Note that this particular corner of the site is constantly being revised.End of the present round of works: April 2006. Delays possible.
Most recent update 03/20/2006 21:09:27
What is meant by "discourse analysis"?
One starting point is the following quotation from M. Stubbs' textbook (Stubbs1983:1), in which discourse analysis is defined as (a) concerned with language
beyond the boundaries of a sentence/utterance, (b) concerned with theinterrelationships between language and society and (c) as concerned with theinteractive or dialogic properties of everyday communication.
The term discourse analysis is very ambiguous. I will use it in this book to refer mainly to thelinguistic analysis of
naturally occurring connected speech or written discourse
. Roughlyspeaking, it refers to attempts to study the organisation of language above the sentence or abovethe 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
or dialogue between speakers.
Discourse analysis does not presuppose a bias towards the study of either spoken or written language. In fact, the monolithic character of the categories of speech andwriting is has been widely challenged, especially as the gaze of analysts turns tomulti-media texts and practices on the Internet. Similarly, one must ultimately objectto the reduction of the discursive to the so-called "outer layer" of language use,although such a reduction reveals quite a lot about how particular versions of thediscursive have been both enabled and bracketed by forms of hierarchical reasoningwhich are specific to the history of linguistics as a discipline (e.g. discourse analysisas a reaction against and as taking enquiry beyond the clause-bound "objects" of grammar and semantics to the level of analysing "utterances", "texts" and "speechevents").Another inroad into the development of a discourse perspective is more radicallyantithetical to the concerns of linguistics "proper". Here the focus is on thesituatedness of language use, as well as its inalienably social and interactive nature -even in the case of written communication. Coming from this end, the sentence/clauseas a primary unit of analysis is dislocated irredeemably and "moving beyond thesentence" becomes a metaphor for a critique of a philological tradition in which thewritten has been reified as paradigmatic of language use in general. In this version,discourse analysis foregrounds language use as social action, language use as situated performance, language use as tied to social relations and identities, power, inequalityand social struggle, language use as essentially a matter of "practices" rather than just"structures", etc. Not surprisingly, there is also a point where discourse analysis as aninroad into understanding the social becomes a theory which is completely detachedfrom an empirical engagement with the analysis of language use. Note that I do notwish to argue against this latter possibility. To do that would mean that one misses out