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The Handbook of Conversation Analysis by Tanya Stivers, Jack Sidnell

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21

 Reference in Conversation

N. J. ENFIELD

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University Nijmegen

Introduction

Reference is a way of relating to another person. In perhaps its barest form, referring consists of literally pointing to something in order for two people to share attention on that thing, for some interactional purpose. For instance, a child points to a toy in order to get someone to pass it; or I direct your attention to a museum exhibit so that we may appreciate it together (cf. Enfield, 2009; C. Goodwin 2003c; Kidwell & Zimmerman, 2007; Kita, 2003; Moore, 2008; Sidnell, 2005a; Tomasello, 2008). But while gestures of pointing and showing can readily achieve reference without the involvement of language, in the context of social interaction we are typically using the rich and elaborate resources that languages provide.

In making reference, whether to a person, place, object, time, or other ontological category, a speaker must select from a variety of lexical and gestural possibilities. Reference is therefore a matter of selection, whether lexical or otherwise (Frege 1960[1892]; cf. Brown 1958, Chafe 1980). At the same time, these referring expressions have to be delivered in the form of turns, or as elements of turns, and so reference is also a matter of turn design (cf. Drew, this volume). But the topic of reference is narrower in scope than both word selection and turn design—hence the need for a distinct chapter on reference here. In this chapter, ...

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