The politics of questioning: Aspects of UK and Ghanaian parliamentary question types
Keywords:questions, parliamentary questions, direct and indirect interrogatives, tellex yes/no interrogatives
In spite of the many authoritative classifications of questions, the examination of questions in different institutional contexts continues to generate new and interesting insights into the nature of questions. Research shows that question forms and functions substantially differ in institutional contexts such as courtroom, classroom, medical and political/parliamentary contexts. Using data from the UK Prime Minister’s Questions and Ghanaian Minister’s Questions, this paper explores UK and Ghanaian parliamentary questions. Based on the contextual properties of parliamentary questions, the paper categorises questions into independent/direct yes/no interrogatives, independent/direct wh-interrogatives, independent/direct alternate interrogatives, dependent/indirect wh-interrogatives and multiple interrogatives. The Ghanaian data contain two additional question forms, namely, dependent/indirect yes/no interrogatives and dependent/indirect alternate interrogatives. The paper further indicates that the major difference between UK and Ghanaian parliamentary questions is indirect yes/no interrogatives with mental process verbs. Again, using what I call tellex (tell, explain) yes/no questions, I argue that indirectness is a key feature of parliamentary questions, as it reflects the adversarial and ideological nature of parliamentary discourse. I argue that the tellex questions are used as strategies and tactics for political point-scoring.
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