Talking about identity: a metapragmatic perspective

Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen
University of Helsinki
sanna-kaisa.tanskanen _arvaa_

The starting point of this study is the definition of identity as “a discursive construct that emerges in interaction” provided by Bucholtz and Hall (2005: 587; see also Delahunty 2012). More specifically, the study focuses on the role of indexicality in the construction of identity, i.e. how participants indicate their own and others’ identity positions in interaction. The type of interaction which will be investigated here is online interaction taking place in Britain’s largest student discussion forum, The Student Room.

The present study highlights the role of the participants of the interaction and their awareness of the communicative act they are involved in. The indexical construction of identity is therefore approached through the lens of metapragmatics. With metapragmatic comments, participants can comment on their own and their fellow participants’ contributions to the interaction. Earlier research has identified how metapragmatic comments can be used in the negotiation of appropriateness (Tanskanen 2007) and rudeness (Kleinke & Bös forthcoming). The purpose of the present study is to look at how they are used in the negotiation of identity, as the participants of the discussion forum produce and negotiate their own and others’ identities.


Keywords: identity, online interaction, metapragmatic comments



Bucholtz, M. & K. Hall. 2005. Identity and interaction: a sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies 7(4-5).

Delahunty, J. 2012. “Who am I?”: exploring identity in online discussion forums. International Journal of Educational Research 53.

Kleinke, S. & B. Bös. Forthcoming. Intergroup rudeness and the metapragmatics of its negotiation in online discussion fora. In M. Locher et al. (eds), Language@Internet, special issue.

Tanskanen, S-K. 2007. Metapragmatic utterances in computer-mediated interaction. In W. Bublitz & A.  Hübler (eds), Metapragmatics in Use. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


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