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What Is Discourse

In: English and Literature

Submitted By csk35
Words 1071
Pages 5
ENG 101

Writing Project 4 When Gee mentions the phrase dominant discourse he means a particular way of talking and thinking about a subject, created by those in power. This type of discourse is popular because it is admired and repeated a lot. So the dominant discourse Gee discusses is certainly used by a particular class, the upper class. The people in this upper class are usually white people. With dominant discourse, there are certain ways of talking and thinking that won’t be accepted so there is a need to conform to the same patterns of thinking and talking amongst the people conversing within this type of discourse. In the article, Gee gives an account of a conversation that was taking place in a bar. While the dialogue was taking place, the reader is shown what is and what is not appropriate as far as discourse is concerned.
The type of discourse that an individual participates in is a learned behavior. Although it cannot really be taught from the media, the discourse of the individual is learned through their surroundings on a continual basis. Discourse can “rub off” on a person through their parents, the area in which they live, the community and how they act and speak and so on. My discourse was influenced by my parents, the school I went to and my friends and teammates. A big part of it was definitely school and my sports teams. I will be honest and say that my public high school was not the best as far as education goes so the people that attend there were not the best students. Because I was around that every day for four years, my grammar is not always correct and we, the students, use phrases around each other that people on the “outside” probably would not understand. To contrast that, a friend of mine went to private schools her whole life up until high school. She is very smart and her grammar is always correct. The way in which she speaks is so proper, our mutual friends often tell her how “white” she sounds even though she is African American. The way she speaks and the way I do are so different she sometimes doesn’t understand things that I say because she has not been exposed to that kind of thinking or talking. I tend to use more slang because that is just how we talk where I’m from. I do believe if I had been surrounded by surroundings and people similar to the ones she had, my discourse would be similar to hers. Going to college, I get to witness a lot of discourses almost every day among people of different races, ages and social classes. Even more so because I am an athlete and I get to travel. Even though my discourse is ingrained in me, I can put on a different type of discourse when the time calls for it. For example, I talk to my mom and my family one way, my friends another. With both of these groups my discourse in pretty informal, but I have learned to use a different or “secondary discourse.” The second type of discourse I tend to use is dominant similar to what I mentioned before at places like school or at job interviews. It takes practice and getting used to, but it is not difficult, at least for me. While I still may not be perfect in my usage of it, I think that I use the dominant discourse well enough to fit into an office setting for work or something business related. In my interview with one of my older neighbors, I asked her for some words and phrases he used that are not so common today. Words such as “stoop” and “groovy” as well as phrases like “I’ve got to see a man about a horse,” and “clean as a whistle” are still used by him but not so much by the people of my generation. I asked him what they would stand for today and he told me. In respective order, they mean porch, cool or awesome, I’ve got to take care of some business and clean. He said they used these phrases because the area in which he lived in was pretty diverse and included many minorities like him, they were all pretty packed together. Stoop is a Dutch word. His community back then shaped his discourse and the way he speaks today.
Gee mentions that someone who is not born into the dominant discourse can neither fully master it nor become part of it. The term he uses is “mushfaking” which basically means what it sounds like; people who are not primary discourse participants have to fake the language and way of thinking. This means that they would not thrive in the world where dominant discourse is the primary discourse; among the elite. However this contradicts with the “American Dream.” The basis of this phrase is that anyone who works honestly and hard can do or become whatever they want. Gee’s claim contradicts this because essentially what he is saying is that the American Dream is limited to those whose primary discourse is dominant or the few that can fully adapt to that discourse. In that case, very few people would ever be successful. Gee is wrong about his claim because there are many people who are successful without having dominant as their primary discourse. Learning is just completed when childhood ends. We as humans learn many, many things over the course of our lives. Even though we cannot start over and redo our learning for a different primary discourse it is possible for us to learn and become fluent in other types of discourse. For example, people of Hispanic descent are now the largest minority. Their primary language is not English, but look at how many of these people learned and speak English fluently. Some of them speak English so well, it can seem like their primary language at times and we would never know. So I do not support Gee’s claim about “mushfaking.” If people can become fluent in different languages then we can also be fluent in different discourses as well. On the other hand, even if someone could not completely master the dominant discourse, “mushfaking” will still help enable the person to get into the professional setting without too much trouble.

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