The language of place and space has been intensively studied in relation to grammatical characteristics, cross-linguistic variation, and cognition, as well as with regard to further questions central to social anthropology, psychology, and more. With this special issue, we focus on the pragmatic functions of references to places, as observed in informal social interaction. When people make reference to places in casual, everyday conversation, how do they do it, in what situations, and to what ends? We offer the first collection of findings from research on place reference in spontaneous, multi-party speech, with studies based on conversations recorded in the diverse geographic and cultural environments of outback Australia, highland New Guinea, island Indonesia and rural Mexico. The authors explore, from a range of angles, how and why people talk about place, for example, in regard to the vocabulary and grammar that a language has available to categorise space, and how people choose from among referential options in situated conversation to achieve communicative, social, and practical goals.