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The Multivoicedness of Meaning Essay

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Updated: Sep 19th, 2021


Wetsch’s text analyzes the main implications of Bakhtin’s idea to the theory of mediated action created by soviet psychologist Vygotsky. Wetsch’s describes Bakhtin position when he says that the problem of meaning is an intermediary between individuals’ meaning and not having it at the same time. According to Bakhtin meaning exists in group life and reveals itself only in dialogue. Drawing on the premises the author addresses three crucial topics – the rejection of ‘Self’ atomism, recognition of ‘dialogue’ importance, and authority of the text.

Wetsch following Taylor and Bakhtin

Wetsch following Taylor and Bakhtin debunks the notion of atomism describing the alleged human independence of society and his self-sufficiency. According to him, an individual personality is formed by societal relations and cultural patterns such as language, communication. Thus, it is strange to reduce human subjectivity to atoms but this tradition of thought is deeply rooted in the Western culture.

Further on Wetsch provides a reader with the analysis of the language transmission theory drawing on Reddy’s and other theorists’ research on the topic. According to this theory, the communication the language message sent is encoded and decoded when received. This theory is linear and draws on the epistemology of informational mathematics and cybernetics. According to the Wetsch analysis, this approach to language communication assumes that this process is one-sided which falls short of understanding its real nature. To better understand the format of communication the Bakhtin’s theory of dialogivity is the most appropriate thing. According to Bakhtin, the communication message is always reproduced taking into consideration the possible reaction of ‘Other’ and the frames of meaning are created through this interplay of strategies.

The analysis of the issues of text and authority Wetsch gives a comprehensive analysis of dialogicality and univocity, authoritative word and internally persuasive voice which are the main Bakhtin concepts. Creatively interpreting Bakhtin Wetsch claims that authoritative voice is peculiar to the situation where communication is absent as in the case of moral, political, and ideological discourse. Unlike this internally persuasive speech is oriented on dialogue as the main source of communication. It is created in the process of exchange and strategic planning of meaning and always creates a dynamic tension between one meaning and another. Wetsch particularly claims that the transmission model to be effective should pay attention to these theoretical assumptions. Further on, an interesting analysis of reported speech as a compendium of authoritarian and dialogical styles of discourse is given. Reported speech is subject-objective containing the meanings of the narrator and the object of narration. Thus, it can be described as double-voiceless. Using interesting examples the author shows the importance of reported speech for understanding dialogicality.

Hidden dialogicality

The theoretical assumptions outlined by Wetsch further find their practical implementation in his illustration of ‘hidden dialogicality’ on a concrete example of microgenetic communication. ‘Hidden communication’ is described as communication when the real words of the second speaker are omitted but their meaning could be found in the genesis of the first speaker discourse. Wetsch provides a reader with an example of a mother helping her child to construct the puzzle when every single action of the boy and his comments are understandable through the mother’s voice.


Making conclusions on the results of his study Wetsch postulates the importance of Bakhtin’s contribution to the issues of ‘dialogicality’ and its importance to the theory of communication.

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IvyPanda. "The Multivoicedness of Meaning." September 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-multivoicedness-of-meaning/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "The Multivoicedness of Meaning." September 19, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-multivoicedness-of-meaning/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Multivoicedness of Meaning'. 19 September.

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