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StanceSociolinguistic Perspectives$
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Alexandra Jaffe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331646

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.001.0001

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Stance in a Colonial Encounter

Stance in a Colonial Encounter

How Mr. Taylor Lost His Footing

Chapter:
(p.53) 3 Stance in a Colonial Encounter
Source:
Stance
Author(s):

Judith T. Irvine

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331646.003.0003

How can materials from a 19th-century archive shed light on a concept of “stance” that might be useful in sociolinguistic research? Although “stance” has many intellectual genealogies, its application in sociolinguistics focuses mainly on a speaker's acts of self-positioning vis-à-vis interlocutors and objects in discourse, especially in face-to-face interaction. This chapter concerns a more distant time and place, and considers how those distances, and the multiple mediations that intervene between the original events and interpretations of them today, might contribute to ideas about stance. The historical case involves a dispute among missionaries in Onitsha (a town in eastern Nigeria) that erupted in violence in October 1868. A flurry of letters ensued, with much fault-finding, local rushing about, appeals to authorities (mission and Onitshan), and consequences for the mission personnel. The drama's central figure, John Christian Taylor, is known today mainly for his early descriptions of life in Onitsha and his work on Igbo linguistics—work that contributed, if indirectly, to his troubles in the aftermath of the quarrel. The chapter concludes that “stance” can usefully integrate many scales of analysis, provided that explanations do not lose sight of the unintentional, the coconstructed, and the nonreferential aspects of discourse.

Keywords:   stance, Onitsha, John Christian Taylor, Igbo linguistics, discourse, unintentional, coconstructed, nonreferential

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