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What Is Double Discourse?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Double discourse basically refers to two different forms of communication or expressions that are occurring simultaneously. This can happen in a number of different ways, though most simply it may be presented by a group of individuals in which two conversations are occurring within the group simultaneously. On a larger scale, double discourse can also occur at social and political levels, as an individual or group may seem to make two different and potentially contradictory statements at the same time. In literature and written works, this term can also refer to a sentence or phrase that refers to two different ideas at once.

Typically, discourse of any kind indicates communication and the expression of various thoughts and ideas between two or more people. Double discourse is an act or event in which two different forms of conversation or communication are occurring at the same time. At a party, for example, a group of six people might be gathered together and talking amongst each other. Four of the people within this group may be discussing one idea, while the other two people who are still part of the group are talking about something else. In this event, the group is engaging in double discourse and some members of it may follow both conversations at once.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

There are also social and political ramifications behind the idea of double discourse, especially as it relates to public opinion and the agendas of various organizations. A politician, for example, might represent a constituency that is strongly in favor of one position, while being sponsored by a group against that position. In order to appease both groups of people, the politician might engage in double discourse. In doing so, both sides of an issue may seem to be represented by the politician, which can ultimately result in loss of support from both of them.

Double discourse can also occur in writing and literary works, which is important for anyone critically reading or reviewing such pieces. A writer may, for example, write out one sentence that seems to express a particular idea. Upon closer reading and critical consideration of the language used in the sentence, however, a reader may determine that the initial concept was intended ironically and that a secondary meaning should be taken from the sentence. Such double discourse is often used to provide readers with greater meaning from a seemingly simple sentence. This can be used to expand upon established ideas in a written work or to provide greater depth for characters within it.

Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- Yes, double discourse can be irony.

There are different types of irony. Generally, irony means that something turns out different than what we expected. But there are sub-categories such as comic irony or socratic irony.

Sarcasm is a type of socratic irony and it's also double discourse. When we make a sarcastic statement, we say one thing but we mean something else. Usually, sarcasm is when we pretend not to know something that we actually know.

Does this make sense or did I confuse you further? Can anyone else explain better?


Is double discourse in writing the same as irony then?


I find it very irritating when politicians engage in double discourse. When I vote and support for a candidate or politician, I expect him to stand his ground in regards to a particular issue. When I see politicians making contradictory statements from one day to the next, or when I see politicians changing their position on issues very quickly, I lose my faith in politics. I see it as hypocrisy and I do not support such politicians even if I supported them in the past. Double discourse in politics seems very dishonest to me.

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