‘We’ as social categorization in Cha’palaa,
a language of Ecuador
This chapter connects the grammar of the first person collective pronoun in the Cha’palaa language of Ecuador with its use in interaction for collective reference and social category membership attribution, addressing the problem posed by the fact that non-singular pronouns do not have distributional semantics (“speakers”) but are rather associational (“speaker and relevant associates”). It advocates a cross-disciplinary approach that jointly considers elements of linguistic form, situated usages of those forms in instances of interaction, and the broader ethnographic context of those instances. Focusing on large-scale and relatively stable categories such as racial and ethnic groups, it argues that looking at how speakers categorize themselves and others in the speech situation by using pronouns provides empirical data on the status of macro-social categories for members of a society.