How does Bakhtin treat language?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Bakhtin treats language as both organic and social. This means, basically, that the meanings we ascribe to language, or the utterances that make up language, are developed through discourse, or dialogic interaction (in other words, speaking and communicating) with others. So esentially, on the face of it, Bakhtin's theory would suggest that language is entirely relativistic, that we assign whatever meanings we want to language, and that we can't be sure that when we use language, that we are communicating the ideas that we want to communicate. However, the desire, or need to be understood drives language toward mutually agreed-upon meanings, which are communicated, from the point of view of literature, in agreed-upon forms, like the novel or the classical Greek forms of "epic, lyric, and tragedy." Even these forms, however, were subject to subversion and "travestying forms." The point is that communication is not inhibited a priori by structures or by arbitrary rules. These conventions developed out of specific circumstances, through dialogic communication, which is always a negotiated process.


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