Guiding light in discourse studies

a tribute to Deborah Schiffrin (1951–2017)


  • Heidi E Hamilton Georgetown University



Obituary, Deborah Schiffrin, discourse studies, tribute


This tribute characterises the scholarly life of interactional sociolinguist Deborah Schiffrin (1951–2017), locating her contribution to the 1992 Berkeley Women and Language Conference (‘Gender displays among family, friends, and neighbors: taking the role of another’) within her lifelong exploration of the intricate interrelated workings of language, identity and the world. Debby’s deep understanding of linguistics and sociology undergirded and nurtured nuanced, multidimensional analyses of individual utterances in their connection to systematic patterns within larger communities of practice. Her broad, multifaceted and deep legacy in discourse studies inspires all who seek to examine identity as performed and situated within myriad social worlds and their associated discourses.

Author Biography

Heidi E Hamilton, Georgetown University

Heidi E. Hamilton is professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University where she explores interrelationships between discourse and health. Her recent books are Language, Dementia and Meaning Making: Navigating Challenges of Cognition and Face in Everyday Life (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (with Tannen and Schiffrin, Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) and the Routledge Handbook of Language and Health Communication (with Chou, Routledge, 2014). Awards include Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Linguistics (Innsbruck), DAAD Gastdozentin (Berlin) and Humboldt Research Prize (Potsdam).


Barton, Ellen (2011) Speaking for another: ethics-in-interaction in medical encounters. In Christopher N. Candlin and Srikant Sarangi (eds) Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions 215–234. Boston: De Gruyter.

Eckert, Penelope (2012) Three waves of variation study: the emergence of meaning in the study of sociolinguistic variation. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 87–100.

Gordon, Cynthia and Ikizoglu, Didem (2017) ‘Asking for another’ online: membership categorization and identity construction on a food and nutrition discussion board. Discourse Studies 19(3): 253–271.

Nilsson, Elin, Ekström, Anna and Majlesi, Ali Reza (2018) Speaking for and about a spouse with dementia: a matter of inclusion or exclusion? Discourse Studies 20(6): 770–791.

Purves, Barbara A. (2009) The complexities of speaking for another. Aphasiology 23(7–8): 914–925.

Schiffrin, Deborah (ed) (1984a) Meaning, Form, and Use in Context: Linguistic Applications Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1984b) Jewish argument as sociability. Language in Society 13(3): 311–335.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1987) Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1992a) Conditionals as topics in discourse. Linguistics 30(1): 165–197.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1992b) Gender displays among family, friends, and neighbors: taking the role of another. In Kira Hall, Mary Bucholtz and Birch Moonwomon (eds) Locating Power: Proceedings of the 1992 Berkeley Women and Language Conference 515–527. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1993) ‘Speaking for another’ in sociolinguistic interviews: alignments, identities, and frames. In Deborah Tannen (ed) Framing in Discourse 231–263. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1994) Approaches to Discourse: Language as Social Interaction. Malden: Blackwell.

Schiffrin, Deborah (1996) Narrative as self-portrait: sociolinguistic constructions of identity. Language in Society 25(2): 167–203.

Schiffrin, Deborah (2006) In Other Words: Variation in Reference and Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schiffrin, Deborah, Tannen, Deborah and Hamilton, Heidi E. (eds) (2001) The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, 1st edition. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.



How to Cite

Hamilton, H. E. (2021). Guiding light in discourse studies: a tribute to Deborah Schiffrin (1951–2017). Gender and Language, 15(2).



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