Vol. 1:2 (2021) ► pp.183–215
Uses of Kannst du X? ‘Can you X?’ in their sequential and multimodal context
Schegloff (1996) has argued that grammars are “positionally-sensitive”, implying that the situated use and understanding of linguistic formats depends on their sequential position. Analyzing the German format Kannst du X? (corresponding to English Can you X?) based on 82 instances from a large corpus of talk-in-interaction (FOLK), this paper shows how different action-ascriptions to turns using the same format depend on various orders of context. We show that not only sequential position, but also epistemic status, interactional histories, multimodal conduct, and linguistic devices co-occurring in the same turn are decisive for the action implemented by the format. The range of actions performed with Kannst du X? and their close interpretive interrelationship suggest that they should not be viewed as a fixed inventory of context-dependent interpretations of the format. Rather, the format provides for a root-interpretation that can be adapted to local contextual contingencies, yielding situated action-ascriptions that depend on constraints created by contexts of use.
- 2.Previous research on can you X?
- 3.Data and methods
- 4.Grammar and semantics of Kannst du X?
- 5.Uses of Kannst du X?
- 5.1 Kannst du X? used as question concerning the recipient’s ability, the permissibility, or the possibility of action
- 5.2 Kannst du X? used as request for action
- 8.Symbols used in transcripts
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