Bucholtz vs Mirabelli: Discoursal Identity Through Dialogue

Blog » Bucholtz vs Mirabelli: Discoursal Identity Through Dialogue

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 22:43

Nerd girls and waiters are not always groups that one would normally identify as discourse communities, but Mary Bucholtz and Tony Mirabelli would not agree with this notion. These scholars discuss the aspects — derived from their research — which support their discoursal identities.

In Mary Bucholtz’ paper, she introduces the way that people study sociolinguistics and the groups involved in this research. She criticizes the inflexibility of the practices that are the “norm” when it comes to research in this field; researchers tend to pick a certain “central” group and have certain assumptions about the “central-ness” of the speech community. Many researchers see this community as inflexible, and everyone who can speak are seen as “insiders”. By studying the high school group of “nerd girls”, she challenges these presumptions that researchers make — the community of “nerd girls” contradict many aspects of the model of language and gender. To demonstrate this contradiction, she gathered data about the social structures of high schools. The social structures of these high schools shows that the nerd community is neither a central, nor static, community. The nerd society also doesn’t fit into the other categories (jocks and burnouts), but they are always changing and have changing members — which include marginal members. She also takes dialogues from a club of high school students and analyzes them, breaking down every line and explaining the significance of them in accordance to their discoursal identity. These dialogues are evidence of their unique tendencies, and they support the idea that the speech community is divided. Through her analysis of “nerd communities”, Bucholtz exhibits the connections between society and discourse communities, and she argues that researchers should not misunderstand these connections. The actual idea of a speech community had never occurred to me before I read this paper — nevertheless the divisions within it. But this is what Bucholtz directly addresses: that the speech community is not necessarily one whole entity.

Tony Mirabelli — with his experience as a waiter — was appalled by the insults that waiters receive; most waiters are presumed to lack proper education or intelligence. Mirabelli eventually wanted to prove that waiters and waitresses had a practice that is not taught in schools; he argues that being a waiter — having deep communication skills and complex involvement ability — is unique and complicated. Mirabelli uses his own experience with a restaurant — giving little narratives and stories about the hardships of a waiter — to support his claim. He elaborates on the required memorization of menus, terms, and processes from different cultures. He also mentions how waiters have to converse about these terms — and even interpret certain meanings about them. Like Bucholtz, he provides bits of dialogues and analyzes the words for their meanings. He also explains literary devices and manipulations of language; this also supports the idea that every waiter has his own literature. Mirabelli’s example dialogues and explanations had shed a new light on the community of waiters for me; the idea that a literature had existed for waiters had eluded me.

Dialogues seem to be an important resource for both of these writers. They give a basic overview of the factors which make a group into a discourse community: lexis, terminology, relationships, etc; they would also be very valuable to my own research on a discourse community.

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