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Academic Paper


Title: Othering in Gossip: “You go out you have a laugh and you can pull yeah okay but like…”
Adam Jaworski
Institution: Cardiff University
Justine Coupland
Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: None
Abstract: It has been claimed that gossip allows participants to negotiate aspects of group membership, and the inclusion and exclusion of others, by working out shared values. This article examines instances of gossipy storytelling among young friends during which participants negotiate self- and other-identities in particular ways. Participants are found to share judgments not only about others' behavior but also about their own behavior through particular processes of othering. A range of discursive strategies place the characters in gossip-stories (even in the category called “self-gossip”) in marginalized, liminal, or uncertain social spaces. In the gossipy talk episodes examined, social “transgression” might be oriented to as a serious matter and thus pejorated, or oriented to in a playful key and thus celebrated. This ambiguity – “Do we disapprove or approve, of this ‘bad’ behavior?” – means that in negotiating the identity status of “gossipees” liminality is constant. It is argued that othering, as an emergent category, along with the particular discursive strategies that achieve it, is an aspect of gossip that deserves further attention.

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 34, Issue 5, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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