Thursday, 15 September 2016

Misconstruing Heteroglossia And Dialogism As System And Process

Martin (1992: 574-5):
Like Firth, Bakhtin was interested in the heterogeneous nature of speech communities (for which he developed the notion of heteroglossia); and like Firth he saw this heterogeneity manifested in all texts (for which he developed the notion of dialogism*, using the metaphor of dialogue to capture the sense in which different voices converse as texture).
* Endnote #30 (p590):
The distinction between heteroglossia and dialogism in Bakhtin's writing is unclear; here heteroglossia is associated with system and dialogism with process.  Bakhtin himself however did not work with the Hjelmslevian notion of system and process, and was unlikely to have developed an opposition of this kind in light of his objections to Saussure's opposition of langue and parole.

Blogger Comments:

[1] This misrepresents Bakhtin and misunderstands his notion of heteroglossia.  According to the glossary in Bakhtin (1981: 428), 'heteroglossia' is the notion that the same wording has different meanings according to context:
The base condition governing the operation of meaning in any utterance. It is that which insures the primacy of context over text. At any given time, in any given place, there will be a set of conditions — social, historical, meteorological, physiological — that will insure that a word uttered in that place and at that time will have a meaning different than it would have under any other conditions; all utterances are heteroglot in that they are functions of a matrix of forces practically impossible to recoup, and therefore impossible to resolve. Heteroglossia is as close a conceptualisation as is possible of that locus where centripetal and centrifugal forces collide; as such, it is that which a systematic linguistics must always suppress.

[2] This misrepresents Bakhtin and misunderstands his notion of dialogism.  According to the glossary in Bakhtin (1981: 426), 'dialogism' is the notion that all utterances are made in the context of other utterances, with which they interact:
Dialogism is the characteristic epistemological mode of a world dominated by heteroglossia. Everything means, is understood, as a part of a greater whole — there is a constant interaction between meanings, all of which have the potential of conditioning others. Which will affect the other, how it will do so and in what degree is what is actually settled at the moment of utterance. This dialogic imperative, mandated by the pre-existence of the language world relative to any of its current inhabitants, insures that there can be no actual monologue. One may, like a primitive tribe that knows only its own limits, be deluded into thinking there is one language, or one may, as grammarians, certain political figures and normative framers of "literary languages" do, seek in a sophisticated way to achieve a unitary language. In both cases the unitariness is relative to the overpowering force of heteroglossia, and thus dialogism.

[3] To be clear, in SFL theory, texture is the property of being a text (Halliday & Hasan 1976: 2).

[4] The distinction between heteroglossia and dialogism in Bakhtin's writing is made clear by an appended glossary (Bakhtin (1981: 423-34).

[5] Here Martin maps his misunderstanding of heteroglossia onto the SFL notion of system, and his misunderstanding of dialogism onto the SFL notion of process.  Further complexity is added to these misunderstandings and inconsistencies when it is remembered that Martin has throughout misinterpreted the SFL notion of process — the instantiation of the system in the instance — as the axial realisation of system in structure, as demonstrated in previous posts.

[6] Bakhtin would not have associated heteroglossia with system and dialogism with process because such a mapping is wildly inconsistent with each pair of oppositions.