Distributed knowledge, distributed power: A sociolinguistics of structuration

  • 1 Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.


This paper examines ways in which Cicourel's approach to understanding the construction of socially distributed knowledge in workplaces and institutions opens up possibilities for examining basic processes of social structuration. I focus on one particular dimension of that problem: how what gets to count as knowledge (of different kinds) is directly implicated in the dimensions of structuration that involve the construction and definition of categories and relations of social difference and social inequality. I draw on the notions of resources, trajectories, and discursive spaces to illustrate how Cicourel's ideas about distributed knowledge linking interactional orders and processes to institutional ones has allowed me to ask how distributed knowledge is linked to distributed power. I illustrate this approach with a discussion of such an analysis of categorization and stratification in a French-language minority high school in Ontario (Canada), drawing on fieldwork conducted in the early 1990s.

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Text & Talk (founded as TEXT in 1981) is an internationally recognized forum for interdisciplinary research in language, discourse, and communication studies, focusing, among other things, on the situational and historical nature of text/talk production; the cognitive and sociocultural processes of language practice/action; and participant-based structures of meaning negotiation and multimodal alignment.