From this week’s “THE WORD” column in The Boston Globe, by Wordnik founder Erin McKean:
You know what tag questions are, don’t you? Tag questions are those little questioning upticks, usually found at the end of a sentence — like that don’t you? — that grease the conversational wheels. Linguists see these questions as coming in two different flavors: the kind that ask for information or confirmation (“you’ve got the tickets, right?”), called “modal” tags, and the kind that try to connect with the hearer’s feelings, softening a statement or opening the door for more conversation, called “affective” tags (“that was certainly unexpected, wasn’t it?”).
Since they help keep information flowing, you’d think that tag questions would be appreciated for their importance to the language, or at least held up as a useful communications tool, but in fact, they’re almost ignored, and occasionally even mocked.
Read the full column here.