Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2666-4224
  • E-ISSN: 2666-4232



Participants in conversation have a range of options for referring to co-conversationalists – lexical, grammatical, embodied – regardless of their language. Personal pronouns have been described as the most unmarked way of achieving reference, where little else is accomplished other than the action of referring. We demonstrate that speakers in a multi-party conversation whose language distinguishes between second and third-person pronouns, or between inclusive and exclusive pronouns, are constantly attributing and managing participation roles when referring to co-participants, even when using the default reference forms. Grammatical contrasts within pronoun inventories are recruited, often in conjunction with points and gaze, to indicate which co-participants are being addressed and which are being referred to. Address is constantly recalibrated through practices of reference. Speakers also draw on more marked referential expressions in order to emphasise the attribution of participation roles more explicitly. This study is based on a corpus of casual multi-party conversations in Jaru, an endangered Australian language with a dual pronominal system which encodes three grammatical numbers (singular, dual, and plural) and specifies whether the referents of first-person dual and plural pronouns exclude or include the addressee(s).

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