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This chapter outlines pertinent work on stance and evaluation that has emerged over the past two decades or so, with a specific focus on studies that have both catalysed and contributed to the discursive turn in sociopragmatics. Such studies share an understanding of stance taking and evaluation as intersubjective, dialogic processes that are collaboratively constructed and negotiated in and through interaction in various contexts. The role of stance and stance taking has been examined as local sequentiallyorganized phenomena in everyday and institutional interactions and in a larger sociolinguistic framework. The study of evaluation has similarly branched out to a discursive direction, adopting various methods that facilitate the analysis of evaluative practices in various discursive contexts. The body of work pertaining to this turn has facilitated a pivotal shift in understanding stance and evaluation as intersubjective rather than subjective phenomena, at the same time putting forward the notion that stance taking and evaluative practices take much more complex and multidimensional forms in face-to-face and mediated interpersonal communication than previously thought. Furthermore, this work has demonstrated the involvement of such practices in a great number of local and global linguistic and social processes to do with issues ranging, for example, from epistemic authority to social distribution of power.
How do people answer polar questions? In this fourteen-language study of answers to questions in conversation, we compare the two main strategies; first, interjection-type answers such as uh-huh (or equivalents yes, mm, head nods, etc.), and second, repetition-type answers that repeat some or all of the question. We find that all languages offer both options, but that there is a strong asymmetry in their frequency of use, with a global preference for interjection-type answers. We propose that this preference is motivated by the fact that the two options are not equivalent in meaning. We argue that interjection-type answers are intrinsically suited to be the pragmatically unmarked, and thus more frequent, strategy for confirming polar questions, regardless of the language spoken. Our analysis is based on the semantic-pragmatic profile of the interjection-type and repetition-type answer strategies, in the context of certain asymmetries inherent to the dialogic speech act structure of question–answer sequences, including sequential agency and thematic agency. This allows us to see possible explanations for the outlier distributions found in ǂĀkhoe Haiǁom and Tzeltal.
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