Genre as social action

Authored by: Charles Bazerman

The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415551076
eBook ISBN: 9780203809068
Adobe ISBN: 9781136672927


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Discourse arises among people, in interaction, and it is part of the means by which people accomplish social actions. Meanings arise within the pragmatic unfolding of events and mediate the alignment of participants to perceptions of immediate situations and relevant contexts (whether fictive or non-fictive) called to mind by language. Language is crafted, deployed, and interpreted by individuals in the course of social participation, even when individuals use language in a personally reflective mode, considering one's own identity, commitments, and actions while using received language. Language users (with particular neurophysiological capacities and individual histories of language experience) in the course of interaction call upon the resources of language that are socially and culturally available and that have been typified through histories of social circulation; nonetheless, individuals construct meanings and consequentiality from their perception of particular novel situations and of their participant action in those situations. Thus situated meaning is a negotiation between the public distribution and practices of language expected within the site of communication and the personal meaning systems of the receiving individuals, developed through a lifetime of socially embedded language use, as applied to the communicative issue at hand. These interactions over meaning may occur in the here-and-now in terms of material space, but they may also occur at a distance in time and space—a distance mediated through recorded language. We may use language both to cooperate in building a stone wall that is physically in front of us and to establish principles of chemical bonding in scientific publications (which, however, index and are accountable to the material chemical interactions in specialized experimental probes and in everyday life.) We may even use language to transport the imaginations of our audience into imagined events in a fictive galaxy where fundamental principles of the world we know are suspended.

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