April 14, 2017
Faythe Beauchemin, Ohio State University
Although I am grounded in the notion of languaging found in the scholarship of Becker (1991), I draw upon all three concepts of languaging as described by Bloome. I’ve been interested in how definitions of personhood are promulgated through various constructs of language and languaging. While notions of language commonly emphasize a cultural construct of personhood as an autonomous individual, scholars from a range of disciplines have located a notion of language that grounds itself in a construct of personhood rooted in relationship through the “in-between-ness” of language as people relate to one another (Baxter, 2010; Berteau, 2014; Linell, 2009). Through attending to the “in-between-ness” of languaging, the autonomous “I” as a fundamental aspect of identity is eschewed and supplanted with a notion of people engaged in relationship.
Through a philosophy centered on relationality, Buber (1970) adds to this construct of languaging. Buber theorized relationships as a primary mode of living rather than a society filled with individual people. For Buber, all life is relationship-grounded therefore we can only exist in a state of relationship. Buber defines the essential states of living as oscillating between “I-Thou” and “I-It”, each theorized as a distinct whole unto themselves rather than a combination of pronouns. “I-Thou” relations are rooted in a sense of mutuality, “I-It” relationality reflects a state of objectification and represents the alienation of people from each other. Alienation in this sense is defined as the objectified and nominalized person perceived as autonomous from their relationships with others (Bloome & Beauchemin, 2016).
Another group of scholars located in cognitive sciences contribute to thinking on this approach to language and are located in Denmark, Norway and other European countries. Drawing upon “enactivist” approaches associated with theories of distributed sense-making, language is theorized as coaction – inextricable from the relationships in which it emerges (Cuffari, Di Paolo & De Jaegher, 2015; Di Paolo & De Jaegher, 2012; Fuchs & De Jaegher, 2009). These perspectives contest the theories of an “inner world” that is made up of cognitive material, emotional states or affective stances that is distinct from our ongoing interaction with others. Rather, there is a “focus on the coupling between brains and bodies and the world” (Cowley, 2007, p. 575).
Additionally, theories of distributed agency theorize people’s behaviors as a collaboration of shared social action (Enfield, 2013; Enfield & Kockelman, 2017). Underlying the idea of agency is the inherent oscillation of fusion fission dynamics of social interaction in everyday life. While our bodies are immutably separate from one another–moving about the world– interaction and agency are both inherently collaborative in nature through the moment-to-moment emergent “in-between-ness” of language (Enfield, 2017).
What interests me about this perspective of languaging is that it raises the notion that people emergently “language” events into being through their relationships with one another. Rather than thinking about issues of competence, questions are asked about opportunities for creating vibrant spaces for people to employ languaging to orient to each other, draw upon their memories of language and bits of remembered texts as they build relationships across their social worlds.
Baxter, L. (2010). Voicing relationships: A dialogic perspective. Los Angeles: Sage.
Bertau, M. C. (2014). Exploring language as the “in-between”. Theory & Psychology, 24(4), 524-541.
Bloome, D., & Beauchemin, F. (2016). Languaging everyday life in classrooms. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 65(1), 152-165.
Buber, M. (1970). I and thou (W. Kaufmann, Trans.). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Cowley, S. J. (2007). The cognitive dynamics of distributed language. Language Sciences, 29 575 – 583.
Cuffari, E. C., & Di Paolo, E., & De Jaegher, H. (2015). From participatory sense-making to language: There and back again. Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences, 14, 1089–1125.
Di Paolo, E., & De Jaegher, H. (2012). The interactive brain hypothesis. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6(163), 1-16.
Enfield, N. J. (2013). Relationship thinking: Agency, enchrony, and human sociality. Oxford University Press.
Enfield, N. J., & Kockelman, P. (Eds.). (2017). Distributed agency. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fuchs, T. & De Jaegher, H. (2009). Enactive intersubjectivity: Participatory sense-making and mutual incorporation. Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences, 8, 465–486.
Linell, P. (2009). Rethinking language, mind, and world dialogically: Interactional and contextual theories of human sense-ma