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Police call-takers' first substantive question projects the outcome of the call

Kent, A; Antaki, C

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Authors

C Antaki



Abstract

Police call-takers need to gather as much data as is needed, as quickly as possible, to determine whether and what action should be taken. On analysing 514 calls to a UK centre handling emergency (999) and non-emergency (101) calls, we find that the call-taker’s first substantive question already carries a diagnosis of the merits of the caller's case, and an implication of the call's likely outcome. Such questions come principally in four formats. On a gradient of increasing scepticism, these are: requests for the caller's location (which are treated as indicating that police action will be taken); open-ended requests for further information (treated as neutral); queries of the relevance of the incident or legitimacy of the caller, and reformulations of the caller's reason for calling (both projecting upcoming refusal of police action). We discuss the implications of this gradient for understanding how the calltakers manage their institutional goals. Data are in British English.

Acceptance Date Dec 27, 2018
Publication Date Mar 11, 2019
Journal Applied Linguistics
Print ISSN 0142-6001
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 640-661
DOI https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amz002
Keywords conversation analysis; requests; scepticism; projectability; emergency calls; police
Publisher URL https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amz002

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