Interrogating Tears

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


This chapter, written by Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter, examines the use of tag questions by child protection officers (CPOs) in calls to a child abuse hotline. Hepburn and Potter find that tag questions are particularly common during crying sequences in these calls, that is, when callers are crying and having a difficult time expressing the reasons for their call. CPOs typically adopt a neutral or even skeptical stance with respect to callers and their predicaments, but during crying sequences CPOs "sympathetically acknowledge" the (upset) mental state of the callers. Combined with other features of the CPOs' turn, Hepburn and Potter argue that tag questions during crying sequences have an affiliative function and a weak response requirement. The use of this particular type of question means that callers are not held strongly accountable for answering and are thus encouraged to stay on the phone even if they fail to participate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWhy Do You Ask?
Subtitle of host publicationThe Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780199867943
ISBN (Print)9780195306897
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Affiliative function
  • Child abuse
  • Child protection helpline
  • Crying sequences
  • Tag questions
  • Weak response requirement


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