||6. Knowledge and learning
Having outlined how the relationship between the individual and the subject of
discourse is conceived of, we should now turn to the method whereby discourse analysis
reveals meaning and tacit knowledge. Recognising how these are produced and the analysis
of their nature should allow their operation to be clarified. Viewing social practice as
the effects of discourse, and recognising the relationship between the stability of
discourse and the normative order, allows us to uncover the nature of tacit knowledge and
the negotiation of meaning in terms of the subject/object relationship. That
is, it is seen by reference to social parameters. Analysis proceeds from two directions
exposing the internal unwinding of the discourse; and the social action which the
discourse supports. These are carried out by the enonce, and not by the rational
intentions of the locuteur.
It can be argued that linguistic form is akin to a normative order in the sense
that its codification derives from the direct observation of linguistic behaviour. Of
course this has been modified by the process of corpus planning and standardisation but,
nonetheless, ordinary language involves institutionalised, patterned behaviour.
However, there is a difference between syntactic grammar and deictic grammar. The
later fixes subjects and objects in relationship to one another by reference to time,
person and place. Social deixis is the means whereby discourse is able to operate in
social reality. Modalities, on the other hand, pertains to a truth value
in the sense that within discourse or text there is a subject who situates what she says
in relation to the certain, the possible, the probable etc. or in relation to judgements
of value. To this extent language is always a reflexive exercise involving the enonciateur
in relationship to language. Each enonciative act is made visible through a series of
marks which are capable of being analysed.
Wittgensteins language play which sees language games as a form of life,
involves the signification of a word as its use in language (Wittgenstein, 1969). Language
is given a material existence, imposing its ambiguity on speaking subjects, their
consciousness and their experience, and it is here that the social is most evident.
Language play indicates that language acts are structured in the sense that
they are linked to genres of life or social practices. There is a difference between
signification and meaning. The former is linguistic whereas the later involves real
effects and pragmatic understanding. Signification involves a systematic structure of
places in relationship to the formal dimensions of time, person and place or of diverse
modalities. In connection with effective situations, it allows language to
perform the role of operator of interaction, situating the discourse in relation to a
series of places of enonciateurs, where the taking in charge of the discourse by the
locuteur has the effect of carrying the system along. Social interaction occurs where the
locuteurs, in taking the enonces in charge, establish a relationship between the enonces
which conforms with those relationships which the formal apparatus of enonciation
implicates between the enonciateurs. Between the signification which interpolates the
enonciateur, and meaning, which constitutes the real of the allocutaire, are the act and
the event which are constructed on the internal structure of the enonces.
Where Wittgensteins language play sees each sector of social life as a
play of language wherein ambiguity is resolved, Bakhtins work claims that the
structure of enonces does not indicate the language play within which they are implicated
(Bhaktin, 1981). Bakhtins notion of dialogism is invoked by reference to social
interaction. Dialogism indicates that meaning is never pre-given, but is the result
of a practical meeting of social groups around signification. Enonciation does not have
any meaning in itself, in an already completed signification, since it consists of a
multiplicity of plays of language. Meaning is the result of practical confrontation of
social groups around signification, and the plays of language are the products of open
options at the heart of a discursive organisation. There are no natural boundaries to
society, and society has no reality outside of language if it is the effects of discourse.
The social construction of meaning involves the materiality of language and the
integration of linguistic form and their functioning in social interaction. Discourse is
viewed as language process as social process such that the social/language distinction
does not exist. Language production puts in play both the social structure, and the
elements of the individual personality which occupies that social structure. Thus, one is
obliged to seek the effects of discourse in the social production of meaning of discourse
and not in the production of discourse. Meaning is already constituted before the subjects
The objective of analysis is to reveal how meaning is the consequence of a
practical confrontation of social groups around signification and language play. The
analysis involves focusing on the marked nature of the discourse. This involves the
deictic markers and modalities or the truth value of the discourse. Enonciative
linguistics explores how interaction is constructed into language, rather than being an
innate, preformed performance. The marks of discourse designate the nature of the
interaction. Modalities are analysed by reference to how they imply a certain attitude
of the enonciateur by reference to what is said. This is not rationalism, but is an
expression of the constant interaction involving the co-enonciateur. They indicate
affinity with others through the signification of reality and the enactment of
social relations. There is also the free or unmarked part of the discourse. It is free
in the sense that it does not reveal any relevant deictic marks nor modalities. By
reference to this aspect of discourse the enonciateur and locuteur must take account of
the place they assume in the interpretation of the existing situation, but do have a
degree of latitude.
The individual is constituted as a subject through the relationship between
interpolation, signification and the taking in charge of discourse, with signification
interpolating an enonciateur into meaning when the enonciateur takes charge of the
discourse. The act of language supported by the construction of meaning and the
enonciateur who takes the discourse in charge are linked. The taking in charge derives
from the marks in discourse, with the I/you/we
opposition regulating boundaries. When the individual identity changes so also does
signification. However, signification itself is not akin to meaning and must be
accompanied by the real effects of discourse. The act and the event involve the
relationship between signification and the real effect, and involves how the enonciateur
is transformed into the locuteur occupying a real social place. The formal apparatus of
enonciation operates when locuteurs are taken in charge, implying a social interaction
premised upon shared meaning and the implication of a relationship between the enonce and
the situation. Similarly, modalities link the constituted subject and the situation.
The fundamental problem associated with the knowledge economy revolves around the
claim that knowledge is both specific or explicit and tacit in nature. Furthermore,
knowledge is the very basis of innovation, the driver of economic growth within the
Knowledge Economy. Consequently, there must be some way of making the tacit explicit. If,
as Wenger implies, knowledge is organised and generated within communities of practice,
then it must be necessary to conceptualise the process of knowledge generation within
these communities. There is general agreement that knowledge derives from meaning which is
a shared feature and the very basis of being human. Thus some form of semantics
would appear essential in order to explore the nature of tacit knowledge. In this
paper I have argued for an approach which derives from the principles of
post-structuralism and its relationship to a decentred linguistics enonciative
Having outlined how this approach builds up a specific understanding of the
social construction of meaning and its relationship to analysing the nature of tacit
knowledge, it remains to consider how the outcome relates to the new workflows mentioned
at the start of the paper. The customary approach to analysing workplace practice involves
ethnographic studies. This is nothing new and can take a wide range of trajectories in its
analysis capacity. The problem involves the interpretive nature of ethnographic work and
how this interpretation is premised on the orthodoxy of the centred, rational subject. In
my view a great deal more than this is required. Above I have outlined the relationship
between discourse and social practice. Discourse is not simply textual but involves the
flow of behaviour that influences social practice as the effects of discourse. The
analytic process of FDA is linked to this understanding and can be applied to social
practice. Thus it becomes possible to analyse workplace practice by reference to the
relationships between subjects and objects, and between different subjects by reference to
how they develop a shared meaning which has a high degree of stability. Knowledge is an
integral part of this process. It means that the different components of the new workflow
of multimedia production must be viewed as communities of practice and analysed by
reference to the above procedure.
This process has proceeded by reference to an awareness that whereas linguistics
sets constraints on forms, the social involves meaning. Outlining the stable nature of
discourse allows us to recognise how knowledge relates to social practice. It allows
the analyst to map out how knowledge is operationalised within social practice.
Meaning becomes something other than the stable and homogenous projection of what a
rational human subject wishes to say. Whereas orthodox linguistics refers to the unstable
as the impossible, discourse analysis refers to the unenonciable by reference to what
cannot be stated from a determined place. Consequently, meaning is always shifting, and
despite being conditioned by prior discourse, new knowledge is constantly being created.
There is room for creativity, both in terms of language and in terms of interdiscourse.
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Research Centre Wales - University of Wales