Signs of Deference, Signs of Demeanour: Interlocutor Reference and Self-Other Relations across Southeast Asian Speech Communities

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Edited by Dwi Noverini Djenar and Jack Sidnell

With contributions from N.J. Enfield, Joseph Errington, Michael C. Ewing, Sarah Lee, Charles H.P. Zuckerman, and Luke Fleming

In selecting terms to refer to themselves and their addressees, speakers express, define and create a field for working out social relations. Because, up until now, sociolinguistic research in this domain has focused primarily on Indo-European languages, it has tended to dwell on pronominal reference to the addressee, for example the choice between tu and vous in addressing someone in French. This book theorises interlocutor reference more broadly, based on the study of Southeast Asian languages, thereby deepening our understanding of the ways in which self-other relations are linguistically mediated in social interaction. There are two basic ways in which the Southeast Asian systems exceed in complexity and nuance the well-described cases of Europe. First, in many languages of Southeast Asia, a speaker must select an appropriate reference form not only for the addressee but also for the speaker. Second, in these languages, speakers draw upon, in addition to pronouns, a wide range of common and proper nouns including names, kin terms, and titles, in referring to themselves and the addressee.

The contributors to this volume show that acts of interlocutor reference inevitably do more than merely identify the speaker and addressee. In addition to reference, they also convey information about the proposed relation between interlocutors as well as connecting to broader orders of contextual relevance. At the same time, they are treated as representations of the speaker’s status, sophistication, elegance and so on. Bringing together studies from both small-scale and large, urbanised communities across Mainland and Insular Southeast Asia, this book is an important contribution to the sociolinguistics and anthropology of Southeast Asia. In addition, the editors’ introduction lays out a framework for investigating and analysing interlocutor reference in any language, in any part of the world.

“These issues are of central importance in social interaction in all human languages. By systematically clarifying such processes for a group of languages, this book provides tools for analyzing social interaction that will interest scholars who study social interaction anywhere in the world.”  - Prof Hy V. Luong, University of Toronto

Dwi Noverini Djenar is Associate Professor of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.

Jack Sidnell is a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Publication Year: 2023
260pp || 229 x 152 mm
3 figures, 11 b/w images, 1 table
ISBN: 978-981-325-184-7