The Dialogic Imagination Questions and Answers
by Mikhail Bakhtin

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What does it mean when Bakhtin describes discourse as stratified?

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In Bakhtin's thought, stratification refers to the many social discourses produced by the different strata that compose a society. Rather than consider the standard division into classes, he takes into account factors such as age, gender, activity, region, etc.

Discourse is in constant evolution within and among the strata, all the time trying to reflect real life and shared as well as personal experience. Thus, according to his theory, discourse lies outside the boundaries of any normative system. Grammar and traditional linguistics are examples of such systems.

Therefore, "stratified discourse" is language in action, the interaction of utterances in a social context. His particular interest in Dostoevsky's novels is due to the fact that, to Bakhtin, they stand for the best case-study to show that the characters' discourses achieve...

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