This article reports on an analysis of stance-taking in the university classroom, examining how students position themselves in relation to academic knowledge through the epistemic phrases I don’t know and I think. Analysis of specific interactional moments reveals that the meaning of discourse forms is largely indeterminate without an understanding of (1) the immediate discourse context; (2) the place of linguistic forms in an individual’s stylistic repertoire; and (3) the ideologies and social categories that frame that stylistic repertoire. Differential knowledge distribution amongst the students places constraints on what certain individuals can do with particular linguistic forms and this analysis reveals how they utilize the same linguistic resources in different ways in order to do different identity work. Through detailed interactional analysis, I demonstrate that our ability to evaluate classroom discussion as a social practice relies upon our ability to situate that practice within an understanding of individual speakers’ personal styles and the social ideologies that frame them.
“The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Language and Literature, 20 (3), 2011, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2011 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Language and Literature page: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/journals/Journal200860 on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/