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Discourse And Discourse Analysis English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 2234 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Discourse is a term becoming increasingly common in a wide range of academic and non-academic contexts. Discourse can be defined variously. Cook (1989: 156) views discourse as “a stretch of language perceived to be meaningful unified and purposive”, whereas Nunan (1993) asserts that discourse means “a stretch of language consisting of several sentences which are perceived as related in some way”.

Kress (1985) defines discourse as “Systematically organized sets of statements which give expression to the meanings and values of and institution”. Similarly, Parker (1992) views discourse as “interrelated set of texts, and the practice of their production, dissemination, and reception, that bring and option into being”

Discourse analysis is a broad and complex interdisciplinary field as Brown and Yule (1983) explain that the term has focused on different aspects for different disciplines.

According to Schiffrin (1994: 1), discourse analysis is “a rapidly growing and evolving field” and “widely recognized as one of the most vast, but also one of the least defined, areas in linguistics” (p.5).

Fairclough has distinguished discourse into two primary senses; discourse as social action and interaction (predominant in language studies), and discourse as a social construction of reality (predominant in post- structuralism social theory) (1995, 18).

Slembrouck (2005:1) provides a broad definition that the term discourse analysis refers mainly to the linguistic analysis of naturally occurring connected speech or written discourse.

2.1.1 Approaches (Theories)


a) Discourse: Language above the sentence

Structuralist (or formalist) viewed discourse as a particular unit of language. It is “language above the sentence or above the clause” (Stubbs, 1983: 1). In many structural approaches, discourse is viewed as a level of structure higher than the sentence or higher than another unit of text.

In accordance with McCarthy (1991), discourse analysis is a vast area within linguistics, encompassing as it does the analysis of spoken and written language over and above concerns such as the structure of the clause or sentence.

Discourse analysis is interested in ascertaining the constructive effects of discourse through the structure and systematic study of texts (Hardy,2001 in Phillips and Hardy,2002).

Harris (1951,1952), the first linguist to use the term discourse analysis, views discourse as the next level in a hierarchy of morphemes, clauses and sentences. However, this view has been criticized by some researchers arguing that the units used by people in their speech can not always be categorized as sentences, or grammatically correct sentences. People generally produce units that have a semantic and an intonational closure, but not necessarily a syntactic one.

b) Discourse: Language use (add from file “sample)

Functionalist defined the study of discourse as “the study of any aspect of language use” (Fasold, 1990: 65). This is consistent with Brown and Yule (1983), stating that “the analysis of discourse is necessarily the analysis of language in use”. They relate the analysis of language use to the analysis of purposes and functions of language in human life which cannot be separated. Their major concern is to examine how any language produced by man is used to communicate for a purpose in a context which can turn out into a more general and broader analysis of language functions. OK

Coulthard (1977: 7) argues that “discourse does not consist simply of grammatically well-formed utterances or sentences.” This view is supported by Labov (1972) claiming that discourse analysis must be concerned with the functional use of language (cited in Coulthard1977). OK

c) Discourse: Utterance

The utterance based approach to discourse analysis was proposed by Schiffrin Deborah. She views discourse as “utterance” which was defined as “units of language production (whether spoken or written) that are inherently contextualized”. This approach is the combination between two paradigms; structural and functional.

Schiffrin (1994: 42) argues that “actual analysis of discourse reveal an interdependence between structure and function”. Though, an analysis of language tent to be theoretically oriented toward either one of them, it practically ends up with both views.

She suggests that the appropriate approach to discourse analysis is “to examine structure in the light of functional requirement and function in the light of structural requirement” (Schiffrin, 1988: 361). She also claimes that the combination of the two aspects of analyses may balance the drawbacks of one mode of analysis with the advantages of another.

Slembrouck supports this notion that discourse analysis refers to attempts to study the organisation of language above the sentence or above the clause, and therefore to study larger linguistic units, such as conversational exchanges or written texts. It follows that discourse analysis is also concerned with language use in social contexts, and in particular with interaction or dialogue between speakers. (2005:1)

Thus, defining discourse as utterance seems to be balance both the functional emphasis on how language is used in context and the formal emphasis on extended patterns (Schiffrin: 40).

2.1.2 Text and Context in Discourse Analysis

According to Schiffrin (1998: 363), text is “the linguistic contents: the stable semantic meanings of words, expressions, and sentences.” However, they are not inferred upon the context in which those elements of language are used.

Nunan(1993:6) viewed text as “any written record of a communicative event” which is distinc from “discourse” that refer to the interpretation of the communicative event in context.

Text may take a variety of forms, including written texts, spoken word, pictures, symbols, artifacts, and so forth (Grant, Keenoy,& Oswick,1998 in Phillips and Hardy,2002). Fairclough (1995) also uses the word “text” for both spoken and written language such as a newspaper article, a transcription of a broadcast and visual images and sound effects of television”

Texts are not meaningful individually; it is only through their interconnection with other texts, the different discourse in which they draw, and the nature of their production, dissemination, and consumption that they are made meaningful.

Discourse Analysis explores how texts are made meaningful through these processes and also how they contribute to the constitution of social reality by making meaning (Phillips & Brown).

Context is a world filled with people producing utterance. The people here refer to one with “social, cultural, and personal identities, knowledge, beliefs, goals and wants, and who interact with one another in various socially and culturally defined situations.”

While Brown and Yule (1983: 6) see discourse as language in use, and refer to “instrument of communication in context” they viewed text as a technical term which means “the verbal record of a communicative act”.

From these aspects above, we can assume that discourse is much related to contexts. However, the clear distinction between structural and functional approaches is their view of text in relation to context. Structural definitions focus upon text while functional definitions emphasize on context. Vandijk (1985: 4) claimes that Structural view disregard “the functions relation with the context of which discourse is a part.” Basically, the two approaches make different assumption about the nature of language and the linguistic goals as well.

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To distinguish descriptions between decontextualised data and contextualised data, Widowson (1973) suggests several pairs of terms, for examples, usage/use, sentence/ utterance, and text/discourse. Grammarians are concerned with rules of usage which are exemplified in sentences; discourse analysts with rules of use which describe how utterances perform social acts “a sentence is an instance of usage in so far as it is discoverable in an utterance, but in so far as that utterance makes a statement of a particular kind it is an instance of use.” (Widdowson,1973 quoted in Coulthard,1977)

Discourse Analysis is concerned with the study of the relationship between language and the contexts in which it is used. (McCarthy 1991)

According to Levinson (1983: 18), “… an utterance is the issuance of a sentence, a sentence analogue, or sentence fragment, in an actual context.” Utterance are basically produced, interpreted and understood by language users actively engaged in verbal interactions in authentic contexts. Malinowski (1923: 307) supports this notion and stresses that an utterance has no meaning except in a ‘context of situation’. As such, in order to understand the meaning of utterance, it is necessary to understand the socio-cultural context in which it is embedded.

Similarly, Bilmes (1986: 127) claims that “the meaning of an utterance is determined in large part by how it respond and how it is responded to, by its place in an interactional sequence”, namely, a context of use. Context is more than a matter of reference and of understanding what things are about. It gives our utterances their deeper meaning. A context is dynamic; it is an environment that is in steady development, prompted by the continuous interaction of the people engaged in language use. However, such a development cannot be predicted, as it depends entirely on the individuals and their choices at every moment (Mey, 1993: 9-10).

2.1.3 Spoken and Written Discourse

The distinction between spoken and written discourse is primarily referred to a difference of mode or channel of communication, in that spoken discourse utilizes sound or the transmitting medium of ‘phonic substance’ and written discourse is visual with graphic substance. Speaking and writing involve different psychological processes and becomes more complex when they are distinguished in terms of linguistic or discoursal features. They are grammatically, lexically, structurally and even functionally different.

Spoken discourse is regarded as typically transient and time-bound that has to be understood immediately. It happens in time and must be therefore produced and processed ‘on line’. There is no going back and changing or restructuring our words as there is in writing (Cook, 1989: 115) while written is permanent and retrievable.

Coulthard (1977, 6) asserted that there are at least four main levels to organize any spoken text; phonology, grammar, discourse and non-linguistic.

2.1.4 Media Discourse

Colleen Cotter (in Schiffrin, 2003: 416) asserts that “the discourse of the news media encapsulates two key components: the news story, or spoken or written text; and the process involved in producing the texts.” This statement shows that media discourse can be studied in terms of the texts itself, and also in terms of the process involved in the texts production. He views the text as the main focus of most media researchers, specifically when it encodes values and ideologies which effect on the larger world. He clarifies that the process, the second dimension, includes “the norms and routines of the community of news practitioners.” OK

Accordingly, Fairclough’s (1995:16) view on the language analysis of media is that “we need to analyse media language as discourse, and the linguistic analysis of media should be part of the discourse analysis of media.” He affirms that discourse analysis is concerned with both texts and practices. Fairclough explains the meaning of discourse practices as how texts are produced by media institutions; received by audiences; and socially distributed. His view of texts, in accordance with Cotter, includes both spoken and written language. Further, Cotter suggests three basic approaches to the study of media discourse that are 1) discourse analytic, 2) sociolinguistic, and 3) nonlinguistic. OK

Bell (2005) has argued that over the next decade or so the decline of the print media will continue as more people turn to the internet for news and journalism. She stated that: ‘it is clear to me that the future of written journalism lies more in electronic distribution than it does with the print page’ (Bell, 2005: 45).One of the challenges she suggests is how newspaper adapt to the migration of readers going online in search of news. It is also clear that sport news and journalism will continue to be an important aspect of this news online news ecology.

Generally sport pieces written for the web appear to be shorter in length than those found in newspaper. We can also see a lot of sport-related material and fans websites generating considerable amounts of information, content and comment. OK


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