2005 Student Research Conference:
18th Annual Student Research Conference

Language & Literature

Conversational Functions of Pseudo-Generic You
Lainey R. Seyler* and Heather J. Ryan
Dr. Mary Shapiro, Faculty Mentor

Although linguists have studied the use of second-person you as a generic, no previous research accounts for the use of this pronoun where it is clearly self-referential. Through examination of real-life examples, we were able to identify purposes and motives behind pseudo-generic you, including distancing the speaker from association with taboo topics or from the appearance of boasting. Five members of our research group viewed, transcribed, and analyzed excerpts from television talk shows as well as magazine interviews. This process helped avoid the observer’s paradox which is often problematic in linguistic research, as subjects will not speak naturally if they know that they are being observed. Frequent disagreement among team members as to the intended reference of a given instance of you shows that the multifunctionality of this pronoun may be causing conversational ambiguity and difficulties in language processing.

Keywords: Linguistics, Pronoun Use, Interviews, You

Topic(s):English

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 7-3
Location: VH 1304
Time: 8:45

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