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Sounds pretty ethnic, eh?: A pragmatic particle in New Zealand English

  • Miriam Meyerhoff (a1)

A social dialect survey of a working-class suburb in New Zealand provides evidence that eh, a tag particle that is much stereotyped but evaluated negatively in NZ English, may persist in casual speech because it plays an important role as a positive politeness marker. It is used noticeably more by Maori men than by Maori women or Pakehas (British/European New Zealanders), and may function as an in-group signal of ethnic identity for these speakers. Young Pakeha women, though, seem to be the next highest users of eh. It is unlikely that they are using it to signal in-group identity in the same way; instead, it is possible that they are responding to its interpersonal and affiliative functions for Maori men, and are adopting it as a new facet in their repertoire of positive politeness markers. (Gender, ethnicity, politeness, New Zealand English, intergroup and interpersonal communication)

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Language in Society
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