Disentangling Public from Non-Public Meaning

  • Jonathan Ginzburg
Part of the Text, Speech and Language Technology book series (TLTB, volume 22)


Analyses of interaction need to characterize not solely’ success conditions’, a traditional and important means of analyzing action, but also ‘clarification potential’, the range of potential clarification requests (CRs) available in the aftermath of a conversational move. After briefly considering the very productive and effective ways of producing CRs relating to the grammatically governed content of an utterance, I turn to CRs that pertain to a conversational participant’s non-public intentions, the commonest being the bare Why?, dubbed here Whymeta. I demonstrate that Whymeta shows distinct behaviour from CRs that pertain to grammatically governed content. The most prominent feature perhaps being that, whereas the latter are almost invariably adjacent to the utterances whose clarification they seek, non-adjacency is quite natural for Whymeta. It can occur at a stage where a second part adjacency pair response has been provided to the utterance it pertains to, suggesting that the information Whymeta is seeking is a ‘useful extra’, not an essential ingredient required for providing an appropriate response. Rather than treat Whymeta as clarifying a contextually instantiable goals/plan parameter, I propose that it be treated as an instance of a metadiscursive utterance like I don’t want to talk about this.


Dialogue Clarification Request Plan Recognition Grounding 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Ginzburg
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept of Computer ScienceKing’s CollegeLondonUK

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