Georgetown Linguistic Society’s Discourse as Mosaic: Linguistic Re/Production of Identities and Ideologies, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 1996

Tenth International Conference on Pragmatics and Language Learning, University of Illinois, Urbana. IL, 1996


Think of the tools in a tool-box: there is a hammer, pliers, a saw, a screw-driver, a rule, a glue-pot, glue, nails and screws.—The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects. (And in both cases there are similarities.) Of course, what confuses us is the uniform appearance of words when we hear them spoken or meet them in script or print. For their application is not presented to us so clearly. Especially when we are doing philosophy!” (Wittgenstein 1958, 6).


“Doing philosophy” does not simply describe an isolated motion in space or a transient thought, but a life’s work, Wittgenstein’s life’s work. Wittgenstein attempts to explain the functionality of words through the metaphor of tools. Yet, unlike tools, how words actually function is “unclear.” The juxtaposition of occupational activity and linguistic functionality is striking, suggesting not only a connection but perhaps a constitution of one in/to the other. In this thesis, I will employ language use, from a functional grammar perspective, as an empirical tool to locate and describe occupational activities to examine how professional identity is constructed. Specifically, I explore the occupation of artist, where a professional persona is constructed not only by creating and exhibiting artwork, but also by language use, e.g. lectures and critiques. This thesis will describe how, in the presence of an audience, artists establish their occupational identity in part by translating one semiotic system (the visual) to another (spoken language).