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Person reference, proper names and circumspection in Bininj Kunwok conversation

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Abstract

Proper names in Bininj Kunwok are one of a number of unmarked referring expressions in contexts of high social familiarity. In most other contexts and especially where culturally motivated circumspection is required, names are avoided in favour of a range of other referring expressions. The traditional philosophy of language view is that proper names allow speakers to avoid having to state circumlocutory identity details each time reference to an individual is made. In Bininj Kunwok however, cultural restrictions on the use of proper names in many contexts mean that speakers often use alternative expressions which frequently rely heavily on shared common ground to achieve recognition. The kind of shared cultural knowledge that is indexed for recognition of referents is spelt out in the analysis of data from a telephone conversation.

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