Rethinking the Context of Language in the Schools When taken together, the involvement strategies that operate on sound and meaning, coupled with the historical, spatial, thematic, and relational frames that make up the human world, help form an intricate web that displays how language and context mutually constitute one another. These ideas are not new and have been ... Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum  |   July 01, 1997
Rethinking the Context of Language in the Schools
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Dana Kovarsky
    University of Rhode Island, Kingston
  • Madeline Maxwell
    University of Texas at Austin
  • Contact author: Dana Kovarsky, Department of Commnunicative Disorders, 2 Butterfield Road, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881. E-mail: dkovars@uriacc.uri.edu
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Clinical Forum: The Context of Language in the Schools
Clinical Forum   |   July 01, 1997
Rethinking the Context of Language in the Schools
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 1997, Vol. 28, 219-230. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.2803.219
History: Received July 1, 1996 , Accepted October 28, 1996
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 1997, Vol. 28, 219-230. doi:10.1044/0161-1461.2803.219
History: Received July 1, 1996; Accepted October 28, 1996

When taken together, the involvement strategies that operate on sound and meaning, coupled with the historical, spatial, thematic, and relational frames that make up the human world, help form an intricate web that displays how language and context mutually constitute one another. These ideas are not new and have been articulated in various ways through different academic fields of study concerned with the relations between language and social life, including the ethnography of communication, conversation analysis, and systemic linguistics. The location of talk in communities of practice recognizes that language is embodied action that is accomplished within fields in habits of expression and provides a framework for using empirically discovered, natural processes to highlight (rather than disembed) meaning-making resources.

That language and context cannot be separated from one another when seeking to understand communication and meaning is a theme that weaves it way throughout the ideas of the authors presented here. Language is more than a tool. It is a primary way of being human and transforming experience in the construction of social reality: "To be human is to be an understander, which is to engage in processes of coherence building or sense making, processes that occur communicatively and that enable humans to constitute, maintain, and develop the worlds we inhabit" (Stewart, 1995, p. 115).

By the same token, language incompetence and disorder are socially constituted and manifest themselves by the degree to which they marginalize, alienate, and disassociate individuals from the social world. This does not mean that the grammar and the dictionary of language are unimportant for those seeking to amend communication problems faced by students in schools; rather, they must be contextualized as part of a set of resources for building coherence, participation, and reality in the human world.

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