Analysis of the Use of Tag Questions

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 21 September 2016

Analysis of the Use of Tag Questions

Tag questions are those fragments at the end of a sentence when a person is asking to be affirmed. Instead of a statement being declarative or imperative, the use of the interrogative fragment at the end of the sentence reformulates the statement into a tag question (Akmajian 2001). Examples of variations of tag questions include “…, will you? ”, “…, isn’t it? ”, “…, okay? ”, and “…, right? ” Use of these interrogative fragments at the end of sentences are often referred to as leading questions, in that the questioner is desiring the answerer to verify what one is saying is true.

In studying the use of tag questions among random groups of people of varying occupations and genders, it is interesting to note the ways in which certain tag questions are used in a wide range of settings. Men and women differ in their use of particular tag questions, as do people who are more or less familiar with one another (Lakoff, 1973). People from different cultures also use tag questions in various ways, placing emphasis on different word choices in various settings (Moore & Podesva, 2009).

This study aims to describe the ways in which tag questions are used in various populations and to make an assessment of the most widely used tag questions. In narrowing down the tag questions being studied, it is assumed that “okay” and “right” are the most commonly used tag questions. “Okay” is a tag question which is more open-ended and allows for the answerer to have more leeway in answering negatively. “Right” is a tag questions which is more close-ended and places more pressure on the answerer to answer affirmatively.

In beginning to study linguistic patterns and collect data, it is hypothesized that the most often used tag question will be the use of the tag “okay”, with “right” being used more often by males than females. Methodology In studying the linguistic patterns of people in speech and writing, data was collected about the speakers and contextual situations, including the tag question being used, the gender of the questioner, the gender of the answerer, the familiarity of questioner and answerer, and the channel of communication.

There were various situations in which the use of tag questions was identified, including discussions between men, women, elderly, adults, children, spouses, coworkers, friends, and strangers, and in informal settings, formal settings, stores, workplaces, face to face, telephone, and electronic messaging. Each noted tag question was recorded in a small notebook, collecting data on the diverse amounts of tag questions being used in a wide range of natural settings.

By paying attention to nearby conversations and online messages, one is able to gather a significant amount of information about linguistic patterns, including the prominence and level of occurrence of various tag questions. It is important for linguistic researchers to be good listeners and to make careful observations of the situations they are attempting to describe.

The moment in which a tag question is utilized comes very suddenly, and the good linguist has one’s ears perked for these significant moments and is able to take a virtual snapshot of the scene, including and emphasizing the use of language. In this study, 50 different random occurrences of the use of tag questions in society were collected, with significant identifiers and situational circumstances being recorded.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 21 September 2016

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