The pragmatic use of vocatives in private one-to-one digital communication

Asprey, Esther and Tagg, Caroline (2019). The pragmatic use of vocatives in private one-to-one digital communication. Internet Pragmatics, 2(1) pp. 83–111.



This article examines a corpus of private text messages collected in Birmingham and surrounding towns in 2015. We look specifically at pragmatic roles played by the vocatives we find in the corpus. Since text messages are sent to targeted recipients, vocatives are structurally redundant, and we review literature concerning vocatives in spoken and written data to first see what categories others have proposed for these functions. We then challenge some of these categorisations, identifying a new category of ‘focuser’ which we argue is akin to a summons in spoken language. We also examine the pragmatic value of vocatives in performing identity work for both sender and receiver. We finish by looking at gendered performance of identity as a case study in our corpus of how text producers construct themselves and others.

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