Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice

Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice

Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice

Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice

Synopsis

Mediated Discourse sets out a discursive theory of human action. Language and action are intimately related; the difficult question to answer is how they are related. It looks at social relationships to see how the use of language is both a form of action in itself and is also indirectly related to all other forms of human action.Through the study of a one year old child learning to exchange objects with caregivers, Scollon challenges the commonly held claim that all practices are represented in discourse and that all discourse has the function of structuring practice.Calling upon work in interactional sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis, anthropological linguistics, sociocultural psychology and intercultural communication, the mediated discourse theory set out in this book resolves current problematic issues such as how practices are learned across the boundaries of groups and how individuals come to be socialized as social actors.

Excerpt

It was a much younger researcher than this author who crawled around on his hands and knees clutching the microphone of a Sony TC110A following a one-year-old baby as she first began to work out how to find and hold her place conversationally within her world. That baby has recently finished law school and the data collected back then have been transported across oceans and continents. So it was with some mixture of hope and anxiety that I took one of the original tapes out of its box and listened to it to see if the original materials were still usable for a new study.

In discussions with colleagues, notably Ruth Wodak, during the Fall of 1999 I began to feel that social theory, particularly practice theory, was badly in need of an ontogenetic view of social practice. in linguistics, following the earlier model of psychology, it has proved to be a very rich source of insights into social process to watch the earliest development of social and psychological processes longitudinally in the opening years of life. a quick survey of the field showed me that there had been no studies which had directly taken on the challenge of studying the ontogenesis of a single social practice, which we could use to shed light on the closely related question of the aggregation of the habitus in a person in the course of living. I had hoped that I would be able to find in my original material sufficient data to say something interesting about practices of ownership and appropriation because of an ongoing interest in questions of intellectual property.

The longitudinal study of infants is a difficult kind of work which, for many cogent reasons, is often best carried out by the young parents of the children under study. With no grandchildren imminent, I had hoped and was excited to discover that my original tapes had remained in perfect condition, that the hundreds of hours of transcription of ‘everything everyone said and did’ had produced abundant observations which were useful much beyond the original purposes of my earlier research, and that the scores of photographs and other contextual notes taken by my colleague and wife, Suzanne Scollon, also remained in perfect condition so that I was able to undertake this new study of these archived materials. As it turned out, I found the study of the practices of ownership and appropriation far too complex to address immediately and as the file of notes grew fatter, I realized that I would have to focus even more elementally on just one single practice, the practice of handing an object from one person to

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