Who am I?: Identity, Evaluation, and Differential Equations

Pragmatics and Cognition 20 (3):570-592 (2012)
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In this paper we study the connection between the use of evaluative language and the building of both personal and social identities, from the perspective of Dynamical System Theory. We primarily discuss two issues: 1) The use of evaluation ) as a means to the construction of both individual and group identities, thus exploring how the connection between linguistic choices and social identities is shaped by interactional needs for stancetaking. In order to illustrate this connection, we examine examples of the use of evaluative language in a web social network, and we analyze some of the discourse elements showing ways of positioning that act as catalysts for the emergence of a multifactorial dynamic system of identities. 2) The consideration of Dynamical System Theory as a theoretical framework for the modeling of language and identity. Although originally a mathematical theory, DST has been adopted by cognitive science as a valid framework for the study of cognitive phenomena, on the grounds that natural cognition is a dynamical phenomenon. Within the realm of linguistics and pragmatics, this study is to a certain degree in line with some recent studies such as Gibbs, Geeraerts, Kristiansen and Peirsman, or Moreno Fernández. Thus, we herein focus on how linguistic evaluation intervenes in the intricate dynamical system of identity, and even though we do not engage in complex mathematical disquisition, we argue that the idea and philosophical foundation underlying DST can lead us towards the ‘integration’ of the complex equation of identity construction, and that consequently the field has great potential for further research.
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