Hervé Varenne

"The Interpretation of Pronominal Paradigms: Speech Situation, Pragmatic Meaning and Cultural Structure," Semiotica 50: 221-248. 1984


Pronominal paradigms have long been of interest to social scientists, as indexes of social relationships. The phrase "index of relationship" is, however, fundamentally ambiguous. Traditionally,, pronominal paradigms have been interpreted as referring to features of the social world as absolute individuals meet other individuals and form various types of groups. Even in some of the more modern discussions, a lingering functionalism obscures approaches centering on the creative, expressive, cultural aspects of the use of, pronominals and other deictics.  

Following an examination of the history of sociolinguistic approaches to the analysis of pronominals, this paper uses the transcript of an interview with an American high school student talking about groups in high school to make the case that pronominal paradigms 'are less indexes of actually occuring relationships than one of the ways in which cultural theories of relationships , are made real, and actual relations are interpreted, and coopted, so that they fit regular modes.

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January 11, 2000