A Case study of using <em>we</em> for speaker affiliation in a first-year-composition writing conference talk

  • Meng-Hsien (Neal) Liu University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign


This research study attempts to qualitatively investigate the indexically situated functions of one person deixis in English, we, vis-à-vis the establishment of speaker roles, voices, and affiliations in a one-on-one writing conference talk (WCT). By appropriating the analytic model of speaker roles and voicing in narratives—narrator, character, and interlocutor (e.g., Koven, 2011, 2016)—informed by Bakhtinian view grounded in dialogic notion of voice (Prior, 2001), this research study furthers the discussion of how co-participation in and of a one-on-one WCT itself is tethered to the deployment of we that is and becomes heteroglossic. The participants’ voicing and their speaker roles illuminated through a grounded and narrative methodology adopted in this study offer a radical alternative to structuralist, systematized notions of fixed form-referentiality typologies of English person-deictics. What is discovered in the study regarding the indexical meanings of we include: heuristics for evaluation and suggestions, device for the bridging of epistemic asymmetry, apparatus for time-travel, and proposal of hypothetical scenarios. Thus, the one-dimensional, structuralist view of an indexical linguistic sign engaged in a complex writing conference interactional talk belies a more complicated, re-occurring narrativization (Wortham, 2001) that permits co-participants therein to straddle past, current, and hypothetical expressions of trains of thoughts, engagements, and identities through the intertextuality of we and its indexical traces. This research study concludes by discussing theoretical considerations and implications specifically for WCTs and globally for writing studies scholarship.

Keywords: Writing conference talk; dyadic interaction; voicing and speaker roles; identity co-construction