Language is closely linked to our social relationships and is the medium through which we participate in a variety of social activities. This fascinating study explores the important role of language in various aspects of our social life, such as identity, gender relations, class, kinship, status, and hierarchies. Drawing on data from over thirty different languages and societies, it shows how language is more than simply a form of social action; it is also an effective tool with which we formulate models of social life and conduct. These models - or particular forms of social behaviour - are linked to the classification of 'types' of action or actor, and are passed 'reflexively' from person to person, and from generation to generation. Providing a unified way of accounting for a variety of social phenomena, this book will be welcomed by all those interested in the interaction between language, culture, and society.