discourse analysis

The second chapter addresses the relationship between discourse and the world.

Johnstone discusses, for instance, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis using the example of French and Burmese categorization systems. Furthermore, with examples from a novel by Mansfield and a magical chant from Panama, Johnstone addresses the relationship between language and ideology. Introducing Critical Discourse Analysis, she shows how linguistic choices have effects on the presentation of actions, actors, and events, as well as knowledge status, and what influences choices in naming and wording, as well as the incorporation and representation of other voices, may have. Johnstone then presents a discussion of ideologies of language (the conduit metaphor, for instance). The chapter concludes with a discussion of the role of silence in ideology analysis, as it is particularly evident in translation.

The material to be analysed in the discussion questions is usually very interesting and highly motivating. Sometimes, however, the information necessary to solve a task is presented very briefly in the question itself, and often not in sufficient detail that a question could really be solved on the basis of the information previously presented. Some questions are so difficult to solve that inexperienced readers, if left alone with them, could be left with the impression that linguistics is just too difficult for them. Johnstone writes regarding the different levels of difficulty of the discussion questions: "Students and instructors are meant to develop a system for choosing among them" (xii). This indeed seems necessary.

The first chapter presents a short definition of 'discourse' ("actual instances of communication in the medium of language" (2), as well as "conventional ways of talking that both create and are created by conventional ways of thinking" (3)) and 'analysis', followed by the above mentioned presentation of discourse analysis as a heuristic comprising the six problem areas. The chapter continues with a brief, exemplary, analysis of some texts related to an exhibition of 'The Splendors of Ancient Egypt', which is meant as an introduction to the six problem areas and which is promising, entertaining, and motivating. We find then a short discussion of the data of discourse analysis, transcription issues and the distinction between descriptive and critical goals of analysis.

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