MeGa Theory Thread (I will number and please feel free to ask questions or make other comments or suggestions!)
(1) So we know that words can have different meanings based on context. For example, if I say “Godzilla is destroying that town over there!” the meaning of “there” depends upon where I am and when I am saying that phrase.
(2) Similarly, the “that” of the previous phrase depends on the phrase before it to have meaning! And there is more than one kind of “meaning”—there is literal meaning (i.e., “hospital” is “a place where sick or injured people go to get treated”, there is semantic relationality
(3) , (i.e., “to kill” = “X animate entity causes Y animate entity to cease to live”), and then there’s all of the additional background thought and language connected to a word. That could be an ontology (“a sheep is a kind of animal”), it could be specific to the individual
(4) (“Dog = scary because I was bitten by one as a child”), or it could be the cultural understanding of that word. What I mean by “cultural” understanding is something like, to borrow an example from Gee (1999), the word “bachelor”.
(5) This word means, literally, “an unmarried man”, but for some people, their mind immediately went to “the title of a reality TV show”. Some people in the world have never even heard of said TV show—so for them, the word is “an unmarried man”.
(6) This is an example of “the cultural model”, in other words, that words and their meanings are backgrounded in the social world. A word cannot simply be “a word”—it has multiple meanings that are attached to use within a specific culture.
(7) And I don’t just mean “American culture” or “French culture”—the reality is that we all actually belong to many different groups--I like Lave and Wenger’s model, called “community of practice”.
(8) Each of the individual communities that you belong to has its own way of being—its ways of showing that you “belong” to the group and what you do as a member of that group.
(9) And one of the ways of showing how you “belong” to a community of practice is the way that you speak, and, in turn, how you are spoken to. The specific ways that one speaks in a community of practice is a Discourse.
(10) One of the things that happens, especially here on Twitter, is many different Discourses occurring at once, with many of those Discourses using the same words, but with a different cultural backgrounding. One great example is the word “pioneer”.
(11) In the non-Indigenous North American English Discourse (which, right now, is also the dominant discourse), the word “pioneer” simply means “to be one of the first to do something”. It carries with it emotions like pride, nostalgia, maybe even patriotism.
(12) But think for a second about what that word means in different Discourses—for example, the Lakhota Discourse, or the African-American Discourse. That word carries very different meaning based on the cultural experience of the people of that particular group.
(I can’t speak to that meaning because I do not have that experience—so I won’t.)
(14) This is exactly why we get the “I’m a(n) X, and I don’t find it offensive”—people can claim to belong to a certain group, yes. And maybe that person does actually belong to that certain group.
(15) But part of belonging to a group is the ability to reproduce a Discourse which connects a person with the group that they are claiming. If you cannot produce that Discourse, linguistic solidarity is not established, and your identity simply cannot be confirmed.
(16) (And I know you all can think of maaaaaany examples of this.)

So if you find yourself arguing about language-in-use, consider how Discourse is playing into the situation.
(17) So, yeah, I hope that I explained this clearly, and I hope that this little bit of theory can maybe go out into the "real world" and not be totally inaccessible. I hope somebody can use it!
Ooh, also if anyone wants any further reading, can totally help with that!
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