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resembles the alternating lines of a dialogue (Volosinov, 1973). According to Wittgenstein thinking is not a hidden, unobservable and quiet process, taking place in peoples’ heads (in Billig, 1999). This is not a new idea of our time. In Plato’s dialogue, The Sophist, he asserted that ‘thought and language are the same; only the former, which is the silent conversation of the soul with itself, has been given the special name of thought’ (in Billig 1999, p. 46). Even when you are thinking by yourself, the way you speak to yourself is affected and determined by the ones you imagine you speak to, Bakhtin explains (1981, 1984). Billig (1996) expands on this by claiming that thinking is a kind of inner argumentation modelled after the outer dialogue. In this way our ‘inner attitudes’ become rhetorical attitudes where we justify and criticize ourselves and others in a continuous inner rhetoric activity.

4.4.7. From inner to outer conversations According to Vygotsky (1986) there are still differences between inner and outer dialogues. In our inner dialogues we take many things for granted. Many abbreviations and condensations take place in inner conversations. For example it is not necessary to explain the context in the same way as in an outer dialogue, we take it for granted that we understand ourselves. The sense of different words flow into one another and literally ’influence’ one another, so that earlier ones are contained in, and modify the later ones. “One word stands for a number of thoughts and feelings, and sometimes substitutes for a long and profound discourse”, (Vygotsky 1976, p. 248). A single word is so saturated with sense that to unfold it into outer speech, one would need a multitude of words.

When thoughts, inner dialogues, are to be externalised into outer utterances we have to make them sensible to others and we have to make many choices. Hence the outer conversation will almost never be the same as we imagined it would turn out in our inner conversation. This transformation between thought and word is, according to Vygotsky, not a thing but a process. It is a continuous movement back and forth, from thought to word and from word to thought. In the course of this process changes will occur both in thought and word, ‘thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them’ (Vygotsky, 1976, p. 218).

Billig (1999) points out that it would be wrong to assume that every utterance is an outer sign of thought processes. Sometimes the course of a conversation runs so fast that it is impossible to prepare for what to say next. ’Often we hear ourselves saying something in response, only


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