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PostPosted: March 10th, 2013 21:54:37 pm 
Terror Island Admin
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Joined: June 26th, 2006 10:12:49 am
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Location: Detroit
I would like to request a podcast where you discuss the difference between "requests" and plain old "questions."

Mangez Frais!

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PostPosted: October 26th, 2018 01:02:21 am 

Joined: August 30th, 2016 02:10:20 am
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So your first thought is, they both are a type of asking...

This is, in my opinion, a linguistically myopic way of looking at it. Sure, the English language has a verb that can be used to express both ideas; but a lot of words have multiple meanings, and this is no exception. These meanings in particular would not necessarily be assigned to the same verb in another language, especially one unrelated to English. They are very definitely not the same concept, or even necessarily related concepts, in my opinion. The verb "cleave" can mean cling to, or it can mean split into parts; these are not the same idea. The verb "spit" can mean expectorate, or it can mean skewer; "tell" could for hundreds of years mean either count or say to (though the former meaning has largely passed out of usage except in the last couple of hundred years); there are tens of thousands of examples of this phenomenon in English. Having both meanings attached to the same verb does not necessarily imply that they are conceptually related.

The various synonyms of "ask" don't necessarily apply to all of its meanings. The verb "request" is not generally used in the sense of asking a question, and in fact if I say that someone "requested a question", it doesn't mean he asked it: it means he requested that someone else should ask a question. Going the other way, "ask" in the sense of "ask a question" can be swapped out for "pose" without changing the meaing; but if I say that Pat "posed" Sam to do something, this changes the meaning altogether, suggesting that Pat arranged Sam's body into a particular posture, as though Sam were going to be photographed in the act of doing the thing in question.

And while yes, it's true that questions (especially simple ones) can often be rephrased as as a request to "tell me ...", this is periphrastic and really beside the point; it says more about the flexibility of language than about the concepts in question. Statements of fact can be and often are rephrased as requests to "know" or "remember" something, or for that matter as rhetorical questions; this does not imply that a statement of fact is conceptually the same thing as a request or as a (non-rhetorical) question.

In my opinion, "asking" in the sense of asking a person to do a particular action is not conceptually the same as "asking" in the sense of asking a question.

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