Metacommentary Type 3: Marking address terms

Rymes suggests that 'Names, nicknames, and terms of address often proliferate like mushrooms. As such, probably the most obvious form of metacommenatry about names is the comment of what you can "call me" ' (2014: 309). In our observations in the Panjabi school over the course of a year we saw many examples of address terms in use. Of special value in the complementary classroom was the teaching of kinship terms, as this appeared to be an important dimension of heritage and culture. Fieldnotes record Jaspreet and a student talking together about how to address family members:

Just as the break is over the kids are chatting. Manika calls her sister, but instead of calling her by her name she says 'Penji' which is Panjabi for big sister. She calls her sister this out of respect. I comment on how nice that is and she said that she has always called her Penji. I am the same with my sister. Except I call her 'Dedee' rather than Penji, which means the same thing. This is definitely something that is culturally instilled by her family rather than taught at Panjabi school. (JT, 19.3)

In what we might call 'meta-meta-commentary' the researcher's own commentary on Manika's address term is recorded in her fieldnotes. The interaction she has with Manika involves commenting on and evaluating the appropriateness of forms of address, including her own. Jaspreet notes the importance of this kind of language for herself, and she records these comments in her notes. A secondary analysis of fieldnotes which attends to metacommentary identifies Jaspreet's commentary on her own comment as a site of alignment with the student.

In another example, a teacher, MS, is reinforcing the importance of 'respect':

MS says, 'Tell me what 'ji' stands for?' A child volunteers, 'respect'. MS is happy with the answer and says 'to show respect'. He illustrates this by saying 'Hello Baba and Hello Mama, doesn't sound good'. He tells them you need to say 'ji' and then you are being a respectable family as well. (AC, 9/10)

One of the functions of the complementary school, visible here, is to transmit to the next generation forms of address which signal respect. This appeared to be supportive of the efforts of the students' parents to instil values of respect. The forms of address are heavily symbolic and they serve as a metapragmatic function for heritage and identity maintenance. Rymes (2014: 310) points out that while students do not always comment on terms of respect such as 'ji', 'there is implicit metapragmatic negotiation about their function, or when it is ok to say them'. A more explicit metapragmatic negotiation of the same term of respect is evident in Metacommentary Type 6, below. While the maintenance of heritage and identity may be a function of the complementary school, this is not an uncontested process, as students have their own ideas about the kinds of heritages and identities to which they orient.

 
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