‘Old’ versus ‘Little Girl’: A Discursive Approach to Age Categorisation and Morality

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This article examines cultural age categorizations and age descriptions as they are put to use and drawn upon in talk. Based on an extensive corpus of interviews with men and women close to their 50th birthday, the author presents and discusses a close analysis of an interview account in which two contrasting age categorizations are constructed by an interviewee. The analysis focuses on the discursive practices by which contradictory accounts of being both “old” and “a little girl” are constructed and accounted for, and how age categorization in talk works to manage the practical business of identity work. The author argues that adopting a discursive approach to the situated usage of categories not only shows how age talk and age descriptions are put together by participants in interaction, but also how, by starting with participants’ accounts (Le., the active meaning-making processes of people in interaction), we can analyze how notions of age appropriateness, age norms, and local moral orders of age are produced as part
of everyday categorization talk The article builds on the broader on-going discussion on qualitative language-centred research and concludes with a discussion on the potential payoff resulting from the cross-fertilization of discursive social psychology and life-course perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-358
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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