‘You can’t, but I do’: the significance of shifts in pronominal forms for self-positioning in talk
Mulhaüsler and Harré contend that pronoun systems set out fields of expression ‘within which people can be… presented as agents of one kind or another.’ Despite interest in pronominal forms by various discourse researchers, analysis of pronouns-in-use from this perspective remains underdeveloped. This paper undertakes such an analysis, drawing on Rees’ theories about the ‘distance from the self’ encoded in different pronouns. Our data, from interviews analysed as talk-in-interaction, show participants shifting between pronominal registers as a way of presenting their social world and positioning themselves as agents within it. “Fourth-person” pronouns allow the distancing of reports of lack of agency from the deictic centre of self and express a “deontic modality” through which one can position oneself in relation to moral imperatives. Along with shifts into and out of the first-person register, this is notably used to maintain an agentive self-positioning in talk about situations of relative powerlessness.
Citation : Yates, S. and Hiles, D. (2010) ‘You can’t, but I do’: the significance of shifts in pronominal forms for self-positioning in talk. Discourse Studies, 12 (4), pp. 535-551
ISSN : 1461-4456
Research Institute : Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care
Peer Reviewed : Yes