What does “Well” mean? Or, more specifically, what does ‘Well’ mean when it’s used as the first word in response to so-called ‘Wh-questions’ (which, what, who, whom, whose, where, whence, whither, when, why, whynot, wherefore, whatever etc. etc.)? Professor Gene H. Lerner and Professor Emanuel A. Schegloff offer an explanation in the April 2009 issue of the journal Research on Language&Social Interaction.

“We show that these well-prefaces operate as general alerts that indicate nonstraightforwardness in responding …”

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