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Lars Sigfred Evensen (Norway)

 

Lars Sigfred Evensen[i] has been worked closely with Martin Nystrand for many years in developing the international writing research field. He is professor in Applied Linguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. His research interests include the epistemology and the sociology of the disciplinary field of applied linguistics; the development of written language competence and the teaching of writing, technologies of writing and hypermedia, text and discourse studies, interactionist perspectives on communication and curriculum reform in the educational system. Lars was one of the founders of The Nordic research Group for Theoretical and Applied Text Linguistics (NORDTEXT) in the early 1980’s, and leader of the Nordic literacy project NORDWRITE, and the associated Norwegian national literacy project DEVEL: DEVELoping Written Language Competence. He has published extensively in Norway, Scandinavia and internationally in the fields of applied linguistics and writing research. At present he leads the project ICT BABEL which is part of the larger interdisciplinary research program ICC: Information, Communication and Competency, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The main tenet of the ICT BABEL project is that successful interdisciplinary communication is a necessary precondition for continuing innovation in knowledge development, and the project focuses on to what degree new information and communication technologies are able to support (or hinder) such communication.

 

His contribution Grounding In Interaction builds on earlier work in grounding and social interactionist theory, and looks at innovation in language use, especially among young people. He opens by asking the semiotically controversial question: “Would signs still be signs without somebody to interpret them?”, and follows up by positioning himself clearly on the ‘no’ side of this long-running epistemological debate. From this starting point he goes on to insist that actual people are a constitutive element of the ‘signhood’ of signs, exemplifying his claim using some interesting materials from an on-going action research project in which he is involved (‘Invisible Teenagers’) which studies how young writers in secondary school learn to argue in written prose. A central tenet of his argument is that innovation in language comes into being first and foremost at the borders of convention. Not only student writing, he argues, but also everyday competent written and spoken discourse stands with “one foot placed firmly in the realm of convention, while the other searches for the border of convention, sometimes crossing it,”. In doing so there is a  transgression of conventional norms, which creates a virtual space with a potential for innovation in language, and thus also in thought and action. He ends with a series of interesting reflections on the notions of language and genre, also in scientific discourse, noting that they cannot be construed as static objects, but are dynamic and flexible resources that develop and change through use in immediate interaction. Linguistic and genre convention in such a context must be seen as a resource with a potential for continuing growth and development and not a straitjacket.

 



[i] Lars Sigfred Evensen’s faculty homepage is at: http://www.hf.ntnu.no/hf/isk/Ansatte/lars.evensen/personInfo.html, and he may be contacted by e-mail at: <lars.evensen@hf.ntnu.no>

 


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