Volume 43, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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Linguistic units as traditionally conceived by linguists favor structural features and referential meanings. In this paper, we propose a new way of understanding the nature of linguistic units by analyzing the interaction of multiple semiotic resources (gestures, bodily movement, eye gaze speech) in social interaction. We focus on the discursive activity of “categorizing” in different situations and in two languages, English and Mandarin Chinese. Categorizing is broadly defined as any activity that involves explicitly or implicitly classifying people or objects into types. We show that the meanings of linguistic units (including the referential) may be distorted or incomplete when forms are extracted from their contexts and analyzed in isolation. Instead, we argue that an interactional, activity-based view, focusing on the deployment of linguistic elements as part of a coordinated system of semiotic resources, will enable us to understand the nature of linguistic units in a more productive way.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): activity; categorizing; linguistic unit; referentialism; semiotic resource
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