Pronouns and identity: A case study from a 1930s working-class community

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Abstract

This article investigates the relationship between certain pronoun uses and identity in a 1930s working class community. It is based on a corpus of informal conversations drawn from the Mass-Observation archive, a sociological and anthropological study of the Bolton (UK) working class at this time. The article argues that certain pronoun uses in the corpus can only be explained as homophoric reference, a kind of reference which depends on implicit agreement about the intended referent of the pronoun. The article then discusses the basis on which this implicit agreement could operate: shared culture and knowledge and a tight network of social relations. In the conclusion, two particular questions are raised: 1) How far can the homophoric reference described be related to social class? 2) When does (dialect) grammar become pragmatics?

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