Grammar And Context 2013


Previous knowledge and utterance design

Previous knowledge and utterance design

Organizers: Riina Kasterpalu (University of Tartu), Krista Mihkels (University of Tartu)

Language: English

In interaction, both speakers and recipients do have different access to certain types of information. There is a distinction between the information that persons have rights and obligations to know from their own experience and the information to what they do not have direct access (Labov & Fanshel 1977; Pomerantz 1980). The state of knowledge is a gradient concept – it can range from situations in which the speaker may have total access to the information and the co-participant has not, to situations in which both participants have equal access to the information.

The state of knowledge plays an important role in the selection of a particular grammatical construction in a particular language. Prior studies have shown that there is a certain correlation between linguistic form and previous knowledge. „Epistemic status embraces what is known, how it is known (through what method with what degree of definiteness, certainty, recency, etc.) and persons’ rights, responsibilities and obligations to know it“ (Sidnell & Stivers 2013: 377, for details see Curl & Drew 2008, Heritage 2012, Hennoste 2012).

The theme session aims to explore, how epistemic status is expressed through linguistic design in different kind of social actions such as questions, requests, prohibitions, etc. and in responses to them. The results of contributions can be used as a basis for comparison the connection between utterance design and previous knowledge in Finno-Ugric and other languages.

Questions to be discussed in this panel include, but not limited to, in what way grammatical realization is contingent upon previous knowledge of

  • epistemic asymmetries of interactants
  • epistemic domains of co-participants
  • social practices in a given society
  • inquired and/or acquired information.

The theme session focuses on contributions using conversation analysis but also welcomes presentations of empirical language studies with different theoretical perspectives and methods.



Curl, T. & Drew, P. (2008) ‘Contingency and Action: A Comparison of Two Forms of Requesting’. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 41(2), 129–53.

Hennoste, T. (2012). Küsimuse vorm, episteemiline staatus ja episteemiline hoiak.  Keel ja Kirjandus, 8–9, 674–695.

Heritage, J. (2012). ‘Epistemics in Action: Action Formation and Territories of Knowledge.’  Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45, 1–29.

Labov, W. & Fanshel, D. (1977). Therapeutic discourse: Psychotherapy as conversation. New York: Academic Press.

Pomerantz, A. (1980). Telling my side: “Limited access” as a fishing device. Sociological Inquiry, 50, 3–4, 186–198.

Sidnell, J. & Stivers, T. (2013). Handbook of Conversation Analysis. Wiley-Blackwell.

Theme session program:

June 7
10.30-11.00    Kirsi Laanesoo Teadmiste asümmeetriale osutavad kus-küsilaused
11.00-11.30    Helle Metslang, Karl Pajusalu, Külli Habicht Do I guess or ask?                           Epistemic modality as a source of interrogativity
11.30-12.00    Maike-Liis Rebane, Tiit Hennoste, Sulev Iva Other-initiated self-repair in                           everyday interaction in Võro language
12.00-12.30    Krista Mihkels Previous knowledge and the format of repair-initiating                           polar questions

12.30-14.00    Lunch

14.00-14.30    Tiit Hennoste, Andriela Rääbis Multiple directives in everyday Estonian                           interaction
14.30-15.00    Auli Hakulinen, Marja-Leena Sorjonen Responding to polar                           interrogatives in Finnish
15.00-15.30    Riina Kasterpalu Previous knowledge and utterance design: The case of                           Estonian “jaajaa”
15.30-16.00    Discussion