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Conference Information

Full Title: Indexing Gender Revisited: On the Non-Referential Aspects of Gendering

Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Start Date: 26-Jul-2015 - 31-Jul-2015
Contact: Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The point of departure for this panel is the ground-breaking paper 'Indexing gender' authored by Elinor Ochs in 1992. In that paper, Ochs draws attention to the fact that words, morphemes, etc., even if they do not mean 'gender', can also acquire gendered meanings in specific interactional contexts. This occurs through the association of non-gendered linguistic means with stances/activities that are related to preferred images of women/men in the broader sociocultural context. The theoretical underpinnings of this position stem from Silverstein's (1976: 29) distinction between 'referential' and 'non-referential' indexes: the former have both semantic/referential and indexical/pragmatic meaning (and their referential value depends on their indexical value), while the latter have exclusively indexical meaning. Ochs contends that most indexing of gender is accomplished non-referentially, i.e. in a mediated way via stances, social actions, etc., rather than referentially, i.e. in a direct and exclusive way.

As Hopper and Lebaron (1998: 60) remark, though, Ochs 'did not provide a detailed analysis of talk in which speakers link details of talk to gendered roles'. Subsequent studies - not necessarily in a direct dialogue with or in relationship to the 1992 paper - that looked, more or less explicitly, at non-referential ways of indexing gender did rely on interactional analysis (cf. e.g. Beach and Glenn, 2011; Hopper and LeBaron, 1998; Jackson, 2011; Land and Kitzinger, 2011; Stokoe, 2012). For example, Stockill and Kitzinger (2007) argue that even non-gendered terms, e.g. people, can become gendered in particular local interactional contexts, in other words, 'the interactional meaning of gender is not intrinsic to gendered linguistic forms but to the action a linguistic form is used to do on any given occasion of use' (2007: 233). This, in turn, means that what is linguistically available as gendered is not necessarily interactionally gendered (Land and Kitzinger, 2011) or, to put it differently, 'system relevance' does not ensure 'action relevance' (Klein, 2011). However, to date there is no systematic and comprehensive discussion of the non-referential aspects of gendering in interaction.

The purpose of the panel is, then, to explore such issues and flesh out what is involved in the non-referential indexing of gender across interactional contexts, communities of practice, languages and cultures.


Hopper, R. and LeBaron, C. (1998). How gender creeps into talk. Research on Language and Social Interaction 31(3): 59-74.
Jackson, C. (2011) The gendered 'I'. In Conversation and Gender, S. S. Speer and E. H. Stokoe (eds), 31-47. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Klein, N. L. (2011). Doing gender categorization: Non-recognitional person reference and the omnirelevance of gender. In Conversation and Gender, S. S. Speer and E. H. Stokoe (eds), 64-82. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Land, V. and Kitzinger, C. (2011). Categories in talk-in-interaction: Gendering speaker and recipient. In Conversation and Gender, S. S. Speer and E. H. Stokoe (eds), 48-63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ochs, E. (1992) Indexing gender. In Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon, A. Duranti and C. Goodwin (eds), 335-358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Silverstein, M. (1976) Shifters, linguistic categories, and cultural description. In Meaning in Anthropology, K. H. Basso and H. A. Selby (eds), 11-55. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico.
Stockill, C. and Kitzinger, C. (2007) Gendered people: How linguistically non-gendered terms can have gendered interactional relevance. Feminism and Psychology 17(2): 224-236.
Stokoe, E. H. (2012). Moving forward with membership categorization analysis: Methods for systematic analysis. Discourse Studies 14(3) 277-303.
Linguistic Subfield: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics
LL Issue: 25.2918

This is a session of the following meeting:
14th International Pragmatics Conference

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