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Introduction to

Discourse Analysis
Jonathan V. Gochuico, Ph.D.
Associate Professor 5

What is discourse?
language above the sentence or above the clause
a continuous stretch of spoken language larger than a
sentence, often constituting a coherent unit
a stretch of language perceived to be meaningful unified, and
purposive; language in use
(viewed) as social practice determined by social structures

Definitions of Discourse
A particular unit of language (above the sentence), or
discourse in structure;
A particular focus on language use, discourse as function.

Discourse as structure
Problem: you can have a unit which looks like a sentence but doesnt mean anything

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

Discourse as structure
On the other hand the units in which people speak do not always look like

Bow Chica Bow Wow

That's what my baby said
Bow Bow Bow
And my heart starts pumpin'
Chicka Chicka Chew-Op
Never Gunna Stop
Gitchi Gitchi Goo Means That I love

Discourse as a System of functions

Phatic function (opens a contact)
Emotive function (conveys the need of the speaker)
Conative function (asks something of the addressee)
Referential function (makes reference to the world
outside the language)

Definition of Discourse

Discourse written and spoken



Types of Discourse
There are many ways to classify discourse:
According to whether it is written or spoken
According to the register (level of formality)
According to the genre (communicative purpose, style,
According to whether it is monologic (one speaker/writer
produces an entire discourse)/ or dialogic/ multiparty
(two/more participants interact/ construct discourse together).

Distinction between Written and Spoken


The distinction between speech and

writing is often referred to as
channel (D. Hymes) or medium as
speaking and writing involve
different psychological processes.

Distinction between Written and Spoken


Spoken and written discourse differ for many

reasons. Spoken discourse has to be
understood immediately; written discourse
can be referred to many times

Distinction between Written and Spoken

Features of spoken discourse:

Variations in speed, but it is generally faster than


Distinction between Written and Spoken


Spoken discourse:
Gestures/ Body language
Pitch range
Pausing and phrasing:

Objects of discourse
Discourse refers to any utterance which is
meaningful. These texts can be:
- written texts
- oral texts (speech/talk)
- mixed written/oral texts (e.g. Internet chat)

The scope of discourse analysis

Discourse analysis is not a discipline which exists on its own. It
is influenced by other disciplines and influences them as well. It
is a two-way process
For this reason discourse analysis examines spoken and written
texts from all sorts of different areas (medical, legal,
advertising) and from all sorts of perspectives (race, gender,
Discourse analysis has a number of practical applications - for
example in analysing communication problems in medicine,
psychotherapy, education, in analysing written style etc.

Influences on discourse analysis


other nonlinguistic


Discourse Analysis

other linguistic


Structural and functional definitions of discourse

Structural or textual definition of discourse:
Discourse is a particular unit of language (above the
Functional definition of discourse: Discourse is a particular
focus of language use.

Functional approach to discourse

Roman Jakobson: language performs seven functions:

Expressive or Emotive
Directive/ Conative/ Persuasive
Contact (Physical or Psychological);
Metalinguistic (Focusing on meaning);
Contextual/ Situational

Recent approach to DA
Discourse is no longer studies for its own sake. Discourse is viewed as
a social practice.
M. Foucault, N. Fairclough

Discourse is characterised as:

produced/consumed/monitored by social actors
(producers/receivers of social practices);
shaped by social structures;
with social implications;
socially valued and regulated (production, reception and

Approaches to Discourse
Deborah Schiffrin Approaches to Discourse(1994) singles
out 6 major approaches to discourse:
the speech act approach;
interactional sociolinguistics;
the ethnography of communication;
pragmatic approach;
conversation analysis;
variationist approach.

Approaches to Discourse (1)

The Speech Act Approach

Founders of the speech act theory: John Austin & John Searle.
There are different types of speech acts:
e.g. speak louder (directive)

Oxford Street is a shoppers paradise (assertive)

Although speech act theory was not first developed as a means of
analyzing discourse, particular issues in speech act theory (indirect
speech acts, multiple functions of utterances) led to discourse analysis

Speech Acts
Austin (1962)
An utterance in dialogue is an ACTION
Speech acts
Performative sentences uttered by an authority
(they change the state of the world)

Any sentence in real speech contains

Locutionary act
Illocutionary act
Perlocutionary act

Speech Acts
Searle (1975)
All speech acts classified as


suggesting, boasting, concluding, etc.

asking, ordering, inviting, etc.
promising, planning, vowing, etc.
thanking, apologizing, deploring, etc.
performatives (state-changing)

Speech act theory

Each speech act consists of 3 components:
Locutionary act (the actual words which the speaker is saying);
Illocutionary act (the intention of the speaker);
Perlocutionary act (the effect of the utterance on the hearer).
Example 3
(From "Sense and Sensibility")

Wait, he is kneeling down.

Speech act theory

Compare Austins classification with other classification of speech acts
Conclusions for DA:
speech act theory is concerned with what people do with language or it is
concerned with the function of language.;
a piece of discourse (what is said) is chunked/segmented into units that
have communicative functions,;
these function are identified and labelled;
different speech acts initiate and respond to other acts. Acts to a certain
degree specify what kind of response is expected;
they create options for a next utterance each time they are performed;
An utterance can perform more than one speech act at a time ;
there is more than one option of responses for a next utterance;
Deborah Schiffrin: this flexibility has an important analytical consequence:
it means that a single sequence of utterances may actually be the outcome
of a fairly wide range of different underlying functional relations.

Approaches to Discourse (2)

Interactional sociolinguistics
Represents the combination of three disciplines: anthropology,
sociology, and linguistics.
Focuses on how people from different cultures may share
grammatical knowledge of a language but contextualize what
is said differently to produce different messages.
e.g. yeah, bring them down here. Ill flog them for you
(Australian English)

Approaches to Discourse (3)

The ethnography of communication

The way we communicate depends a lot on

the culture we come from.

Men - Women
Asians - Westerners
Teachers - Students

Approaches to Discourse (4)


H. P. Grice: the cooperative principle and

conversational maxims.
People interact by using minimal assumptions
about one another.


Based primarily on the ideas of Paul Grice:

People interact having minimal assumptions (implicatures) about one another;
Two types of implicatures: conventional and conversational;
Conventional implicatures do not require any particular context in order to be
understood (or inferred);

Conversational implicatures are context dependant. What is implied varies

according to the context of an utterance.

To explain HOW we interpret implicatures Grice introduced the
Cooperative Principal:
Make your contribution such as required, at the stage at which it
occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in
which you are engaged.

There are four conversational maxims which help us to realize the implicit
meaning if an utterance:
Maxim of Quantity:
Make your contributions as informative as required (for the current purposes of
the exchange). Do not make your contribution more informative than required.
Maxim of Quality:
Do not say what you believe to be false. Do not say something if you lack
adequate evidence.


Maxim of Relation:
Be relative.

Maxim of Manner:
Be perspicuous (or express your ideas clearly)
Avoid obscurity of expressions (= do not use expressions which are not clear or easy to
Avoid ambiguity (= presence of more than one meaning);
Be brief (avoid unnecessary usage of too many words);
Be orderly.

The contribution of Gricean pragmatics to DA is a set of principles
that constrains speakers sequential choices in a text and allows
hearers to recognize speakers intentions.

Approaches to Discourse (5)

Conversation analysis
e.g. A: This is Mr. Smith may I help you

B: I cant hear you

A: This is Mr. Smith

B: Smith.

Conversational analysis is particularly interested in

the sequencing of utterances, i.e. not in what
people say but in how they say it

Summary of approaches to discourse

Approaches to Studying Discourse

Focus of Research

Research Question



Sequences of talk

Why say that at that



Structural categories within


Why that form?

Speech Acts

Communicative acts

How to do things with


Ethnography of

Communication as cultural

How does discourse

reflect culture?


Social and linguistic meanings

created during communication

What are they doing?


Meaning in interaction

What does the speaker



Discourse Analysis Online.
Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse. London: Routledge.
Fromkin, Rodman, and Hymes. (2010). Introduction to linguistics. Manila,
Philippines: Cengage.