Kinship, seniority, and rights to know in Datooga children’s everyday interaction

Alice Mitchell, Fiona M Jordan

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Abstract

This paper explores the epistemics of social relations among Datooga-speaking children of rural Tanzania. It describes two linguistic resources for epistemic management in the Datooga language, namely, questions and an epistemic particle néadá. The paper then investigates children's use of these two resources in a 3.5 h sample of children's spontaneous interaction, taken from a video corpus. Questions often establish epistemic asymmetries by positioning addressees as more knowledgeable, while use of the particle néadá projects speech participants' equal rights to know, typically in emphatic contrast to the epistemic implications of an earlier turn. Of special interest is how children's negotiation of rights to know reveals sensitivity to social relations, particularly those defined by kinship and age. Though by no means ever-present, concepts of kinship and seniority are made relevant in these children's interactions. Children oriented to kinship relations when deferring to other people's rights to know about their own kin, and they positioned speech participants in junior–senior relationships when requesting generalizable knowledge. The paper contributes to empirical research on children's everyday language use with insights from a rural African community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Volume181
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are indebted to the Datooga families with whom this work was conducted for their patience, kindness, and hospitality. Thanks also to fellow panel participants and audience members at IPrA 2019 for their feedback on an early version of the paper, as well as to Ilana Mushin and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on later versions. Permission to conduct research in Tanzania was granted by COSTECH under permit no. 2016-108-NA-2012-119. The research was funded by an ERC Starting Grant (639291) awarded to Professor Fiona Jordan at the University of Bristol.

Funding Information:
The authors are indebted to the Datooga families with whom this work was conducted for their patience, kindness, and hospitality. Thanks also to fellow panel participants and audience members at IPrA 2019 for their feedback on an early version of the paper, as well as to Ilana Mushin and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on later versions. Permission to conduct research in Tanzania was granted by COSTECH under permit no. 2016-108-NA-2012-119. The research was funded by an ERC Starting Grant ( 639291 ) awarded to Professor Fiona Jordan at the University of Bristol.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

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