Uses of Someone: Beyond Simple Person Reference

  • Yu-Han Lin Teachers College, Columbia University
Keywords: Conversation Analysis, Person Reference, non-recognitional reference form


This study examines how the non-recognitional reference form someone is used to refer to a known referent when a recognitional, such as a first name or a descriptive recognitional, is available (Sacks & Schegloff, 1979). In a conversation, when participants have shared knowledge about the identity of a referent, the occurrence of someone connotes more than a simple reference to the referent. While there is little previous research concerning the use of a non-recognitional to complete particular social actions, this study shows how someone can be employed to accomplish disaffiliative actions such as disapprovals, disassociations, intensified complaints, and accusations in media-generated conversations. Using conversation analysis as an analytical framework, I closely analyze interactional turn taking, with a specific focus on the functions and positioning of someone. The results of this study show how a non-recognitional person reference is delicately utilized to construct various disaffiliative actions. Theoretically, uses of the non-recognitional reference form, someone, contribute to the current literature examining the use of non-recognitionals to accomplish more than mere referencing. The analysis demonstrates how a speaker uses someone when recognitional forms of a referent are available. The notion that someone is referring to a known referent presents an opportunity to expand the definition of non-recognitionals established by Sacks and Schegloff (1979). The commonality found throughout the examples in this study includes the connotation of a speaker’s disaffiliative actions towards either the referent or co-participants.  

Author Biography

Yu-Han Lin, Teachers College, Columbia University
Yu-Han Lin is an Ed.M. student in Applied Linguistics. Her intellectual interests lie in conversation analysis (CA), second language teaching and learning, classroom discourse analysis, and first language/dialect preservation. Her research interests stem in part from her solid background in teaching ESL/EFL and Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language (CSL/CFL).