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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 273

There is no such thing as a "general language," a language that is spoken by a general voice, that may be divorced from a specific saying, which is charged with particular overtones. Language, when it means, is somebody talking to somebody else, even when that someone else is one's own inner addressee.

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The above quote gets to the heart of The Dialogic Imagination: language always occurs between two (or more) people or is a dialogue with the self, and its meaning is always determined by its context: meaning can only be decided by knowing what was going on when a word or utterance was spoken. Only through understanding the context, for example, can we know if a statement is comic or serious, ironic or sincere.

Prophecy is characteristic for the epic, prediction for the novel.

Bakhtin makes a sharp distinction between the literature of the past, such as the epic, which he says is static and traditional and the novel, a modern form. Prophecy or fate is typical of the epic because what will happen is already rigidly pre-ordained. In the novel, on the other hand, events can predicted but not pre-determined: the novel is fluid and open-ended, oriented toward the future. It keeps us in suspense about what will happen.

Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker's intentions; it is populated—overpopulated—with the intentions of others.

Bakhtin says it is difficult to make language our own. We must take it from other people's utterances and intentions and shape it for ourselves: it is always infused with the consciousness of others.

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