We use questions to ask people for information (who’s there?), but we can also use them to make a polite request (could you pass me that?), to confirm social understanding (what a game, eh), and for stylistic effect, such as ironic or rhetorical questions (who knows!).

In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about questions! We talk about question intonations from the classic rising pitch? to the British downstep (not a dance move…yet), and their written correlates, such as omitting a question mark in order to show that a question is rhetorical or intensified. We also talk about grammatical strategies for forming questions, from the common (like question particles and tag questions in so many languages), to the labyrinthine history that brings us English’s very uncommon use of “do” in questions. Plus: the English-centrically-named wh-word questions (like who, what, where), why we could maybe call them kw-word questions instead (at least for Indo-European), and why we don’t need to stress out as much about asking “open” questions. {listen}