Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pattison's Consciousness

I'm a little unclear about the definition of consciousness in the phrase consciousness of language, so here's some questions/comments....

Where is the definition of consciousness coming from?  At first I though this might be a loaded "Western" term, but perhaps different literacies can define consciousness in their own ways.  Is consciousness an awareness of the expressive powers of language?  Is it the perception of the power of language to represent and relate objects and ideas? Is consciousness located individually (in the mind of the language user) or collectively? Does the location/employment of consciousness vary according to literacy?  Is consciousness perceivable to a student of literacy only as it is manifest by language users; that is, can we locate consciousness of language itself, or only point to it as manifest by speech or print acts? 

That aside, I don't think consciousness is necessarily a higher order of being, but more like a basic condition of being human.  The name consciousness, however, is an invention made possible by language.  In a way, language might precede consciousness, but perhaps only in its capacity to name or "point out" the term.  In older times, the concept must have taken other names, but I'm not sure if it was so clearly pointed out. 

1 comment:

  1. Wynne, I read Robert Pattison's to mean awareness of language and of ways to use language artfully and rhetorically. For example, when a person uses language to communicate in order to persuade a listener, that person is aware that there are strategic moves that can be made to change another person's mind. That's language awareness and an ability to use language deliberately. But for Pattison, language consciousness is just a starting point for becoming literate: the next step is to become proficient in the particular form of literacy sanctioned by a culture. And to respond to one of your questions--I do not read Pattison to be referring to collective consciousness when he makes his point about language consciousness; however, that is an intriguing thought, and one I have not considered before now. --bgleason