It is not surprising that service workers should

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Unformatted text preview: ion, lack of interest or disagreement, has been associated more with male speakers. Once again, what is being recommended here would seem to be gendered, matching what is believed and what in some cases has been found to be women's rather than men's behaviour. It is not surprising that service workers should receive instructions on the subject of asking questions, since question-answer routines are characteristic of institutional talk (Drew and Heritage 1992). What is more interesting, however, is the stress placed on using questions not merely to elicit information (the function that makes questioning so central to institutional discourse), but to display interest in the customer as a person, to make the interaction a more `genuine' dialogue, and to give the customer `space' to speak freely and at length. This concern (facilitating extended talk) is observable in advice on the kinds of questions workers are told they should prefer. Typically they are advised to avoid what linguists would call `conducive' questions, those which strongly favour a predetermined answer, and sel...
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