Interrogatives that seek no answers: Exploring the expressiveness of rhetorical interrogatives in Japanese

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Abstract

Although questions presuppose answers, everyday Japanese often uses expressions that take interrogative forms but do not seek answers. Through analysis of these expressions — which I call “rhetorical interrogatives” — I argue that they express different kinds of the speaker s emotion and attitude. Based on the examples found in spoken and written Japanese data, I discuss various expressive effects that rhetorical interrogatives create in discourse. Sources for these meanings and functions of rhetorical interrogatives are sought by concentrating on the context of information statuses with which they are associated — such as known, assumed, or unknown — as well as the question-answer interactional relationship. Since rhetorical interrogatives do not seek answers but instead express the speaker's (emotional) attitude, the nonparallel interpretation between form and meaning/function becomes an important theoretical concern. This study proposes a framework in which different interpretations of rhetorical interrogatives are motivated by information statuses (assumed of the participants) regarding the potential answers. This study also suggests that the concept of “hidden dialogicality” serves as a source for the interpretation of rhetorical interrogative expressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-530
Number of pages30
JournalLinguistics
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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