Edited by Rob Pensalfini, Myfany Turpin and Diana Guillemin
[Studies in Language Companion Series 147] 2014
► pp. 361–382
Structure and agency in the language of Bininj Gunwok kinship
This chapter examines the connections between shared cultural knowledge about kinship structure and the pragmatic inferences that enable interlocutors to assess each other’s (multiple) perspectives. By drawing on Bininj Gunwok conversational data this chapter shows how linguistic choices are influenced by the dynamics of social relationships, particularly by context-specific speaker goals and stance-taking that focuses on intersubjectivity. The choice of kinterm is an essential component of stance-taking. A switch in kinterm shifts the indexes of various aspects of speaker agency (e.g. effecting solidarity, ratifying relationships with addressee and referent, justifying joint action). Kinterms in four different contexts are discussed: basic kin terms for affines; basic kin terms for skewed relationships; kin term shifts within unnamed superclasses; and triadic terms.