Bogans, lawyers and teachers: On the interactional achievement of word meanings

Roslyn Rowen, Michael Haugh

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    The extent to which context, including pragmatic processes, plays a role in understanding the meaning of words has been long debated by scholars working at the interface of pragmatics and semantics. In this paper, we consider how the meanings of bogan, lawyer and teacher are interactionally accomplished in everyday encounters amongst Australian speakers of English. Building on methodological and theoretical insights from interactional pragmatics, the dynamic model of meaning, and dialogic syntax, we propose that locally situated, occasion-specific meanings of terms such as, bogan, lawyer and teacher, may be achieved with respect to contingently-relevant trajectories of social action(s) in sequences of talk, but that participants draw from recurrent sequential practices for doing so. We analyze how speakers generate dialogic resonance through the use of recurrent syntactic frames to co-construct locally situated semantic fields encompassing different words and predicates in-situ, and how these are underpinned by common interactional process that facilitate the negotiation of locally-situated meanings. We suggest that these locally-situated meanings draw from, and so are systematically afforded and constrained by aspects of abstracted lexical meanings to varying degrees, but that participants nevertheless are able to shape the meanings of those words for locally-situated purposes. In sum, we propose that what a word is taken to mean in locally situated interactions is invariably interwoven with the recurrent practices for framing those word meanings across turns of talk.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)327-359
    Number of pages33
    JournalIntercultural Pragmatics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2017


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