Impersonal you and stance-taking in social research interviews

Myers, Greg and Lampropoulou, Sofia (2012) Impersonal you and stance-taking in social research interviews. Journal of Pragmatics, 44 (10). pp. 1206-1218. ISSN 0378-2166

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The pronoun you is prototypically used to refer to the addressee or addressees in an interaction, but it also has other uses, including a kind of impersonal reference that does not pick out any particular person, but is the equivalent of someone, anyone, or one. This paper focuses on how the shift to an impersonal you works in one genre of interaction, research interviews by academic social science researchers, where the participants often use you where the previous turn might have projected the use of I or they. We argue that the shift, and related cues of the dimension of specific vs. general, can be seen as a form of stance-taking. We explore three possible functions: (1) recategorising of the speaker and their category-associated experiences, (2) displaying perceptions as shared, not merely individual, and (3) invoking commonplaces to deal with dilemmas posed by the question. These rhetorical actions can be related to the demands of the research interview, with the interviewee claiming or disclaiming an entitlement to have a stance, supporting their stances against possible challenge, and giving accounts or resisting judgments of the interviewee's behaviour or views. Attention to these shifts can make social science researchers more aware of the interactions underlying the transcripts.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Pragmatics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? stance impersonal pronounresearch interviewenglish language and linguisticsartificial intelligencelinguistics and languagelanguage and linguisticsp philology. linguistics ??
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Deposited On:
18 Jun 2012 08:18
Last Modified:
28 Feb 2024 00:48