Sunday, September 30, 2012

Discourse in the Novel 3

Below are some of my favorite quotes.
The ideological becoming of a human being, in this view, is the process of selectively assimilating the words of others.
I guess the "assimilation" part of this statement is open to debate. From a situated/distributed cognition perspective nothing is really internalized in a mechanical way and certainly nothing goes in unless it is absolutely necessary since our mental capacities/resources are limited and thus precious. But it can also be argued that assimilation here is used as in physiology, which involves conversion of nutrients, not in a linguistic or sociological sense, where assimilation entails exertion of power on something more passive or less powerful. Also the word "selectively" leaves room for agency but kind of implies consciousness on the part of the agent, which may or may not be the case. I'm not quite sure about how to interpret this quote.

Our ideological development is just such an intense struggle within us for hegemony among various available verbal and ideological points of view, approaches, directions and values. The semantic structure of an internally persuasive discourse is not finite, it is open; in each of the new contexts that dialogize it, this discourse is able to reveal ever newer ways to mean.
I like Bakhtin's ideas very much but I'm ambivalent about his extensive use of this struggle metaphor. Maybe it is the influence of Marxism. I sometimes wonder, what is this internal struggle? how can it be internal and without action? who/what are the parties involved? what do the parties fight with or fight for? what gives them competitive advantage? What I like about this quote is the idea of open-endedness and infinite possibilities, which are more postmodern ideas than Bakhtin's binary oppositions. I also find the idea of changing the frame in order to find new and different meanings of the painting quite stimulating.  A conception of "context" in these terms can be quite fruitful in language learning, considering the vast diversity of language learners, teachers, countries, and institutions language learning takes place. 

A significant number of words can be identified that are implicitly or explicitly admitted as someone else's, and that are transmitted by a variety of different means.
I find this quote interesting because I think it has potential applications for vocabulary development too. As a second language learner I remember how I learned some specific words from specific people. It's not even just words, sometimes I remember learning specific phrases from specific people or texts. What makes us remember the learning of some specific words from specific people and not others? Wouldn't it make an interesting study if we explored the emotions associated with those words we remember how/where/when we learned? Wouldn't it be interesting if we examined which texts/people are more instrumental in our vocabulary development and why? This reminds me of a study that investigates linguistic consciousness in this perspective rather than vocabulary acquisition but still it gives me ideas. Here is the abstract

Commentators on language standardization, including Bourdieu and Bakhtin, provide various perspectives on what this chapter calls modern linguistic consciousness: speakers' awareness of their own speech in relation to others' and in relation to the operation of centralizing system. In this chapter, these formulations are used to analyze interview data collected from readers and writers at a South Asian university--and, in turn, these data elaborate the picture of modern linguistic consciousness. Readers and writers can pick out self amidst the words of others, and in the presence of centralizing mandates; they can position themselves in working spaces adjacent to system, and, while recognizing speech norms, imagine themselves as not occupying these norms. Linguistic consciousness can be detected in the expression of rules--but rules themselves turn out to be complex spaces hosting diverse possibilities. Moreover, modern systems, in managing the speech of populations, may not always operate exclusively in the service of the centre.

Giltrow, J. (2003). Legends of the center: System, self, and linguistic consciousness. Bazerman, C., and Russell D., (Eds.). Writing selves/writing societies. 363-392.

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