To what extent are our selves constructed through language and discourse?

Essay by janeyangelladyUniversity, Master'sC, May 2006

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Language is a universal tool, utilised to convey a thought, ideas, emotions and much more. At first glance it may seem apparent that language has great bearing on our construction; we express ourselves through it, it is essential in our thinking and we learn about our social environment through its medium. The degree to which language and discourse is significant in constructing our identities can be debated, however, by comparing this discipline with other, seemingly opposing perspectives. By comparing the social constructionist perspective with sociobiology and the psychodynamics, it may be possible to determine the extent to which language and discourse hold on the construction of our selves. Whilst the social constructionist view recognises the importance of language, sociobiology favours genetics with a physiological perspective and the psychodynamic approach argues that it is our unconscious motivation that is most significant in our construction and identity. Are we a product of words, our bodies or our unconscious minds or a combination of all three? It is logical, to begin by examining each of these perspectives in turn before arriving at any conclusion.

"While the word is yet unspoken, you are master of it; when once it is spoken, it is master of you." Arab proverb

From the social constructionist perspective, language and discourse significantly influence our emerging selves. Language is a transactional exchange, whether in conversation or reading a narrative. It necessitates a response, this could be a thought, an action or an exchange of words. As a result, when we learn language, we also learn through it and our use of language places us within a certain role in society. Social constructionists use language and discourse analysis to interpret the self and would argue that persons are, right from the very beginning, continually developing within their own social context, through...