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Recontextualisation is a process that extracts text, signs or meaning from its original context (decontextualisation) in order to introduce it into another context. Since the meaning of texts and signs depend on their context, recontextualisation implies a change of meaning, and often of the communicative purpose too. The linguist Per Linell defines recontextualisation as:

the dynamic transfer-and-transformation of something from one discourse/text-in-context ... to another.[1]

Linell distinguishes between recontextualisation at three different levels:

  • intratextual: recontextualisation within the same text, discourse or conversation. Intratextual recontextualisation plays an important part in most discourse in so far as it refers to what have been said before, or anticipates what is to be said. In conversation, for instance, the one part usually infuses what the other part just – or earlier – has said in a new context thus adding new meaning to it. Such turns of decontextualisation and recontextualisation combined with metadiscursive regulation are crucial for the continual unfolding of texts, discourses and conversations.[2]
  • intertextual: recontextualisation relations to specific texts, discourses or conversations. It is an important aspect of texts that they explicitly or implicitly fetch elements from other texts. The importance of this becomes clear when it is realised the meaning of a word is based on its meaning in other contexts; it could be an encyclopaedia, but more often its meaning stems from contexts in which it is used.
  • interdiscursive: recontextualisation between types of discourse, such as genres. In Fairclough, chains of genres is closely connected to interdiscursive recontextualisation. Chains of genres denotes how genres depend on each other's discursive material, e.g. the relation between interviews, transcription of interviews and the analysis of interviews. However, interdiscursive recontextualisation is also abundant between large interdiscursive entities or formation and is part of society's discursive workshare. An example is the import of results from statistic theory into social science with the purpose of testing quantitative analyses.

Though recontextualisation often is used within linguistics, it also has interdisciplinary applications. Particularly, in Basil Bernstein's concept of the pedagogic device that consists of three fields: the fields of production, recontextualisation and reproduction. The field of reproduction is the field of schooling institutions. The field of production is the field, where knowledge is produced (often universities). The field of recontextualisation mediates between these two fields. The recontextualisation field "is composed of two sub-fields; namely, the official recontextualising field (ORF) and the pedagogic recontextualising field (PRF). The ORF consists of 'specialized departments and sub-agencies of the State and local educational authorities'. The PRF consists of university departments of education, their research as well as specialised educational media.

Rhetorical scholar John Oddo argues that recontextualization has a future-oriented counterpoint, which he dubs "precontextualization".[3] According to Oddo, precontextualization is a form of anticipatory intertextuality wherein "a text introduces and predicts elements of a symbolic event that is yet to unfold."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Linell 1998: 154
  2. ^ Blommaert 2005: 47-48
  3. ^ Oddo 2013; 2014
  4. ^ Oddo 2014: 78.


  • Attenborough, F. T. (2014). "Jokes, pranks, blondes and banter: recontextualising sexism in the British print press". Journal of Gender Studies. 23 (3): 137–154. doi:10.1080/09589236.2013.774269.
  • Bernstein, Basil (1990). "The Social Construction of Pedagogic Discourse". Class, Codes and Control. IV.
  • Blommaert, Jan (2005). Discourse – a critical introduction. Key Topics in Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521535311.
  • Fairclough, Norman (2003). Analysing Discourse – textual research for social research. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415258937.
  • Linell, Per (1998). Approaching Dialogue. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/impact.3. ISBN 9789027218339.
  • Oddo, John (2013). "Precontextualization and the Rhetoric of Futurity: Foretelling Colin Powell's U.N. Address on NBC News". Discourse & Communication. 7 (1): 25–53. doi:10.1177/1750481312466480.
  • Oddo, John (2014). Intertextuality and the 24-Hour News Cycle: A Day in the Rhetorical Life of Colin Powell's U.N. Address. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 978-1611861402.