Panel at IPra 2017 in Belfast

Knowing me and knowing you

Reference and identity markers in public discourse

organised by Minna Nevala, University of Helsinki and Ursula Lutzky, Vienna University of Economics and Business

This panel studies the use of labelling in texts intended to be public, as reflected in their accessibility or distribution in the public domain. It approaches the importance of reference and identity markers in both synchronic and diachronic data and investigates their contribution to the construction of a potentially evaluative stance. The data studied will draw on a variety of text types and contexts, including newspapers, online media, political communication, business or legal texts, and therefore allow for a range of ‘real world’ settings to be considered, aligning the focus of this workshop with the conference’s overall theme.

The public nature of the data allows for self and other reference to be studied in contexts, where the exact composition of the audience may not be fully known. Nevertheless, considerations of ratified and unratified participants (cf. Goffman 1976; Lugo-Ocando 2015) will have affected the (potentially strategic) use of terms of address and reference and led to the creation of specific stylistic and pragmatic effects in diverse discourse situations. By studying these effects, it is the aim of this workshop to uncover new insights into discourse specific labelling patterns, both from a historical and present-day perspective, and to discuss their impact on self and other representation in the construction of identity in public texts. Social identities and intergroup relations are usually manifested in the so-called in-group and out-group discourse. Impoliteness, and negative labelling in particular, entails creating and maintaining negative impressions, which can be aided or achieved through the use of ‘labels of primary potency’ (Allport 1986). This means that certain characteristics, like male/female or criminal/law-abiding, carry more perceptual potency than others, and signal difference from what is considered mainstream (e.g. moral distinctiveness). While the diachronic dimension of this panel will allow for trends to be observed in the development of certain reference markers, the synchronic approach will facilitate the immediate application of findings to enhance our understanding and use of reference practices in more or less institutionalised contexts.

Allport, Gordon (1986). “The language of prejudice”. In Language Awareness, Paul Escholz, Alfred Rosa and Virginia Clark (eds), 261-270. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Goffman, Erving (1976). “Replies and responses”. Language in Society 5/3, 257-313.
Lugo-Ocando, Jairo (2015). Blaming the Victim: How Global Journalism Fails Those in Poverty. London: Pluto Press.

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