Referring to third-persons in English interaction: a single case analysis

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Talking about others is a fundamentally human activity that relies on the meaningful use of referring expressions for interlocuters to be able to identify the specific individual(s) being spoken of. With a primary focus on practices for referring to third parties, the broad aim of this paper is to show that whilst the selection of referring expression is based on complex, deeply social and cultural conventions, it is also a highly systematic and orderly activity. More specifically, this paper explores an interactional ‘puzzle’ contained in a single piece of data in which a daughter - in conversation with her mother - refers to her father in three different ways in quick succession. In doing so, we illustrate the potential interactional import of referring expressions for accomplishing social action beyond indexing an individual. In analysing this single case, one procedure for doing conversation analytic work is also illustrated. That is, in contrast to building and analysing collections, this paper draws on and applies what is already known from previous conversation analytic literature about practices for referring to persons. In analysing one fragment in which reference to a third party is made, we will review the fundamentals of the organisation of person reference in English.
Original languageEnglish
JournalShanghai Journal of Foreign Languages
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 May 2018

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