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 Language in use, which is used to
communicate and is felt to be coherent is
called discourse.
Discourse can be defined as a stretch of
language consisting of several sentences
which are perceived as being related, not only
in terms of ideas, but also in terms of the jobs
they perform.( function)
Discourse is fundamentally concerned with the
relationship between language and the contexts of
its use.
Discourse is a text forming device. It studies
how language can be made coherent and
Definition of Discourse
‘a continuous stretch of language larger than a
sentence, often constituting a coherent unit,
such as sermon, argument, joke or narrative.’
Cook (1989) defines discourse as stretches of
language perceived to be meaningful, unified
and purposive.
In the study of language, discourse often refers
to the speech patterns and usage of language,
dialects, and acceptable statements, within a
community. It is a subject of study in people
who live in secluded areas and share similar
speech conventions.
The term discourse is used to describe the
Language helps us communicate.
Communication takes place with the help of
symbols, signs, words or body language.
Language is a code or a system which has a
lot of signals being transmitted through a
medium by a sender to a receiver. This
system is governed by a set of rules.
Along with the set of rules there are some
social features that govern the use of
language. Context and cultural influences also
affect language in use.
Discourse studies the relation between the
form and function of language.e.g Do I have
To understand discourse we must look at the
distinction that Ferdinand De Sassure made
between langue and parole

the collective social usage of language. a

set of produced
knowledge. The system statements. It is physical
& can be used
that enables people to differently according
to the situation.
speak. It is abstract.
Based on this distinction we see that discourse
includes the usage of language by conveying
messages based on the abstract knowledge i.e.
making langue as its frame work.
Discourse may not always conform to grammatical
Discourse is how language is written or
spoken? What is the meaning of language?
Which words to emphasize?
Discourse analyses the meaning of
language. it looks at language from a social
and political perspective. E.g. 1857, there are
different points of view of the same event.
We choose our words and language
according to the genre( it is the mode or the
kind of discourse used for exchanging ideas).
Text is a piece of naturally occurring spoken
or written discourse, identified for the
purpose of analysis. Text is language form. It
is how language ought to be written. Text
consists of alphabets, words, sentences etc.
Text vs Discourse
The terms text and discourse are
Some linguists are of the view that discourse
is language in action, while a text is the
written record of that interaction. So,
discourse brings together the language, the
speaker/writer, and the context.
Many linguists prefer to use the term text for
all recorded instances of language in use.
We may refer to text as any written record of
a communicative event. ( oral or written)
And refer to discourse as the interpretation
of the communicative event in a context.
Features of Textuality:Coherence &
Cohesion - grammatical relationship between
parts of a sentence essential for its interpretation;
Coherence - the order of statements relates one
another by sense.
The quality of being meaningful and unified is
known as coherence(everything fitting
together well). It is a necessary quality for
Coherence is not completely conveyed with or
encoded in the text. It also includes how people
make sense of what they read and write. They try
to arrive at an interpretation that is in line with
their experience of the way the world is.
Coherence is constructed by the writer andre-
constructed by the user.

A: That’s the telephone
B: I’m in the bath
A: O.K.
How do both the speakers manage to make sense
of what the other says?
 The 1st speaker makes a request for the 2nd speaker to
perform action.
 The 2nd speaker states reason why he cannot comply with
the request.
 The 1st speaker undertakes to perform the action.
Thus language users must have a lot of
knowledge of how conversation works that is not
Coherent texts are sequences or utterances which
seem to ‘hang together”– as they contain text
forming devices e.g. words & phrases which
Cohesion designates the "glue" which holds
the propositions of a text together. It refers to
ties or connections within texts. It is visible on
the surface of texts.
Cohesion is established by grammatical
relationship within a text or sentence.
It can be defined as the links that hold a text
together and give it meaning.
Cohesive relationships within a text are set up
where the interpretation of some element in
the discourse is dependent on that of
another.e.g. Wash and peel six apples. Put
them into the oven.
Cohesive Devices
Formal links between sentences and between
clauses are known as cohesive devices.
By and large five types of cohesive devices
are distinguished:
Lexical Cohesion
Reference: the use of words such as pronouns
and articles, which do not have meanings of their
own if the sentence they are in, is taken out of
context and presented in isolation. To infer their
meaning the reader has to refer them to something
else that appears in the text (Tom: "How do you
like my new Mercedes Vito?" - Marry: "It is a nice
van, which I'm also thinking of buying".).
Sentences connect by means of two types of
Anaphoric references– those that refer a
reader/listener ‘backwards’ to a previously
mentioned point in the text.e.g. it, this.
Cataphoric references– those that point the
reader/listener forward. E.g the man we’ve all been
waiting for, the one and only– Mr Sanders.
Substitution &Ellipsis
Substitution: in order to avoid repeating the
same word several times in one paragraph it is
replaced, most often by one, do or so. So and
do in its all forms might also substitute whole
phrases or clauses (e.g. ‘Tom has created the
best web directory. I told you so long time
Ellipsis: it is very similar to substitution,
however, it replaces a phrase by a gap. In other
words, it is omission of noun, verb, or a clause
on the assumption that it is understood from
the linguistic context. E.g.
A: I like the green hat.
B: I prefer the blue.
Conjunction: specifies the relationship
between clauses, or sentences. Most frequent
relations of sentences are: addition ( and,
moreover e.g. "Moreover, the chocolate
fountains are not just regular fountains, they
are more like rivers full of chocolate and
sweets."), temporality ( afterwards, next e.g.
"He bought her perfume at a local perfume
shop and afterwards moved towards a
jewellery store."),causality ( because,
since),and Adversative --However, on the
other hand.
Lexical Cohesion
Lexical cohesion occurs when two words in a
text are semantically related. It denotes links
between words which carry meaning: verbs,
nouns, adjectives.
Two types of lexical cohesion are differentiated,
namely: reiteration and collocation.
Reiteration adopts various forms, particularly
synonymy, repetition, hyponymy or antonymy.
 Collocation is the way in which certain words
occur together in one text but not in another. We
can say that the background knowledge of the
reader/listener plays an important role in
understanding the text.e.g my neighbour broke
my fence. The scoundrel did it on purpose.
which is why it is easy to make out what will follow
Context means the situation that gives rise
to the discourse. It can also said to include
background knowledge about a particular
discourse or speech event
There are two types of context: linguistic
context– the language that accompanies the
piece of text.
Non-linguistic context--The topic, setting,
channel, message-form, purpose &the type of
communicative event are some important features
of context ( Hymes 1964)
Register also plays an important role in
discourse. Register imposes constraints at the
linguistic level of vocabulary and syntax.
Genre constraints operate at the level of discourse
Schema is a term used for a conventional
knowledge structure that exists in memory. A
number of such structures are called
These are mental representations of typical
These are used in the interpretations of what
we experience.
This can be said to be the background
knowledge that we already have. E.g. a
description of a visit to a super market will no
include details as many of us will already have
a schema for supermarkets, kings– crown, seal
Spoken discourse Written discourse
 Speech occurs at varying
 writing develops in space in
speed, especially one that is
that it needs a means to carry
suitable for the speaker,
the information.
even if it may not be
 The readers are often
appropriate for the listener
unknown, as a result he cannot
and though a request for adjust to readers' specific
repetition is possible, it is expectations.
difficult to imagine a  The writer is able to consider
conversation in which every the content of his work which
sentence is to be rephrased. makes it more coherent,
 talking might be having complex syntax.
spontaneous which results  neat message organization,
in mistakes, repetition, division into paragraphs,
sometimes less coherent layout are of vital importance
to make comprehension easier.
sentences where even
texts might be read at
grunts, stutters or pauses different times and places. the
might be meaningful. organization of tables,
 The speaker usually knows formulas, or charts can be
the listener, or listeners, portrayed only in written form
Spoken discourse
 As interlocutors are most often in face-to-face
encounters (unless using a phone) they take
advantage of extralinguistic signals as grimaces,
gesticulation, expressions such as 'here', 'now', or
'this' are used.
Employment of nonsense vocabulary, slang and
contracted forms (we're, you've) is another feature
of oral discourse.
 Among other significant features of speech there
are rhythm, intonation, speed of uttering.
 What is more important, is the inability to conceal
mistakes made while speaking.
An important feature of spoken discourse is turn-
Patterns in a text
 All types of discourse are structured and
patterned which are hierarchical in nature.
Broadly speaking the following patterns occur
in a text/discourse:
General –specific Patterns: the subject of
the sentences will be related to the topic and
the pattern moves from general to specific.
Cause-Consequence Patterns: these
relationships imply that A causes B or vice
versa. E.g use of because, so, as a result,
show this pattern.
Instrument-Purpose Patterns: Ideas of
purpose and achievement are linked. Phrases
like in order to show reason or purpose of an
Patterns in Discourse
Problem-Solution Patterns: some texts
need or have gained solutions. They follow the
following structure– SITUATION --- PROBLEM---
Predictive Patterns: certain nouns called text
nouns refer to other parts of the text. E.g.
situation, fact, move, problem etc. they can also
be used to predict what will happen next in the
Sets of Expectations: we have expectations of
things that we read/hear about, or that exist in
certain situations.
We also have expectations about the order in
which we will find things. E.g. newspaper.
Discourse is a highly politicized phenomenon.
Studies of discourse investigate the relations
between language, structure and agency.
Discourse is used as a term to describe the
conversations and the meaning behind them by a
group of people who hold certain ideas in common
known as a discourse community.
Words within discourse can express different
viewpoints. The words couch potato has negative
How is discourse a highly
political phenomenon?
What is Discourse Analysis?
What is Critical Discourse