necessarily deals with the study of the use of language in communication and the relations between linguistic features and contexts of situation.

To provide a linguistic description of conversation, Tsui (1995: 5) recommends the following four points:

1. Criteria for characterizing functions of conversational utterances;
2. Descriptive units of conversational interaction;
3. The structure of conversation; and
4. Conversational process. Conversational Descriptive Units

Conversational analysts have used several descriptive categories in order to describe the organization of conversation. Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) maintain that the descriptive units of conversational interaction should be replicable, well-defmed and also relatable to data. The units of ‘conversational description’ are as follows: Turn, Pair, Sequence

Conversation seems to be an activity with a minimal requirement of two participants. Sacks, et al. (as cited in Tsui, 1995) defme ‘turn’ as what one speaker says before another speaker starts to speak. Schegloff and Sacks (as mentioned in Tsui, 1995) describe ‘adjacency pair’ as a pair of two related turns made by two different speakers. They add that the second utterance is always a response to the first, and it is the first part which often selects the next part. Some examples of ‘adjacency pairs’ are ‘greeting-greeting’, ‘question- answer’ and ‘offer-acceptance/refusal’. Schegloff (as cited in Tsui, 1995) points out that a ‘sequence’ is composed of more than one turn. Schegloff (as cited in Coulthard, 1985) claims that there are some embedding cases in which a pair occurs inside another pair, he calls such sequences an ‘insertion sequence’. Therefore, in an ‘insertion sequence’ a first pair part is not necessarily followed immediately by a second pair part. Schegloff’s example of an insertion sequence is a pair:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Tsui (1995: 8)

Jefferson (1972) proposes an embedded sequence different from Schegloff’s insertion sequence and labels it ‘side sequence’ which is made up of more than an adjacency pair (Coulthard, 1985)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Tsui (1995:8)

Tsui (1995) comes across some difficulties while using the terms turn, pair and sequence. She observes that sometimes there are more than one unit within a turn or there are some ‘contributing elements’ in conversation which are not part of an adjacency pair and yet they form a bounded unit with it. On the other hand, a sequence sometimes is made up of one pair and can be viewed as a pair; at other times it is composed of three or four turns. Accordingly, Tsui maintains that these terminologies undermine to a noticeable extent their validity as descriptive units of conversational organization. Act, Move, Exchange

Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) suggest a rank scale to describe and analyze spoken discourse. They propose a hierarchy including ‘act’, ‘move’, ‘exchange’, ‘transaction’ and ‘lesson’ in classroom discourse. In a heirarchical system each unit at the given rank scale combines with the same unit to make one unit as the higher-level of the rank scale. It is important to emphasize that the concept of ‘act’ used in this scale is different from that one used in Speech Act Theory. An ‘act’ in Speech Act Theory as cited in Tsui (1995: 9) is “...the action that is performed in making an utterance”; whereas, an ‘act’ in Sinclair and Coulthard’s rank scale is a unit in discourse which will be characterized on the basis of its functions in the discourse.

As Tsui (1995) states, a move is the smallest unit of discourse and is composed of one or more acts. According to Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) a classroom exchange is made up of three moves: an initiation move from the teacher followed by a responding move from the pupil which in turn followed by a follow-up from the teacher which evaluates the response provided by the pupil. Conversational Structure

Conversational analysts have investigated the structure of conversational interaction and propose that there are certain patterns of organization. Moreover, their studies on conversational structure and organization showed that conversation progresses in an orderly manner. The descriptive categories that conversational analysts have been using in describing the structure of the conversation are: adjacency pair, three-part exchange and move structure. Adjacency Pair

Sacks (as cited in Coulthard, 1985) observes that a conversation involves at least two turns. Some turns are more related than others. Hence he claims that a sequence of two related turns by two different speakers is an ‘adjacency pair’. Schegloff and Sacks (as mentioned in Tsui, 1989) defme an adjacency pair as a class of widely operative sequences which is made up of the following features: first, two-utterance length; second, the component utterances arrange in an adjacency positions; third, each utterance produces successively by different speakers and fourth, the component utterances are related to each other in such a way that the first component is a first pair part, the second component is a second pair part and they form a ‘pair type’. Schegloff (as quoted in Tsui, 1991) expresses that when a ‘second part’ does not occur upon the production of a ‘first part’, the former is considered ‘officially absent’. As Schegloff and Sacks (1973) point out, the basic rule of operation in an adjacency pair is:

Given the recognizable production of a first pair part, on its first possible completion its speaker should stop and a next speaker should start and produce a second pair part from the pair type of which the first is recognizably a member. (Tsui, 1989:545)

As noted in Tsui (1991), Levinson describes a second part as whatever follows a first part, is related to it and is not itself a first part. In addition, Schegloff and Sacks defme a second part as an utterance which is not only related to first part but also forms a pair type with it.

Tsui (1995) maintains that any utterance made by one participant should be responded to by another utterance from another participant; otherwise interlocutors will be persuaded to give an account why the expected response is not forthcoming. It is observed that a particular first part expects strongly a specific second pair part and the absence of the latter due to any reason will be noticed by the participants. For instance, it is expected that a ‘question’ will be followed by an ‘answer’.

Coulthard (1985) asserts that first pair parts sometimes allow for more than one alternative second, in this case a preferred second is ‘unmarked’ and a dispreferred second is ‘marked’. For example, the preferred response for the receiver of an invitation is to accept it. Three-part Exchange

In spite of describing the defmitions of adjacency pair researchers came across some problems in characterizing utterances. They noticed that in some of the conditions a second pair part does not occur immediately after a first pair part, as in the case of an insertion sequence; or the two pair parts are not necessarily produced by two different speakers, as in the case of a speaker answering his/her own question. Hence, some of the linguists propose a potential three-part exchange as the basic unit in conversational interaction.

Goffman (as noted in Tsui, 1989: 546) illustrates that sometimes, in a conversational unit, an utterance is not a first pair part because it does not invite a second pair part, nor is it a second pair part because it comes after a second pair part and also is a contributing element to the interaction. For example:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Goffman explains that it is an exhibition of gratitude for the service which shows that A has committed a virtual offense by requesting B to close the door and after rendering the favor, A has to inform B that the generosity is appreciated. Goffman (as quoted in Tsui, 1989: 547) claims:

A response will on occasion leave matters in a ritually unsatisfactory state, and a turn by the initial speaker will be required, encouraged, or at least allowed, resulting in a three-part interchange; or chains of adjacency pairs will occur (albeit typically with one, two, or three such couplets), the chain itself having a unitary, bounded character.

Goffman also demonstrates that there are some units or exchanges appear

to be a two-part interchange, but they are a three-part interchange. For example:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Tsui (1989: 547)

Taking into account that the first part is a non-linguistic element, and then B’s utterance is a response to A’s wearing a new hat and there is a three-move interchange. In this regard, Berry (as quoted in Tsui, 1989: 548) points out:

A rule such as A predicts B is not to be taken as a claim that A always will be followed by B, it is a claim that A will alwaysbe expected to be followed by B and that whatever does follow A will be interpreted in the light of this expectation.

Sinclair and Coulthard (1975), in analyzing the sequence pattern in classroom discourse, distinguish three-part exchanges: an initiation move, a responding move and a follow-up move.

With respect to the functions of the follow-up move, Burton (as cited in Tsui, 1989) argues that three-part exchanges are classroom specific because the follow-up move does not occur outside the classroom. She further states that if a follow-up move occurs in casual conversation, it will be a sarcastic device. In fact, people do not ask questions to which they know the answer.

Berry (as mentioned in Tsui, 1989) disagrees with Burton’s view and tries to prove that in certain types of non-classroom exchange the occurrce of the follow-up move is obligatory, whereas in other types it is optional. Her distinguishing criteria lie on the state of knowledge of the interlocutors. For, one who is the primary knower and his/her aim is to evaluate the correctness of the provided response, a follow-up move is necessary. However, for the secondary knower, who is not in the position of evaluation, the follow-up move is optional. Tsui (1995) expresses that the third move is to let the addressee know that the speaker has understood his/her response, that s/he has provided an acceptable answer, and that the interaction has been felicitous. Furthermore, she proposes that the absence of the third element in an exchange because of any strategic reason should be considered as a ‘marked form’.

It is immediately obvious that both exchange structure and adjacency pair account for the relationship between the utterances in which one component raises the expectation for another. However, exchange structure differs from an adjacency pair in that the former suggests that a unit of interaction is made up of three parts rather than two. After examining this proposal, discourse analysts maintain that the notion of exchange structure, which emphasizes three-part exchanges, is only applicable to classroom discourse, whereas the exchanges in non-classroom or social discourse are composed of two parts. In support of follow-up move, Tsui (1995) suggests that this structure can be generalized to all situations, even if some of the follow-ups may be produced non-verbally due to some reasons. Move structure

According to Sinclair and Coulthard (1975), discourse is realized as organized in terms of the following basic hierarchical units: act, move and exchange. An exchange is composed of potentially three moves: initiating move, responding move and follow-up move. A move is made up of an obligatory head ‘act, which carries the illocutionary force or discourse rçalized function of the whole move, and an optional pre-head which precedes the head act and a post-head which follows the head act. In the following structural framework, Sinclair and Coulthard (1975: 81) present the analysis of discourse structure of a piece of classroom data:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

In the above piece of classroom data, the teacher’s first utterance is composed of two interrogatives and one delarative. The pupil’s response is a ‘reply’ to the ‘elicitation’ realized by the second interrogative which is the head act. Then, the first interrogative, which is a pre-head act, realizing a ‘starter’ whose function is to provide “... information about or direct attention to or thought towards an area in order to make a correct response to the initiation more likely” (Sinclair and Coulthard, 1975: 40). The declarative, which follows the head act, is a post-head act and realizes a ‘clue’ whose function is to provide “...additional information which helps the pupil to answer the elicitation” (41). Tsui (1995:41) applies Sinclair and Coulthard’s concept of move structtire to the following conversational utterance:

A: why are you standing? Do sit down.

B: Thanks. (Sits down)


Excerpt out of 123 pages


A Contrastive Study of Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Modern Plays
19.80 out of 20
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
773 KB
contrastive, study, elicitation, questions, english, persian, modern, plays
Quote paper
Janin Jafari (Author), 2013, A Contrastive Study of Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Modern Plays, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/233519


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: A Contrastive Study of Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Modern Plays

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free