M19 206 individual work theme: The Status of Discourse Analysis Supervisor: Prof. Azad Mammadostrreplu- 2020

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Individual Work.Discourse


Subject: Discourse Analysis

Fatiyeva Saadet Samir

(M19 - 206)


Theme: The Status of Discourse Analysis

Supervisor: Prof. Azad Mammadov

B a k u- 2020

Etymologically, the word ‘discourse’ dates back to the 14th century. It is taken from the Latin word ‘discursus’ which means a ‘conversation’ (McArthur, 1996). In its current usage, this term conveys a number of significations for a variety of purposes, but in all cases it relates to language, and it describes it in some way. To start with, discourse is literally defined as ‘a serious speech or piece of writing on a particular subject’ (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 2001, p.388). In this general sense, it incorporates both the spoken and written modes although, at times, it is confined to speech being designated as ‘a serious conversation between people’ (ibid). This restriction is also implied in the word when it is used as a verb. Carter (1993) specifies several denotations of the word ‘discourse.’ First, it refers to the topics or types of language used in definite contexts. Here, it is possible to talk of political discourse, philosophical discourse and the like. Second, the word 'discourse' is occasionally employed to stand for what is spoken, while the word ‘text’ is employed to denote what is written. It is important to note, however, that the text/discourse distinction highlighted here is not always sharply defined. Nunan (1993) shows that these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably and in many instances treated differently. Carter (ibid) adds that the 'discourse/text' dichotomy is often correlated with the 'process/product' dichotomy respectively. Third, this word is used to establish a significant contrast with the traditional notion of ‘sentence’, the ‘highest’ unit of language analysis: discourse refers to any naturally occurring stretch of language. In this connection, Trask (1999) clarifies that a discourse is not confined to one speaker or writer, but it can embrace the oral or written exchanges produced by two or more people. It is this last sense of the term that constitutes the cornerstone of the approach known as Discourse Analysis. Despite that discourse is defined as a chunk that surpasses the sentence, not all chunks of language can fall within the scope of this definition. In fact, what characterizes discourse is obviously not its supra-sentential nature as much as the entirety it has_ its coherence. To be more explicit, discourse is a complete meaningful unit conveying a complete message (Nunan, 1993). The nature of this whole cannot be perceived by examining its constituent parts, ‘there are structured relationships among the parts that result in something new’ (Schiffrin, 2006, p.171). In the light of this, larger units such as paragraphs, conversations and interviews all seem to fall under the rubric of ‘discourse’ since they are linguistic performances complete in themselves.

The term “discourse” has a variety of meanings both within linguistics and outside of it and, correspondingly, discourse analysis refers to a wide range of analytic methods. In this chapter, we will focus on methods of discourse analysis that are associated with sociocultural linguistics, “a broad interdisciplinary field ... encompassing the subfields of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, among others” (Bucholtz and Hall 2005: 586). Given our emphasis on socially oriented approaches to discourse analysis, following Schiffrin (1994: 415) we define discourse as language embedded in social interaction – that is, unlike approaches to discourse that conceptualize it as a linguistic unit commensurate with (but larger than) a sentence or a morpheme, we regard discourse as fundamentally different from these other kinds of linguistic units. Under a formalist definition of discourse, for example, the organization of words into sentences is regarded as equivalent to the organization of sentences into discourse (see Kamp and Reyle 1993 and Lambrecht 1994 for more on the treatment of discourse from a formal perspective). Yet, as both Schiffrin (1994) and Cameron (2001) have pointed out, the process of determining whether a string of words constitutes a grammatical sentence or not relies upon linguistic knowledge, in contrast to the process of imposing coherence on a string of sentences (i.e., interpreting them as a discourse), which involves, for the most part, the mobilization of non-linguistic and contextual knowledge. Put another way, “discourse is not amenable to a ‘pure’ formalist analysis” (Cameron 2001: 13) in the way that other kinds of linguistic units are.

Outside of linguistics, scholars in the humanities and social sciences, influenced by the work of Foucault, have also been interested in “discourse,” to the extent that discourse constructs and constitutes social realities. For Foucault, power is exercised through discourses of knowledge (e.g., the discourses of the social sciences, of the medical sciences), which function to define and categorize, and, in turn, to regulate and control the objects of their expertise – that is, social identities and social practices are “brought into being” as a result of socially and historically we thank the two editors of this volume and an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments on a previous draft of this chapter. In particular, we are grateful to Rob Podesva, who helped us enormously in making the revisions to our chapter. Contingent domains of knowledge, what Foucault calls “discourses.” While Foucault’s work has stimulated an enormous interest in “discourse analysis” among scholars in the humanities and social sciences, Foucauldian discourse analysis does not generally involve the close analysis of texts (Fairclough and Wodak 1997; Bucholtz 2003) and, in fact, does not necessarily involve the analysis of language. A distinction can be drawn, then, between sociocultural linguists, who engage in the detailed analysis of discourse, and scholars in the humanities and social sciences, for whom the notion of discourse is much more abstract. However, this is not to say that linguistically oriented discourse analysts are uninterested in discourse in a Foucauldian sense. On the contrary, discourse analysts from a variety of traditions (e.g., critical discourse analysis) attempt to show how the nitty-gritty details of socially situated linguistic interactions can be constitutive of social identities and social practices. In the remainder of this chapter, we describe and exemplify, with sample analyses, three approaches to discourse analysis: conversation analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, and critical discourse analysis.

1 We chose these three approaches because they capture the breadth of the field, ranging from the details of talk (a focus of conversation analysis) to the ideologies that underlie them (a focus of critical discourse analysis).

2 In organizing our discussion according to analytic method, we may inadvertently give the impression that practitioners of discourse analysis always employ a single, internally consistent method, and, moreover, that our own analyses adhere strictly to the method being exemplified.

Neither of these propositions is completely accurate. There are many examples in the literature of discourse analysts adopting an eclectic approach to their data – that is, using a variety of methods in order to best answer their research questions.

3. As Bucholtz (2011: 37–8) remarks, for at least some discourse analysts, the choice of analytic method(s) is driven more by the analysts’ research questions and less by their commitment to a particular kind of analysis.

To embark on defining discourse analysis (henceforth DA), one would inevitably tackle two divergent approaches to language in general and discourse in particular: the formal approach and the functional approach. Schiffrin (ibid) combines both approaches when designating DA as ‘the study of language use above and beyond the sentence’ (p.170). The first trend in defining DA is a formal or structural trend. In this paradigm, DA is seen as the exploration of language use by focusing on pieces larger than sentences. Schiffrin (1994) elucidates that discourse is merely a higher level in the hierarchy: morpheme, clause and sentence (as stated originally by Zellig Harris in his first reference to DA); she also explains that the pursuit of DA is to depict the internal structural relationships that tie the units of discourse to each other: to describe formal connectedness within it.

The second trend is functional in perspective: it is not so much concerned with intra-sentential relations as much as with language use. Brown and Yule's (1983) conception seems to be compatible with this paradigm: The analysis of discourse is, necessarily, the analysis of language in use. As such, it cannot be restricted to the description of linguistic forms independent of the purposes or functions which these forms are designed to serve in human affairs. (p.1) The focus in this conception is on the regularities which utterances show when situated in contexts. Thus, it is obvious that the aspects of the world in which an utterance is used can also contribute to the meaningfulness of discourse. Van Els et al. (1984), in this respect, argue that ‘the study of language in context will offer a deeper insight into how meaning is attached to utterances than the study of language in isolated sentences’ (p.94)

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