Inference-embedded yes/no interrogatives in Mandarin Chinese conversation


  • Hui Guo Shanxi University, China
  • Yaxin Wu Ocean University of China



yes/no interrogative, inference-embedded, correction, action formation, action ascription


In talk-in-interaction, the details of the design of a yes/no interrogative (YNI) index the speaker’s epistemic stance about the issue in question. Adopting conversation analysis as the research method, the present study examines the interactional deployment of inference-embedded YNIs in Mandarin Chinese. The analysis of the turn designs and sequential environments of these interrogatives, as well as the design of the responses to them, indicates that a sequence organisation is engendered in and through the production of inference-embedded YNIs. Since the recipient has epistemic primacy over what is questioned, the questioner’s inference embedded in YNIs may be congruent or incongruent with the recipient’s own state of affairs. In this respect, the questioner’ s inference may be right or wrong. If the recipient finds that the inference is wrong, he or she has the responsibility to execute correction of the questioner’s wrong inference. Indeed, the recipient does display his/her treatment of the inference as wrong through correction. It is through such reflexive connection between the production (action formation) and the interpretation (action ascription) of the YNI that the inference-embedded YNI is treated as a practice for projecting a correction of what is inferred to the question recipient.

Author Biographies

Hui Guo, Shanxi University, China

Hui Guo is a PhD candidate in Shanxi University majoring in conversation analysis. She is an associate professor in the English department in Taiyuan University, Shanxi Province. Her current research focuses on conversation analysis of questions and responses in Mandarin Chinese. She has published in Modern Foreign Languages and Journal of Foreign Languages.

Yaxin Wu, Ocean University of China

Yaxin Wu is a professor at the College of Foreign Languages, Ocean University of China. She is interested in conversation analysis and pragmatics. Her research now focuses on conversation analysis of social actions and particles in Mandarin Chinese. She has published in Journal of Pragmatics, Pragmatics & Cognition, Intercultural Pragmatics, and Discourse Processes.


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How to Cite

Guo, H., & Wu, Y. . (2021). Inference-embedded yes/no interrogatives in Mandarin Chinese conversation. East Asian Pragmatics, 6(2), 207–230.