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Referring to persons without using a full form reference: Locally initial indexicals in action

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Publication details

JournalResearch on Language and Social Interaction
DatePublished - Apr 2012
Issue number2
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)116-136
Original languageEnglish


This article draws on naturally occurring talk-in-interaction to explore the use of unrepaired indexicals—specifically he, she, and they—to refer to third persons when there is no prior full-form reference. We show some of the local resources that participants use to understand the referent but focus predominantly on how locally initial indexicals can be used in the service of the interactional task at hand to: (a) establish continuity of focus (across sequences and across conversations) and (b) mute the relevance of a referent for the action of the turn. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the action of repair on locally initial indexical reference and show how our work contributes both to linguistic research on pronouns and to conversation analytic work on person reference.

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