This, that, and it in spoken American English: A demonstrative system of gradient focus

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This paper provides an alternative analysis for the demonstrative system of reference in spontaneous oral discourse. The alternative model is based on interaction between and among participants and is intended to replace the traditional proximal/distal distinction which statistically centers around the speaker as the primary locus of information. In a move away from the static view of language which traditionalists seem to embrace by concentrating on a single participant orientation (in this case, the speaker) the model being proposed here takes into account additional factors such as the hearer, the relationships between speaker and hearer, as well as the continuum of information status vis à vis the referent, i.e., new(er) vs. (more) shared information, more important vs. less important information, and so forth. The paper proposes that these factors are crucial for an analysis which accounts for speaker choice of demonstrative reference terms, especially in oral discourse. It will be shown through various distributional tendencies, that the motivating factors underlying speaker choice of demonstrative has much to do with the concept of FOCUS, and that by using demonstrative markers in various ways, speakers are indexing hints of their personal stance with regard not only to their interlocutors, but to the referents being talked about as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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