‘That is very important, isn’t it?’: Content-oriented questions in British and Montenegrin university lectures

Branka Živković


This study explores the use of content-oriented questions in British and Montenegrin university lectures. It examines their formal realisation, their frequency and their contextual functions, as well as the differences and similarities related to these questions between British linguistics lectures taken from the standard British corpora, and a specially compiled corpus of Montenegrin linguistics lectures. Compared to previous studies on content-oriented questions, one modified and five new functions are revealed, alongside one new formal realisation. The main differences between the corpora include the greater frequency of content-oriented questions in the Montenegrin lectures and a new questioning realisation, found only in the Montenegrin corpus, which is potentially attributable to differences between academic cultures. The major similarities relate to the use of the four most common question forms, which perform the same contextual functions. This contrastive study thus provides insights into the additional communicative functions and forms of content-oriented questions in university lectures.

Publication history
Table of contents

The lecture is considered to be the “central aspect of tertiary education” (Suviniitty 2010, 46), an academic genre that has remained a primary teaching method despite the emergence of educational tools such as online learning, multimedia presentations, seminars, tutorials and project work, which often serve only a supplementary role (King 2003, 2). The lecture enables the transmission of knowledge in a particular academic discipline. Lecturers convey their views, ideas and thoughts to students through this medium, which is regarded as the most important teaching forum at the university level (Flowerdew and Miller 1996, 121). As lectures may include sizeable monologue stretches (Thompson 1998, 137), lecturers often face the difficulty of engaging students’ attention and maintaining their interest. To overcome it, they employ a wide variety of involvement strategies, one of which is the use of questions (Thompson 1998, 138).

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