Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Indexicality and sociolocation in a Bangladeshi market: A sociolinguistic ethnography
by McFadden, Jennifer L., Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2011, 348; 3450847
Abstract (Summary)

This sociolinguistic ethnography examines how speakers in an urban Bangladeshi market use participant-indexical pronouns, kinterms, and metapragmatic discourse to locate one another in variously defined sectors of social space, including micro-interactional stances, local stereotypes of personhood, and macro-discursive notions of ‘culture’ and ‘country.’ The study proposes a general term, ‘sociolocation,’ to describe the indexical processes by which interlocutors establish the relative positions of self and other in various scales of social order. Sociolocation is examined in two overlapping frames of activity within the corpus: the context of Bangladeshi marketplace interaction, and the context of cross-cultural discourse, a key element of ethnographic participation in this study.

The theoretical foundations of this inquiry emphasize three basic dimensions of sense-making in marketplace discourse and cross-cultural interaction (and talk in general): interactional intersubjectivity, addressivity, and indexicality (Agha 2007). The analyses are based on a 40-hour corpus of audio-recorded and transcribed marketplace conversations collected during a nine-month period of participant-observation in a small market in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Three sets of indexical features are examined in market discourse and cross-cultural interaction: Bangla first- and second-person pronouns, vocative kinterms, and metapragmatic talk. The analyses approach these features from distributional and discourse-analytic perspectives, and show how each feature works together with co-textual signs to link interlocutors to models of personhood and social spaces. These indexical acts are nodes in chains of addressive social order, sometimes furthering presupposed stereotypic values, and sometimes creatively troping upon them.

The study provides an extensive sample of East Bengali conversational vernacular as well as Bangladeshi market interactions. It also presents a reflexive examination of researcher-informant dialogue, giving special consideration to ethnographic participation as a site for the production of social order. And it aims to illustrate how the indexical practice of sociolocation might be considered basic to all discourse, tying interlocutors to models of personhood and spheres of social order. It claims that addressively oriented interlocutors—the ‘I’ and ‘YOU’ of discourse—are cardinal figures in the organization, propagation, and modification of social conduct, and that sociolocation is a fundamental mechanism for the execution of this work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hamilton, Heidi E.
Commitee: Schiffrin, Deborah, Stewart, Tony K.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 72/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, South Asian Studies
Keywords: Bangladesh, Bengali, Ethnography, Indexicality, Interaction, Market discourse, Sociolinguistics, Sociolocation
Publication Number: 3450847
ISBN: 9781124601663
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