Categorization in talk: A case study of taxonomies and social meaning

Reiko Hayashi

Abstract

This article seeks to advance the usage-based discourse research that investigates meanings and processes of meaning construction in interaction by elaboratingan empirically grounded interdisciplinary model. The paradigmatic and sequential analysis employed here brings together linguistic discourse analysis with an ethnomethodological perspective, and presents an innovative take on category organization in talk,explaininghow to capture knowledge resources such as asymmetrical category contrast pairs in talk. In analyzing in detail the speaker’s taxonomy constructionin a sample conversation, the papersystematicallyexploresthefollowing two topicsrelated to the speaker: what category characteristic he is orientingto as a resource for his present talkandwhat socialmeaning the speaker’s taxonomizing isconsistentlycommunicatingin the flow of talk. The proposed model captures a color binary–used to categorize people–of the ‘colored’versus the ‘white’, entailed in theexpression ‘a so-called yellowcolored people’,and reveals that the category pair is used as an organizational device in the speaker’s argument.The paper claims that taxonomy analysis in sequence is useful to examine the selected words in relation to their semiotic resources.

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