On 30 August at 14:15 Andra Rumm will defend her doctoral thesis “Wh-questions and their responses in Estonian everyday interaction”.
Dr Tiit Hennoste, University of Tartu.
PhD Maria Frick, University of Oulu.
Questions play a crucial part in our daily lives. We ask questions mostly in order to fill a gap in our knowledge, e.g. we ask Where do you go to school? or How are you?. These are information questions, where the questioner wants to gain new knowledge. In general, it is the most common way to define questions in grammars. However, in real life, questions are used for a wide range of social actions. The subject of the dissertation is open questions, i.e. Wh-questions. Wh-questions do not provide a potential answer (e.g. Where were you yesterday? – At home. / At school. / In Tartu. etc.) and these are in opposite with closed questions (e.g. Were you at home yesterday?). The aim of the dissertation is to find out how interactants formulate Wh-questions in everyday interaction, what interactants want to implement with them and how these questions are responded to. The data come from everyday conversations between friends and family members. The results reveal that the Wh-question is an important language tool: it is used in order to request for information; solve hearing and understanding problems; perform reproaches, challenges, prohibitions; etc. In the dissertation I claim that the Wh-question type and the surrounding context give a hint for the response type. Some questions expect a specific piece of information (e.g. Where do you go to school?) and some questions expect a longer telling (e.g. How are you?). A questioner can modify the expectation of the response by providing multi-unit questions (e.g. How are you? Are you fine?). In the dissertation I demonstrate that the format of the language device is connected with its function. In the dissertation I analyze what kind of social norms interactants follow and what kind of goals they accomplish by using language. I compare the results with previous research findings from other languages.