Emergent speech genres of teaching and learning interaction. Communities of practice in Cameroonian schools and villages
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AbstractCognitive linguistics as a usage-based theory of emergent grammar is fundamental to this dissertation in which data from Cameroonian classroom and everyday interactions are analysed. The analysis connects the idea of linguistic units as schematic symbolic structures with the Bakhtinian notion of speech genres. Speech genres are not absolute rules of structure imposed on language, but tendencies emerging out of practice to become conventionalised recognisable patterns in communities of practice. When entrenched in language users, speech genres have both conventionalised meanings and conventionalised form, but are also schematic, underdetermining the forms and meanings produced in an actual usage event of a genre.
Speech genres are at work in teaching and learning interactions in the villages of the Nizaa ethnic group of the Galim-Tignère area in Cameroun. In skill demonstrations there are typical ways of talking related to the use of intent observation as a learner’s strategy. Riddle games and tales are speech genres implicitly teaching both verbal skills and cultural knowledge. The social games played by the children rehearse cultural themes and ways of talking about them, adding resonance to everyday speech.
In the classroom interaction data from the area, French is the medium of instruction though few children have any knowledge of this language before starting school. The teachers have entrenched speech genres of classroom interaction, while the students have different conceptualisations of these. Recurrent patterns of interaction are social and cognitive resources for the students, though they may struggle to make successful use of them. Meanings are constructed in the interaction, making the emergent character of language visible in the dynamic processes of the class as a community of practice.
By using cognitive linguistics as the main theoretical framework and speech genres as the main analytical tool for interactional language data, the dissertation both broadens the perspective of cognitive linguistics and provides a basic view of language useful for other socially oriented approaches to interaction.