Directives: Entitlement and contingency in action

Alexandra Craven, Jonathan Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


This article is focused on the nature of directives. It draws on Curl and Drew's (2008) analysis of entitlement and contingency in request types and applies this to a corpus of directives that occur in UK family mealtimes involving parents and young children (three-eight-year-olds). While requests are built as contingent to varying degrees on the recipient's willingness or ability to comply, directives embody no orientation to the recipient's ability or desire to perform the relevant activity. This lack of orientation to ability or desire may be what makes them recognizable as directives. When examining directives in sequence the contingencies were successively reduced or managed during the delivery of the directive, thereby treating contingencies as a resource of the speaker rather than of the recipient. In a sense the entitlement claimed is 'to tell' rather than 'to ask'. In sequences involving multiple/repeated directives, non-compliance led to upgraded (more entitled and less contingent) directives. The difference in the entitlement claimed, the response options available and the trajectory of multiple requests/directives suggests that participants orient to requests and directives as different actions, rather than more or less forceful formulations of the same.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-442
Number of pages24
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


  • conversation analysis
  • directives
  • discursive psychology
  • eating
  • family interaction
  • mealtimes
  • requests
  • socialization


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