Exploiting the partitioning constancy/inconstancy of Membership Categorization Devices: Evidence from age categorization

Apostolos Poulios


This paper explores the usefulness of Harvey Sacks’s notions of partitioning constancy and inconstancy of membership categorization devices (MCDs) for the study of age identity construction. Partitioning constancy and inconstancy were shown by Sacks (1992a, b) to be two properties of MCDs that establish members’ co-membership or cross-membership with other members. The relevance of these properties for age categorization is shown through the analysis of conversational fragments in which middle-aged or older people either distance themselves from the categories old or older person and their negative attributes or endorse these categories and their positive characteristics.


ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, membership categorization device, age identity, partitioning constancy/inconstancy

Full Text:



Butler, C.W. 2008. Talk and social interaction in the playground. Hamphsire: Ashgate.

Garfinkel, H. 1967. Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Jayyusi, L. 1984. Categorisation and the moral order. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Konzett, C. 2012. Any questions? Identity construction in academic conference discussions. Boston: De Gruyter/Mouton.

Lepper, G. 2000. Categories in text and talk. London: Sage Publications.

Pomerantz, A. 1984. Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J.M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (eds), Structures of Social Action. Cambridge: Maison des Sciences de l’ Homme and Cambridge University Press, 191-222.

Poulios, A. 2009. Age categories as an argumentative resource in conflict talk: Evidence from a Greek television reality show. International Journal of the Sociology of Language (Special Issue: Social Aging and Language) 200: 189-208.

Poulios, A. 2011. The construction of age identities in everyday talk: The case of the elderly. PhD dissertation, Enyalio Foundation, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Sacks, H. 1992a. Lectures in conversation. Volume 1. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sacks, H. 1992b. Lectures in conversation. Volume 2. Oxford: Blackwell.

Schegloff, Ε.Α. 2007. A tutorial on membership categorization. Journal of Pragmatics 39: 462-482.

Schegloff, E.A., G. Jefferson & H. Sacks. 1977. The preference for self-correction in the organization of repair in conversation. Language 53: 361-382.

Watson, R. 1978. Categorization, authorization and blame-negotiation in conversation. Sociology 12: 105-113.

Widdicombe S. 1998. “But you don’t class yourself”: The interactional management of category membership and non-membership. In C. Antaki & S. Widdicombe (eds), Identities in Talk. London: Sage, 52-70.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Apostolos Poulios

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, unless otherwise stated.