When questioning turns to face threat: An interactional sensitivity in 911 call-taking

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37 Scopus citations


Asking questions and taking down information is one of the most important, yet problematic, parts of a 911 call-taker's job. Citizens often resist answering questions, and many call-takers express confusion over why this is the case. In this article, I argue that we can further understand interactional sensitivities in 911 calls by viewing questioning through the lens of facework. Training materials at Citywest 911 (a pseudonym) and much past research treat questions as simple information-gathering tools devoid of relational function. However, the case study presented in this paper—constructed from transcribed 911 calls, participant observation data, and interviews—illustrates how questions can be face-threatening. It closes with a discussion of how the analysis supports and parts ways with past research, as well as points to implications for the practice of emergency communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-157
Number of pages29
JournalWestern Journal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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