Why Ask?


Hobbs, J. R., & Robinson, J. J. (1979). Why ask?. Discourse Processes, 2(4), 311-318.


In this paper, we address the problem, “What makes an answer appropriate?’’ We do so by investigating indirect answers to questions in task-oriented dialogues. Three cases are distinguished: (1) The response, though indirect, answers the question asked; (2) the response denies a presupposition of the question; and (3) the response answers to higher goals the questioner was trying to achieve. Detailed analysis shows the need for knowledge about the task, the role of the participants, and communication goals, in the construction of appropriate answers. We conclude with a preliminary formulation of the appropriateness of an answer in terms of the goals of the questioner and the knowledge of the respondent.

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