Re: [xmca] Some comments on Gordon's article

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sat Sep 29 2007 - 05:37:18 PDT

I think there are two reasons why Gordon Wells uses the neologism "discoursing", but I don't see that either one has to do with materiality.
  The first is, as Andy says, to try to distinguish between discourse-as-process (uncompleted, incompletable, always ongoing) and discourse-as-product (whose material trace is text, and in order for there to be a text the discourse has to come to an end just as iin order for there to be a corpse a life has to come to an end).
  I was a student of Henry Widdowson, who taught us to use "discourse" for the process and "text" for the product, but there are limits to this because both are "contextualized", and it is rather hard to say that one of them is really "discoursualized".
  The second is that Gordon Wells is trying to DEconstrue the word "discourse", to turn it from a thing back into an activity. Stephen King remarks, in his guide on how to be a famous writer, that "nouns are things". Sure, "growth" is a thing, and "red" is a thing and "noun" is a thing, and money is a countable thing, although it is an uncountable noun. With this remark, King demonstrates that he knows nothing about language except how to make money with it.
  Both process and product are material, and so are things and activities. To deny this is to say that in some sense a noun is more "real" than a verb. It is sometimes useful to pretend that a process is a product, just as it is useful to pretend a product is really a process. Similarly, it is sometimes useful to treat an activity as a thing, and a thing as an activity. But listen to the Communist magicians that Salman Rushdie writes about in Midnight's Children. When we turn something into something else, we must never forget that it is really something other than something else.

  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sat Sep 29 05:39 PDT 2007

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