<i>We</i> and <i>I</i>, and <i>you</i> and <i>them</i>

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This chapter examines the referential domain, communicative function and perlocutionary effect of the personal plural pronouns I and we, and you and them in political discourse, considering in particular their role in doing dominance and doing collectivity. Its methodological framework is an integrated one, combining more recent developments of Searlean speech act theory with interactional sociolinguistics, in particular co-occurrence and conversational inference. The paper is organized as follows: the introduction sets the scene, and the second section presents the contextual constraints and requirements of political discourse. The third section investigates the form and function of personal pronouns in English, considering in particular their role in the expression of individuality and collectivity, and dominance and solidarity. The fourth section presents a micro-analysis, distinguishing between local contexts in which collectivity and individuality, and dominance and solidarity are entextualized and others where the referential domains of the personal pronouns are left underspecified. A conclusion summarizes the results obtained arguing for a cognitive prototype-based scalar conception of individuality and collectivity, and dominance and solidarity, which are fore- and backgrounded in interaction.


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