In Western philosophy and linguistic theory, interjections—that is, words like oof, ouch, and bleah—have traditionally been understood to indicate emotional states. This article offers an account of interjections in Q’eqchi’ Maya that illuminates their social and discursive functions. In particular, it discusses the grammatical form of interjections, both in Q’eqchi’ and across languages, and characterizes the indexical objects and pragmatic functions of interjections in Q’eqchi’ in terms of a semiotic framework that may be generalized for other languages.
With these grammatical forms, indexical objects, and pragmatic functions in hand, it details the various social and discursive ends that interjections serve in one Q’eqchi’ community, thereby shedding light on local values, norms, ontological classes, and social relations. In short, this article argues against interpretations of interjections that focus on internal emotional states by providing an account of their meanings in terms of situational, discursive, and social context.
p a u l k o c k e l m a n is McKennan Post-Doctoral Fellow in Linguistic Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Dartmouth College (Hanover, N. H. 03755, U. S. A. [paul. [email protected] edu]). Born in 1970, he was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (B. A. , 1992) and the University of Chicago (M. S. , 1994; Ph. D. , 2002).
His publications include “The Collection of Copal among the Q’eqchi’-Maya” (Research in Economic Anthropology 20:163–94), “Factive and Counterfactive Clitics in Q’eqchi’-Maya: Stance, Status, and Subjectivity,” in Papers from the Thirty-eighth Annual Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society (Chicago: Linguistics Society, in press), and “The Interclausal Relations Hierarchy in Q’eqchi’ Maya” (International Journal of American Linguistics 69:25–48). The present paper was submitted 1 vi 01 and accepted 27 xii 02.
1. A longer version of this article was presented at the workshop “Semiotics: Culture in Context” at the University of Chicago in January 2001. Chris Ball, Anya Bernstein, John Lucy, and Michael Silverstein all provided very helpful commentary. This article also greatly bene? ted from suggestions made by Benjamin S. Orlove and several anonymous referees. Western philosophy and linguistic theory have traditionally considered interjections at the periphery of language and primordially related to emotion.
For example, the Latin grammarian Priscian de? ned interjections as “a part of speech signifying an emotion by means of an unformed word” (Padley 1976:266). Muller (1862) ? thought that interjections were at the limit of what might be called language. Sapir (1921:6–7) said that they were “the nearest of all language sounds to instinctive utterance. ” Bloom? eld (1984:177) said that they “occur under a violent stimulus,” and Jakobson (1960: 354) considered them exemplars of the “purely emotive stratum of language.
” While interjections are no longer considered peripheral to linguistics and are now carefully de? ned with respect to their grammatical form, their meanings remain vague and elusive. In particular, although interjections are no longer characterized purely in terms of emotion, they are still characterized in terms of “mental states. ” For example, Wierzbicka (1992:164) characterizes interjections as “[referring] to the speaker’s current mental state or mental act. ”
Ameka (1992a:107) says that “from a pragmatic point of view, interjections may be de?ned as a subset of items that encode speaker attitudes and communicative intentions and are contextbound,” and Montes (1999:1289) notes that many interjections “[focus] on the internal reaction of affectedness of the speaker with respect to the referent. ”
Philosophers have offered similar interpretations. For example, Herder thought that interjections were the human equivalent of animal sounds, being both a “language of feeling” and a “law of nature” (1966:88), and Rousseau, pursuing the origins of language, theorized that protolanguage was “entirely interjectional” (1990:71).
Indeed, such philosophers have posited a historical transition from interjections to language in which the latter allows us not only to index pain and express passion but also to denote values and exercise reason (D’Atri 1995). 2 Thus interjections have been understood as a semiotic artifact of our natural origins and the most transparent index of our emotions. Such an understanding of interjections is deeply rooted in Western thought. Aristotle (1984), for example, posited a contrastive relationship between voice, proper only to humans as instantiated in language, and sound, shared by humans and animals as instantiated in cries.
This contrastive relation was then compared with other analogous contrastive relations, in particular, value and pleasure/pain, polis and household, and bios (the good life, or political life proper to humans) and zoe (pure life, shared by all living things). Such a contrast is so pervasive that modern philosophers such as Agamben (1995) have devoted much of their scholarly work to the thinking out of this tradition and others built on it such as id versus ego in the Freudian paradigm. In short, the folk distinction made between interjections and language 2.
D’Atri (1995:124) argues that, for Rousseau, “interjections . . . are sounds and not voices: they are passive registerings and as such do not presuppose the intervention of will, which is what characterizes human acts of speech. ” 467 468 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 44, Number 4, August–October 2003 proper maps onto a larger set of distinctions in Western thought: emotion and cognition, animality and humanity, nature and culture, female and male, passion and reason, bare life and the good life, pain and value, private and public, and so on (see, e.g. , Lutz 1988, Strathern 1988).
In this article I avoid such abstracting and dichotomizing traps by going straight to the heart of interjections: their everyday usage in actual discourse when seen in the context of local culture and grounded in a semiotic framework. I begin by characterizing the linguistic and ethnographic context in which I carried out my research and go on to relate interjections to other linguistic forms, showing how they are both similar to and distinct from other classes of words in natural languages.
Next I provide and exemplify a semiotic framework, generalizable across languages, in terms of which the indexical objects and pragmatic functions of interjections can best be characterized. Then I detail the local usage of the 12 most commonly used interjections in Q’eqchi’ and show the way in which they are tied into all things cultural: values, norms, ontological classes, social relations, and so on. I conclude by discussing the relative frequency with which the various forms and functions of interjections are used.
In short, I argue against interpretations of interjections that focus on emotional states by providing an account of their meanings in terms of situational, discursive, and social context. Linguistic and Ethnographic Context While I am attempting to provide as wide a theoretical account of interjections as I can, thereby providing a metalanguage for speaking about similar sign phenomena in other languages, I am also trying to capture the grammatical niceties of Q’eqchi’ Maya and the discursive and social particularities of one Q’eqchi’-speaking village in particular.
Before I begin my analysis, then, I want to sketch the linguistic and ethnographic context in which I worked. Q’eqchi’ is a language in the Kichean branch of the Mayan family, spoken by some 360,000 speakers in Guatemala (in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabel, and Peten) and Belize (Kaufman 1974, Stewart 1980). 3 Lin? guistically, Q’eqchi’ is relatively well described: scholars such as Berinstein (1985), Sedat (1955), Stewart (1980), Stoll (1896), and Chen Cao et al.
(1997) have discussed its syntax, morphology, phonology, and lexicon, and I have detailed various morphosyntactic forms (encoding grammatical categories such as mood, status, evidentiality, taxis, and inalienable possession) as they intersect with sociocultural values and contextual features and as they illuminate local modes of personhood (Kockelman 3. Typologically, Q’eqchi’ is a morphologically ergative, head-marking language. In Q’eqchi’, vowel length (signaled by doubling letters) is phonemic; /k/ and /q/ are velar and uvular plosives, respectively, and /x/ and /j/ are palato-alveolar and velar fricatives, respectively.
All other phonemes have their standard IPA values. 2002, 2003a, b). This article is therefore part of a larger project in which I examine how intentional and evaluative stances are encoded in natural languages and the relations that such stances bear to local modes of subjectivity.
Alta Verapaz, the original center of the Q’eqchi’-speaking people who still make up the majority of its population, has had a unusual history even by Guatemalan standards. In 1537, after the Spanish crown had failed to conquer the indigenous peoples living there, the Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas was permitted to ?pacify the area through religious methods.
Having succeeded, he changed the name of the area from Tezulutlan (Land of War) to Verapaz (True Peace), and the Dominicans were granted full control over the area—the state banning secular immigration, removing all military colonies, and nullifying previous land grants. In this way, for almost 300 years the area remained an isolated enclave, relatively protected by the paternalism of the church in comparison with other parts of Guatemala (King 1974, Sapper 1985).
This ended abruptly in the late 1800s, however, with the advent of coffee growing, liberal reforms, and the in? ux of Europeans (Cambranes 1985, Wagner 1996). Divested of their land and forced to work on coffee plantations, the Q’eqchi’ began migrating north into the unpopulated lowland forests of the Peten ? and Belize (Adams 1965, Carter 1969, Howard 1975, Kockelman 1999, Pedroni 1991, Saa Vidal 1979, Schwartz 1990, Wilk 1991). In the past 40 years this migration has been fueled by a civil war that has ravaged the Guatemalan countryside, with the Q’eqchi’ ?
eeing not just scarce resources and labor quotas but also their own nation’s soldiers—often forcibly conscripted speakers of other Mayan languages (Carmack 1988, IWGIA 1978, Wilson 1995). As a consequence, the past century has seen the Q’eqchi’ population spread from Alta Verapaz to the Peten and ? nally to Belize, Mexico, and even the ? United States. Indeed, although only the fourth largest of some 24 Mayan languages, Q’eqchi’ is thought to have the largest percentage of monolinguals, and the ethnic group is Guatemala’s fastest-growing and most geographically extensive (Kaufman 1974, Stewart 1980).
The two key ethnographies of Q’eqchi’-speakers have been written by Wilk (1991) and Wilson (1995), the former treating household ecology in Belize and the latter upheavals in village life and identity at the height of the civil war in highland Guatemala during the 1980s. In addition to these monographs, there are also a number of dissertations and articles on the history (King 1974, Sapper 1985, Wagner 1996), ecology (Carter 1969, Secaira 1992, Wilson 1972), and migration (Adams 1965, Howard 1975, Pedroni 1991) of Q’eqchi’-speaking people.
The data for this article are based on almost two years of ethnographic and linguistic ? eldwork among speakers of Q’eqchi’, most of it in Ch’inahab, a village of some 80 families (around 650 people) in the municipality of San Juan Chamelco, in the department of Alta Verapaz. At an altitude of approximately 2,400 m, Ch’inahab is one of the highest villages in this area, with an annual precipitation of more than 2,000 mm.
It is also one of k o c k e l m a n The Meanings of Interjections in Q’eqchi’ Maya F 469 the most remote, access to the closest road requiring a three-hour hike down a steep and muddy single-track trail. Its relatively high altitude and remote location provide the perfect setting for cloud forest, and such a cloud forest provides the perfect setting for the resplendent quetzal, being home to what is thought to be the highest density of such birds in the world.
Because of the existence of the quetzal and the cloud forest in which it makes its home, Ch’inahab has been the site of a successful eco-tourism project the conditions and consequences of which are detailed in my dissertation (Kockelman 2002).
While the majority of villagers in Ch’inahab are monolingual speakers of Q’eqchi’, some men who have served time in the army or worked as itinerant traders speak some Spanish. All the villagers are Catholic. Ch’inahab is divided by a mountain peak with dwellings on both of its sides and in the surrounding valleys. It takes about 45 minutes to hike across the village. At one end there is a biological station kept by the eco-tourism project and used sporadically by European ecologists, and at the other there is a Catholic church and a cemetery.
In the center there is a small store, a school for primary and secondary grades, and a soccer ? eld. The surrounding landscape is cloud forest giving way to scattered house sites, agricultural parcels, pasture, and ? elds now fallow. All villagers engage in corn-based, or milpa, agriculture, but very few have enough land to ful? ll all of their subsistence needs. 4 For this reason, many women in the village are dedicated to chicken husbandry, most men in the village engage in seasonal labor on plantations (up to ?ve months a year in some cases), and many families engage in itinerant trade (women weaving baskets and textiles for the men to sell) and eco-tourism (the women hosting tourists and the men guiding them).
Dwelling sites often contain a scattering of houses in which reside an older couple and their married sons, all of whom share a water source and a pasture. The individual families themselves often have two houses, a relatively traditional thatched-roof house in which the family cooks and sleeps and a relatively new house with a tin roof in which they host festivals and in which older children and ecotourists may sleep.
Because of eco-tourism and the in? ux of money and strangers that it brings, there has been an increase in the construction of such tin-roofed houses, and, as will be seen, many of my examples of interjections come from such construction contexts. My data on the use of interjections among villagers in Ch’inahab comes from 14 months of ? eldwork carried out between 1998 and 2001. The data collection con4. Before 1968, what is now Ch’inahab was owned by the owner of a plantation.
Q’eqchi’-speakers who lived in the village of Popobaj (located to the south of and lower than Ch’inahab) were permitted to make their milpa in this area in exchange for two weeks of labor per month on the ? nca (Secaira 1992:20). Only in 1968, when a group of villagers got together to form a land acquisition committee, were some 15 caballer? as (678 ha) of land purchased from the owner ? for 4,200 quetzals (US$4,200).
This land, while legally owned by the entire community, was divided among the original 33 villagers as a function of their original contributions. sisted in part of characterizing tokens of usage when I heard them and in part of tracking tokens of usage through recordings of naturally occurring conversations.
5 In particular, given the fact that many interjections occur in relatively nonconversational, task-engaged situations (house building, planting, playing, cooking, etc. ), trying to record them in such contexts was futile. Luckily, as will be seen, they often occur in modes of disruption (when some goal-directed action goes awry), which makes them relatively easy to notice in real-time context and their contextual regularities relatively easy to stipulate.
In addition, I tape-recorded naturally occurring conversations in the households of three families once a week over several months, usually at dinnertime. 6 After I describe the forms and meanings of the interjections I will discuss the relative frequency of the various tokens collected and thereby illuminate which forms and meanings are most often used by whom. The Grammatical Form of Interjections There are four criteria by which interjections may be differentiated from other linguistic forms within a particular language and generalized as a form class across languages (Ameka 1992, Bloom?eld 1984, Jespersen 1965, Wilkins 1992).
First, all interjections are conventional lexical forms, or words, that can constitute utterances on their own (Wilkins 1992). They are conventional in that their sign carriers have relatively standardized and arbitrary phonological forms, and they can constitute utterances on their own because their only syntagmatic relation with other linguistic forms is parataxis—in which two forms are “united by the use of only one sentence pitch” (Bloom? eld 1984:171).
They can therefore stand alone as perfectly sensible stretches of talk before and after which there is silence. Second, with few exceptions, no interjection is simultaneously a member of another word class (Ameka 1992a, Wilkins 1992). Almost all of them are what Ameka (1992a:105), following Bloom? eld (1984), calls primary interjections: “little words or non-words which . . . can constitute an utterance by themselves and do not normally enter into constructions with other word classes. ” In Q’eqchi’, the main exceptions are interjections built, through lexical extension, from the primary interjection ay.
In the case of ay dios, the additional 5. I also include several examples of interjection usage that occurred in the context of ethnographic interviews about topics other than interjections, for these often indicated that an ethnographic question was poorly posed or inappropriate in the local context. I also carried out extensive interviews about the meanings of interjections with native speakers (see Kockelman 2002 for an extended discussion of the relationship between form, usage, and speakers’ re? ections).
6. Indeed, the best two accounts of interjection-like things— “response cries” in Goffman (1978) and “emblematic gestures” in Sherzer (1993)—explicitly take into account social interaction and ethnographic description. Good accounts of the discursive use of interjections are offered by De Bruyn (1998), Ehlich (1986), Gardner (1998), and Meng and Schrabback (1999). 470 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 44, Number 4, August–October 2003 element, dios, is a loan noun from Spanish, meaning “god. ” In the case of ay dios atinyuwa’, besides the Spanish loanword there is a Q’eqchi’ expression, at-in-yuwa’ (you [are] my father).
Interjections of this latter kind, which are or involve forms that belong to other word classes, will be called secondary interjections (again following Ameka and Bloom? eld). Similarly, the English secondary interjections damn and heavens may be used as both interjections and verbs or nouns. Third, with few exceptions, an interjection consists of a single morpheme and undergoes neither in? ectional nor derivational processes (Wilkins 1992). Interjections cannot be in? ectionally marked for grammatical categories such as tense or number, and they cannot be further derived into another form class such as noun or verb.
Such forms are often classi? ed as a subclass of “particles” or discourse markers (see Ameka 1992a, Fraser 1999, Jespersen 1965, Schiffrin 1987, Wilkins 1992, and Zwicky 1985). In Q’eqchi’ there are three exceptions to this characterization. First, uyaluy is what I will call a reduplicative interjection, being composed, through syllabic reduplication, from the interjection uy. Second, ay dios and ay dios atinyuwa’ are what I will call extended interjections, being composed, through lexical extension, from the interjection ay.
And lastly, the interjection ay may undergo further derivation into a delocutionary verb (becoming ayaynak, “to cry or yell continually,” often said of dogs howling), which may then undergo normal verbal in? ection for grammatical categories such as tense, aspect, person, and number. Lastly, although it is not a criterial feature, many of these forms are phonologically or morphologically anomalous, having features which mark them as odd or unique relative to the standard lexical forms of a language.
For example, unlike most Q’eqchi’ words, in which stress falls on the last syllable (Stewart 1980), the interjection uyaluy has syllable-initial stress. Similarly, while reduplication is a common morphological process in Q’eqchi’ (Stewart 1980), the reduplicative interjection uyaluy is derived through a nonstandard morphological form. While many Q’eqchi’ words involve a glottalized alveolar stop, the interjection t’ is also implosive.
7 Whereas the Spanish loanword dios is usually phonetically assimilated in Q’eqchi’ as tiox when used as a noun, in the interjection ay dios there is no devoicing of the initial consonant of this noun (i.e. , /d/ does not become /t/) or palatization of its ? nal consonant (i. e. , /s/ does not become /x/). And the interjection sht differs from ordinary Q’eqchi’ words in using /sh/, rather than a vowel, as a syllabic (see Bloom? eld 1984:121).
In short, it is clear from the number of quali? cations that interjections, like most linguistic forms, are dif? cult to characterize with necessary and suf? cient conditions (see Taylor 1995, Zwicky 1985). Nevertheless, they may simultaneously be differentiated from other form classes within a particular language and generalized as a form class across languages.
7. Often called a “dental click” (Wilkins 1992) or a “suction stop” (Jespersen 1965:90). Readers who speak some Spanish may have noticed that many Q’eqchi’ interjections look similar to Spanish interjections—ay (dios), uy, ah, eh, sht—and even to English interjections (sh[t] and t’). While I have no historical data that would attest to such a claim, given the history of sustained linguistic contact between speakers of Spanish and Q’eqchi’ via the colonial encounter and between speakers of Spanish and English this should come as no surprise.
The one good account of interjections in Spanish (Montes 1999) discusses only a small range of the discursive functions of interjections and focuses on the internal state of the speaker. As I will show, however, the meanings of some of these interjections in Q’eqchi’ seem to bear a resemblance to their meanings in Spanish, as far as can be discerned from the comparative data. In this way, these “loan interjections” show that almost any linguistic form may be borrowed (see Brody 1995) with some maintenance of its meaning.
The Meanings of Q’eqchi’ Interjections Although interjections are relatively easy to characterize from the standpoint of grammatical form, there is no framework in terms of which one may order and compare their meanings—that is, the classes of objects and signs that they index (and thereby stand in a relationship of contiguity with) and the types of pragmatic functions they serve (and thereby may be used as a means to achieve). In what follows, I frame their use in terms of situational, discursive, and social context. I will begin with an extended example through which the framework will become clear.
The Q’eqchi’ interjection chix indexes loathsome objects in the situational context. For example, when picking up his bowl of food from the ground, a man notices that he has set it in chicken feces. “Chix,” he says, scraping the bowl on the dirt to wipe off the feces. His wife, herself responsible for the chicken, then takes his bowl for herself and gives him a new one. Similarly, when opening the door to her house early one morning, a woman notices that the dog has vomited right outside the doorway. “Chix,” she says, and her ? ve-year-old son comes over to look.
She tells him to scrape it away with a machete. Like most interjections that have indexical objects in the situational context, this interjection serves to call another’s attention to the object. 8 Relatedly, and as a function of responsibility assessment (husband 1 wife 1 child), it directs another’s attention to what must be cleaned up, avoided, etc. The interjection chix may also be transposed to index a sign denoting or characterizing a loathsome object (see Buhler 1990). In such cases of sign-based transposition, ? the interjection is in a relationship of contiguity with a 8.
Montes (1999:1293) notes that most of the Spanish interjections she examined “seem to be associated with seeing. We ? nd that a large number of the interjections [ah, oh, uh, ay, oy, uy] used in the conversations examined co-occur with directives to ‘see’ or ‘look at’ or as a response to these directives. ” k o c k e l m a n The Meanings of Interjections in Q’eqchi’ Maya F 471 sign that denotes or characterizes the object or event in question (rather than being in contiguity with the actual object or event, as in the usage of chix just discussed).
In other words, it is as if the speaker were inhabiting the frame of the narrated event (Buhler 1990). In this way, ? the interjection chix indexes not just loathsomeness but also signs that refer to or predicate qualities of loathsome objects. Insofar as the denotatum of such a sign has the same qualities and values as the object itself, the modality of contiguity (being able to taste, touch, see, or smell the object in question) is suspended while the ontological class of the object (loathsomeness) is maintained.
For example, in telling a story to a group of men about a friend who was bitten by a poisonous spider while working on a plantation in the lowland area of Guatemala, the speaker describes the pus blisters that rose up on his friend’s arm. “Chix,” says one of the men listening.
The other men laugh, and before continuing his story the speaker adds that the pus blisters took two weeks to heal. Like most interjections that undergo signbased transposition, such usage often serves as a backchannel cue, indicating that the speaker is listening but cannot or does not want to contribute to the topic at hand (Brown and Yule 1983:90–94; Duncan 1973; compare the usage of mmm or jeez in English).
Lastly, the interjection chix may be transposed to index an addressee’s relation of contiguity with a loathsome object. In such cases of addressee-based transposition, the situational indexical object is transposed to a person other than the speaker. The speaker’s sign is audible (a relation of contiguity) to the addressee, who is in a relationship of contiguity with the object. In other words, it is as if the speaker were inhabiting the ad? dressee’s current corporal? eld (see Buhler 1990, Hanks 1990), and, again, the modality of contiguity is suspended while the ontological class is maintained.
For example, a mother watching her three-year-old son approach a dog that is defecating wormy stool calls out to him “Chix. ” The child stops his advance and watches from a distance. In this most addressee-focused way, the sign is used by a parent to index that a child is within reach (typically tactile) of a disgusting object and serves as an imperative not to touch the object.
Interjections are primarily indexical (see Peirce 1955) in that they stand for their objects by a relationship of contiguity rather than by a relationship of convention (as in the case of symbols) or similarity (as in the case of icons). 9 Although the indexical modality of interjections is emphasized in this article, the symbolic modality is always present in at least two interrelated ways. First, and trivially, the interjection itself has a standard9. If interjections were iconic, then they would be expected to resemble their objects.
The problem with this, as exempli? ed by Kryk-Kastovsky’s (1997) argument that interjections are the most iconic of all linguistic elements expressing surprise, is that one needs to know what “surprise” looks like when usually our only indication of surprise is the interjection or behavior itself. However, interjections as indexical of situational and discursive objects do in certain cases have iconic modalities of meaning (see, e. g. , the discussion of ay, ay dios, and ay dios atinyuwa’ below). ized but relatively arbitrary form that is conventionally used by members of a given linguistic community.
Second, interjections conventionally stand in a relation of contiguity with particular classes of objects. These conventional classes of indexical objects are present in two ways. First, across interjections, one may characterize what semiotic class of objects is being indexed. Second, in the case of any particular interjection, one may characterize what ontological class of objects is being indexed. Besides indexing objects or signs in the immediate context, interjections have pragmatic functions: they serve as a means to achieve certain ends.
For example, chix variously serves as an attentative (when nontransposed), a back-channel cue (when undergoing sign-based transposition), and an imperative (when undergoing addressee-based transposition). Both the objects indexed and the pragmatic functions served (see Silverstein 1987) are integral aspects of the meanings of interjections. Finally, interjections may index more than one object at once. In particular, they may index objects, signs, internal states, and social relations. In what follows, I will refer to these distinct types of indexical objects as situational, discursive, expressive, and social, respectively.
Situational indexical objects are the objects or events in the immediate context of the speech event. Discursive indexical objects are the signs that occur in the speech event. 10 Together, situational and discursive indexical objects are the most stable co-occurrence regularities that interjections possess and therefore the only ones that are easy to tabulate. Expressive indexical objects are the intentional stances of the speaker—the putative mental states, whether construed as “cognitive” or “emotive.
”11 Lastly, social indexical objects are the various social roles inhabited by the speaker or addressee (gender, ethnicity, age, etc. ) or the social relations that exist between the two (status, deference, politeness, etc. ). For example, chix may index not only a loathsome object in the situational context but a social relation (parentchild, husband-wife, raconteur–appreciative listener) and, in many cases, an internal state (“disgust”). And the interjection ay not only indexes a painful object in the situational context or an unexpected answer in the dis10.
This is not quite the standard distinction between “text” and “context” (Montes 1999 and Wilkins 1992). For example, while it is tempting to put sign-based transposition into the discursive context for the purposes of schematizing the data, sign-based transpositions make sense only in terms of the qualities of the objects referred to by the sign indexed by the interjection. In contrast, an unsolicited response such as a dubitive is directed at the truth of another’s assertion rather than at any particular quality of the state of affairs predicated by that assertion.
For this reason, dubitives belong to the discursive context and sign-based transpositions to the situational context. 11. Whereas interjections creatively index expressive indexical objects in that the interjection is often the only sign of the internal state in question, they presupposedly index situational and discursive indexical objects in that both interjection and indexical object are simultaneously present in context (see Silverstein 1976 for this distinction).
This difference in semiotic status (presupposing/creative) maps onto a putative difference in ontological status (world/mind). 472 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 44, Number 4, August–October 2003 cursive context but also an internal state (pain) in the expressive context and a role in the social context (in particular, female gender). Many interjections index signs in the discursive context in that they co-occur with (or serve as) a response to an addressee’s previous utterance or a nonresponse.
In the case of a response, the use of an interjection occurs after and makes sense only relative to the addressee’s previous utterance. For example, the interjection ih indexes an addressee’s previous statement and serves as a registerative, indicating that the speaker has heard and understood the statement. In the case of a nonresponse, the interjection may either elicit an addressee’s utterance (and thereby occur before it) or occur in the midst of the speaker.