“Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics” by James Paul Gee
In “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics,” James Paul Gee attempts to explain “a way of talking about literacy” and “literacy studies.” He describes how a Discourse is not the same as discourse, details the different types of Discourses, and introduces several new terms to strengthen his argument. Gee’s overall claims, in his own words, is “the focus of literacy studies or applied linguistics should not be language, or literacy, but social practices.”
Gee begins by describing that “language” is not particularly grammar- but it is what you say, how you say it, and what you are and do when you say it. To demonstrate this first claim he describes two responses by women in an interview that show different dialect. A great quote from this article that helps to formulate Gee’s claims of what a Discourse actually is this: At any moment we are using language we must say or write the right thing in the right way while playing the right social role and to hold right values, beliefs, and attitudes. Thus, what is important is not language, and surely not grammar, but saying (writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations. (484) Gee describes that a Discourse is like an “identity kit.” He also says that we all have many.
To acquire a Discourse, Gee states that you cannot learn by instruction but by apprenticeship. “Apprenticeship” is one of Gee’s terms that simply apply to the social practice of that particular Discourse to become familiar with it. Next, Gee explains how there is tension and conflict among one’s Discourses. All this means is that the ways of one Discourse may interfere with the ways of another, and you are ultimately who you are based on a combination effect.
Gee uses several terms to go in depth about Discourses. Primary socialization, or the acquisition of our Primary Discourse, is what we obtain from our families and growing up and it affects our...
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