Referentiality, predicate patterns, and functions of <i>we</i>-utterances in American English interactions

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This usage-based study of <i>we</i> examines formal and functional properties of English conversational utterances from the <i>Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English</i>, focusing on effects of the referentiality of the pronoun. Analyses suggest that different indexical uses of <i>we</i> have distinct formal distributions which reflect their discourse functions. Inclusiveness expressed with <i>we</i> utterances is shaped by the social understanding that when speakers include other speech act participants in their assertions, these utterances mediate inclusion through the use of modal elements or through presentation of inclusive opinions as commonly shared. In contrast, exclusive expressions frequently occur with past tense predicates, and in these utterances <i>we</i> indexes relationships and affiliations that are culturally conventional and central to participants&#8217; routine experiences.


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