Word selection and social identities in talk in interaction

Celia Kitzinger, Jenny Mandelbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines connections between communication and identity. We present an analysis of actual, recorded social interactions in order to describe intersections between identity and vocabulary selection. We focus on how, in selecting or deselecting particular terms (e.g., cephalic, doula, cooker) speakers can display both their own identities and the identities of others. We show how these identities are constructed in part through speakers' selection and competent deployment of the specialist vocabularies associated with particular territories of expertise, how identities can be challenged when cointeractants presume understanding problems with specialist vocabularies, and how they can be defended (more or less vigorously) against such challenges with claims or displays of understanding. This conversation analytic approach to talk-in-interaction documents how specialist vocabularies can be deployed, in situ, in the construction of social identities. In describing how communication is used in the enactment and construction of identity, our findings contribute to the developing body of research specifying communication practices through which identity is constructed and showing how salient identities are made manifest in interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-198
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • conversation analysis
  • identity
  • interaction

Cite this