Edited by Malte Rosemeyer
[Functions of Language 29:1] 2022
► pp. 86–115
The paper critically examines some central principles of the Question Under Discussion (QUD) framework and ultimately explores the concept of ‘question’, central to QUD-models. It demonstrates how fine-grained, interactionally informed analyses of language-specific categories can reveal building blocks of interaction and explain the sources of the observed information- and discourse-structuring interpretations (such as update, contrast and more). Employing data from Anal Naga (Trans-Himalayan, India), it proceeds to a fine-grained analysis of the notion of ‘question’. The decomposition of ‘questions’ into smaller building blocks similarly reveals how diverse categories and discourse processes can trigger the interpretation of an information request. These findings and additional theoretical arguments suggest that QUD-models are problematic for various reasons: such models are non-parsimonious as they add superfluous extra layers to explain the observations; the explanatory apparatus is circular, as the extra layers are derived from within the explananda but regarded as underlying explanatory factors; and the models gloss over the actual factors by channelling them into cover terms prematurely regarded as primitive. Finally, since ‘question’ does not constitute a primitive concept but is a product of diverse discourse processes, discourse cannot be modelled on this foundation.