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Who's In Charge: ?: Text, cognition, socialization and the freedom of spirit


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Who's In Charge?: Text, cognition, socialization and the freedom of spirit - presentation given at CADAAD'08

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Who's In Charge: ?: Text, cognition, socialization and the freedom of spirit

  1. 1. Who's in charge?: Text, cognition, socialization and the freedom of spirit Dominik Luke š University of East Anglia CADAAD’08
  2. 2. <ul><li>Critical = High-stakes </li></ul><ul><li>Discourse = Text, … </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis = ? </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>“ In short, what we find in CDA are critical discourse interpretations. These may carry conviction with members of the same discourse community or others who share the same pretextual assumptions. But they cannot be validated by analysis.” (Widdowson, 2004) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Two models of text <ul><li>Text as a repository of hidden messages triggering inevitably certain cognitive reactions (cf. Lakoff’s ‘Don’t think of an elephant’) </li></ul><ul><li>Text as a reflection of our mind’s biases (cf. CDA) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Issue <ul><li>Neither model of text allows a proper place for human agency (the freedom of spirit). </li></ul>
  6. 6. One model of text <ul><li>“ What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we forget that they are citizens too and entitled to the essential freedom to read? Or do we think our children so evil, so vicious, so simple-minded that it takes but a comic magazine story of murder to set them to murder , of robbery to set them to robbery?” </li></ul><ul><li>(William M. Gaines, 1953, testimony to US Senate’s commission on comic books, </li></ul>
  7. 7. Another model of text <ul><li>&quot;The editorial is about actions, and the absence of actions. So we might expect the predominant model to be the transactive.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;As readers of this editorial we should have to be alert and willing to engage in mental exercise to get beyond the seductive simplicity of the final form , with just three entities, and seemingly precise relations, where everything seems to be there on the surface.&quot; ... &quot; few commuters on the 8.05 from Brighton would have the energy to perform the mental gymnastics required . Especially as they would have to perform them not once, but just about a dozen times on every full line of newsprint that they scan. After all, the crossword is there for mental exercise. &quot; </li></ul><ul><li>(Hodge and Kress, 1979, Language as ideology) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Text and awareness <ul><li>“ linguistic analysis of text is not necessary for understanding. Indeed, it would appear that, if anything, it deflects attention from an inference of meaning and interferes with interpretation, so that the first level of analysis in Halliday's scheme has a way of obstructing the processing at the second level. “ (Widdowson, 2004) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Awareness of text (meaning/usage blending) <ul><li>Bully: Who are you looking at? </li></ul><ul><li>Bullied: Nobody. </li></ul><ul><li>Bully: Are you calling me nobody? </li></ul><ul><li>“‘ If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.’ </li></ul><ul><li>A manipulative ploy commonly used by young females to confuse and/or further frustrate the person (usually a male) to whom this statement was utter ed. “ </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  10. 10. The trap of the non-existent register (form blending) <ul><li>She can go. </li></ul><ul><li>Billy can go on the trip. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s ok. Smith </li></ul><ul><li>I hereby certify that my son, Jeremy, has my permission to attend a school trip. Dr. S. Jones </li></ul><ul><li>Sample of notes from parents when asked to approve their childrens’ trip. (Loosely translated from Czech based on personal recollection.) </li></ul>
  11. 12. What to take from cognitive grammar? <ul><li>Constructions instead of metaphors or diagrams! </li></ul>
  12. 13. Cognitive linguistics’ definition of language <ul><li>Language is a structured inventory of symbolic units </li></ul><ul><li>Units are best described as constructions linking form and meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge of linguistic units is the same kind of knowledge as other kinds of knowledge (encyclopedic) and exhibits the same kinds of organizational, cognitive and social properties (incl. basic-level hierarchies, prototype category effects, underspecification, redundancy, conventionalization, culture/language-specificity, explication, negotiation) </li></ul><ul><li>Formal and semantic compositionality (incl. ostension and attribution) is the process of conceptual integration (which is constrained, underspecified, opportunistic, dynamic, conventionalized) </li></ul>
  13. 14. Linguistic units <ul><li>All linguistic units are a pairing of form and meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Semantic pole of the unit is structured by (largely negotiated) frames (cognitive models, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Formal pole is structured by convention and language logistics </li></ul><ul><li>Blending occurs on both the formal and semantic poles </li></ul><ul><li>Units can be both rich (vocabulary, idioms, topoi) and schematic (rules, organizational principles, register, …) </li></ul><ul><li>Units can be as ‘large’ as genre and as ‘small’ as phonological features </li></ul><ul><li>Many units are available to introspection and therefore to negotiation (both implicit and explicit) </li></ul>
  14. 15. Obama’s speech <ul><li>“ And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years. </li></ul><ul><li>I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” </li></ul>
  15. 16. The reactions <ul><li>I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important . Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to . It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare. </li></ul><ul><li>It seemed to me as honest a speech as one in his position could give within the limits imposed by politics . As such it was a contribution. We'll see if it was a success. The blowhard guild, proud member since 2000, praised it, and, in the biggest compliment, cable news shows came out of the speech not with jokes or jaded insiderism, but with thought . They started talking, pundits left and right, black and white, about what they'd experienced of race in America. It was kind of wonderful. I thought, Go, America, go, go . </li></ul><ul><li>Declarations - </li></ul><ul><li>Barack Obama 's speech on race in America was so c and id about both the legitimacy of black and white grievances -- and the flaws in those grievances -- it carried the risk of offending almost everyone. </li></ul><ul><li>E. J. Dionne Jr. - Another Angry Black Preacher - </li></ul><ul><li>Barack Throws His Ailing Grandmother Under the Bus to Score Political Points </li></ul><ul><li>(blog post title) </li></ul>
  16. 17. <ul><li>Your grandfather and I just figured we should treat people decently, Bar. That's all.&quot; It seems that she succeeded in raising a color blind daughter but not a color blind grandson. Obama said his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, is &quot;glued to CNN&quot;’ and follows the campaign closely, even though severe osteoporosis prevents her campaigning. I can only imagine how defeated his dismissal of her as a &quot;typical white person&quot; must make her feel. She may be grateful, her husband is no longer alive and forced to see himself dismissed as a typical white racist . </li></ul><ul><li>(History News Network ) </li></ul>
  17. 18. <ul><li>The Corner on National Review Online </li></ul><ul><li>Have I missed the competition?    [Charles Murray] </li></ul><ul><li>I read the various posts here on &quot;The Corner,&quot; mostly pretty ho-hum or critical about Obama's speech. Then I figured I'd better read the text (I tried to find a video of it, but couldn't). I've just finished. Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I'm concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically , but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America . It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols.... But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie. </li></ul>
  18. 19. Observation <ul><li>(Almost) every analytic statement available to the discourse analyst was made by the participants in the debate at one point or another! Far from being simply an unconscious collection of frames and pragmatics, it presented a whole range of analytic opinion. </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>&quot;the manufacture of consent, also through the Dutch Press, is such that the people have the illusion of freedom of opinion , but they do not realize how strongly ideological constraints set the latitude of attitude formation and the terms of the public debate.&quot; (van Dijk, 1991, p. 243) </li></ul><ul><li>“ media as a whole define the internal structures, the points of relevance, and especially the ideological boundaries of social representations. They provide the ready-made models, that is, the facts and opinions, that people use partly in what to think, but more important which they also used in devising how to think about ethnic affairs.&quot; (van Dijk, 1991, p. 244) </li></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>“ right-wing readers of a right-wing newpapers have an ideological framework that facilitates the development of right-wing opinions whatever the opinion of their newspaper .” </li></ul><ul><li>(van Dijk, 1991, p. 238) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do not deny the handicaps or argue that people are well served by the mass media in their efforts to make sense of the world. The limitations that media critics have pointed out are real and are reflected in the frames that people are able to construct on many issues. Frames that are present in social movement discourse but are invisible in mass media commentary rarely find their way into their conversations. Systematic omissions make certain ways of framing issues extremely unlikely. Yet people read media messages in complicated and sometimes unpredictable ways, and draw heavily on other resources as well in constructing meaning. “ </li></ul><ul><li>(Gamson, 1992, p. 6) </li></ul>
  21. 22. Questions <ul><li>What are the linguistic units at play? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the inventory of linguistic units? </li></ul><ul><li>How is the inventory of linguistic units created and maintained? </li></ul>
  22. 23. Obama construction inventory (sketch) <ul><li>Speech debate </li></ul><ul><li>Form </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Statement about media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Historical context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Present context </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Meaning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Media shallowness frame </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speech content analysis (Good) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Criticism opportunist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Obama’s racism </li></ul><ul><li>Form </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Text analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quotation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Set phrases (‘throw grandmother under the bus’) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Meaning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Obama’s grandmother raised him and now he’s calling her a racist comparing her to Jeremiah Wright </li></ul></ul>
  23. 24. Suggested answers <ul><li>The linguistic units comprising the available inventory are constructions (rich and schematic) where the form ranges from words/phrases to cohesive harmony and meaning is structured by frames </li></ul><ul><li>The construction inventory is negotiated through repetition, referencing and explicit debate (incl. text analysis) </li></ul><ul><li>The use of negotiated units from the inventory integrated both form and meaning of different units </li></ul><ul><li>This inventory provides the framework but the openness of the process of blending provides the freedom </li></ul>
  24. 25. Human agency returned to text and cognition? <ul><li>Speakers wishing to express a particular position have available to them units (constructions) carrying both form and meaning </li></ul><ul><li>In particular ‘discourse communities’ (coallitions), the availability of the inventory and possible blendings can be constrained through negotiation (both explicit and implicit) </li></ul><ul><li>But these limits are social and textual as much as cognitive </li></ul><ul><li>Each individual speaker retunes the blending parameters of their inventory through a variety of processes that still need to be investigated (see Tom Clancy on negotiation) </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>Tom Clancy, Cardinal of the Kremlin </li></ul>