Abstract - Jade De La Paz

This research looks at gossip and its role in a salmon cannery in the small village of Larsen Bay, Alaska. In the context of this research, gossip is defined as the act of sharing evaluative information about an absent third party who is, in some way, connected to the individuals present. This operates within the idea of social warrant, which determines who is allowed to gossip and when and where they are allowed to do so according to the social rules of the community.

It is found, in the salmon cannery, that gossip is an ever-present linguistic tool that acts, through its many functions and social warrant, to build or break social ties and helps ultimately to define the community. Gossip acts to patrol the borders of the community and maintain adherence to the social rules of the community. Based on this, individuals can be brought into or rejected from the community and this will ultimately work to shape the community. Four functions of gossip are observed in the salmon cannery community: 1) for spreading information, 2) for introduction to a community and its members, 3) for strengthening or weakening personal relationships and, 4) for self-validation of actions. As community members gossip, these functions, in conjunction with warrant, play a fundamental role in the shaping of the community and the regulation of its boundaries. By looking at how gossip works to shape this small Alaskan community, it can be argued that gossip is indispensable in the building of this and other communities based on their varying social rules.


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