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By Eamon Fulcher
The method of discourse analysis is complex and cannot be properly understood without extensive reading. The aim of this web page is to provide you with an outline of the approach so that if you haven't read much about it you can, among other things, decide whether you would like to learn more about the method or whether you would like to carry out an investigation using this approach. An example is provided further down the page to illustrate a popular kind of discourse analysis, whihc is known as thematic analysis. It includes some examples of transcription symbols.
Discourse analysis is a qualitative method that has been adopted and developed by social constructionists. Although discourse analysis can and is used by a handful of cognitive psychologists, it is based on a view that is largely anti-scientific, though not anti-research. Social constructionism is not easy to define in a single sentence, but it is possible to outline some basic assumptions of the approach: • Psychologists cannot be objective when studying human behaviour. In the scientific approach there is the belief that knowledge can be gained by objectivity (observations made as though the investigator is an alien from another planet and has no preconceived notion of what is being observed). However, this has been disputed – people, including researchers, cannot be objective. A researcher is very likely to hold some position (expectation, belief, or set of cultural values) when they are conducting their research. The result is that people can construct their own versions of reality. • Reality is socially constructed. In the scientific approach it is assumed that it is possible to categorise reality, and that constructs psychologists use, such as personality and intelligence, are naturally occurring categories. However, this ignores the fact that language shapes the categories and constructs we use. Since language is a social and cultural thing, our sense of reality is socially and culturally constructed. • People are the products of social interaction. In the scientific approach it is assumed that many of the constructs used are ‘inner essences'. That is to say that personality, anxiety, drives, and so on exist somewhere within our heads and our bodies. However, it may be the case that many of these so-called essences are actually the products of social interaction. In order to understand these assumptions, let's look at the example provided by Burr (1995) on the issue of personality.
The traditional view of personality Personality consists of a number of traits such as generosity, shyness, charm, and so on. What makes people different is that they can be high on some traits and low on others. A further assumption is that, by and large, personality is stable over time – although a generous person may have one or two lapses, they are generous most of the time. Another assumption is that personality influences out behaviour – we ascribe the inner essence ‘generosity' to someone acting very generously. This view of personality is not just common sense but makes sense in our everyday understanding of people. The social constructionist critique of the traditional view of personality Personality, it is argued, is a socially constructed concept and that traits do not exist as inner essences but are rather in the interactions between people. When you think about the traits we use to describe people, virtually all of them involve actions that can only take place with reference to other people. For example, if a shy, extraverted, and generous person were stranded alone on an island for the rest of her life, could she ever again call herself shy, extraverted, and generous? Social constructionists remind us that since personality can be observed directly its existence has to be inferred, and it is inferred from behaviour. However, someone's behaviour can be very different depending on the context or situation they are in. Furthermore, people can be both nice and nasty, i.e., behave in opposite ways to the traits they are commonly described as having. So, who am I? By now you may be completely confused, as I was when I first encountered this viewpoint. If personality and inner essences do not exist then we must ask ourselves who we are and what makes us who we are? According to social constructionism each version of ‘you' is a product of your relationships with others. The word ‘identity' is preferred and it refers to a person's purpose within a social relationship. In other words, we have different identities based on who we are with, where we are, the situation we our in, and so on. The creation and use of such identities can be understood by psychologists by trying to study the language that people use. Furthermore, by studying conversations and all forms of communication we can understand how people and society ‘construct' their own versions of reality. Why discourse analysis? Discourse analysis is a way of understanding social interactions. The researcher acknowledges their own bias and position on the issue, known as reflexivity. The aims of research vary: The aim of one investigator might be to understand power relationships in society in order to bring about change; but another investigator may be interested in an interaction or conversation simply for its own sake (in terms of not knowing what the study might uncover). The research begins with a research question (and not a hypothesis
What is thematic analysis? Thematic analysis is about trying to identify meaningful categories or themes in a body of data. "he didn't want the ball". Nominal .g.. There are many different forms of discourse analysis. men's talk about fatherhood. This involves attempting to identify features in the text. By looking at the text. Dependent Clauses: Adverbial. "he gets so much money. an attempt to make one's account of some event sound more authentic. "he looked as though he wasn't bothered". Having identified a theory and a chosen item (text or recorded conversation) to analyse. doesn't need to try". gender categories in discourse. family conversations of the royal family.in the formal sense) that is aimed at a theoretical position. By reading published articles that use the method. and so on. the researcher asks whether a number of recurring themes can be abstracted about what is being said. An example might be football fans blaming various aspects of a player's motivation for the failure of their team (e. conversations about marriage. and so on. for example such as a statement that reiterates a view or claim that men find weddings dull. On another level. it is usual to cite from the transcription examples of the points you are trying to make. and so on. the themes abstracted are collated and reported on. you need to transcribe it in one of the accepted/published ways. on one level you might find an inconsistency. In the results section of the report. How to do a discourse analysis The first point to note is that in order to do a discourse analysis you need to have read a handful yourself first. Adjectival. especially those that relate to identities. such as discourses. and so on). Topics that have been studied include men's friendships. an attempt to cite others to support one's views. an interview with Princess Diana. media constructions of racism. The reference might take slightly different forms but refers to the same cause. A discourse is a particular theme in the text. you might idenitify a regulalry occurring attribution of blame or the repeated reference to some specific cause of an event. so here we will focus on thematic analysis as an example. For example. The transcript must always appear in the appendices. In doing so. you will have a better understanding of (1) how to do an analysis and (2) some of the theoretical orientations that you will need to know to do your own analysis. A conversation or piece of text is transcribed and then deconstructed. A summary of the findings can be offered but also a critique of the authro's own interpretations – this refers to the concept of 'reflexivity'. a regular interruption of other people. an attempt to assign blame. that the author's is only one interpretation of the text.
Dependent clauses may work like adverbs. an adverbial clause describes a verb (in the sentence's main clause) and answers one of these questions where? degree? why? how? when? to what An adverbial clause begins with a subordinating conjunction. which makes the clause subordinate (dependent). Adverbial clauses Like a single-word adverb. adjectives. or nouns in complex sentences. Common subordinating conjunctions: after although as as far as as soon as as if as though because before even if even though how if inasmuch as in case (that) in order (that) insofar as in that lest no matter how now that once provided (that) since so that supposing (that) than that though till unless until when whenever where wherever whether while why Example of adverbial clause answering when? .
When will the flowers bloom? Answer: when spring arrives Example of adverbial clause answering why? Why didn't the poor woman have money? Answer: because she had lost her job Example of adverbial clause answering where? Where is there fire? Answer: where there is smoke Example of adverbial clause answering how? .
How did he answer the question? Answer: as if he knew the subject quite well Example of adverbial clause answering to what degree? To what degree of lateness will Jones arrive? Answer: (later) than Smith (will arrive) Another example of an adverbial clause answering to what degree? .
Adjectival clauses Like a single-word adjective. which makes the clause subordinate (dependent). If the adverbial clause follows the main clause in a sentence.To what degree is he young? Answer: (younger) than his brother (is) Comma use with adverbial clauses Comma use with adverbial clauses depends upon placement of the adverbial clause. an adjectival clause describes a noun (in the sentence's main clause) and answers one of these questions which one? what kind? An adjectival clause usually begins with a relative pronoun. . If the adverbial clause introduces the sentence. place a comma between it and the main clause. do not place a comma between the two.
whom. Adjectival clauses always follow the person. and whose to describe people. place. Example of adjectival clause answering which one? Which book did Joe read? Answer: the one that I gave him Example of adjectival clause answering what kind? What kind of politician has the support of the people? Answer: one who is trustworthy Adjectival clauses may also begin with selected subordinating conjunctions: . Use that and which to describe things.Common relative pronouns: that which who whom whose NOTE: Use who. or thing they describe. usually immediately.
to describe a place why . .when .to describe a time where .to describe a reason Comma use with adjectival clauses Comma use with adjectival clauses depends upon essentiality of the adjectival clause.
Generally. Examples Since the adjectival clauses in the above examples are needed to clarify the noun that they describe. essential adjectival clauses should not begin with which. they are essential and should not be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. If the adjectival clause is nonessential (or "not needed"). Nonessential adjectival clauses should not begin with that. no commas should be used to separate it from the main clause.If the adjectival clause is essential (or "needed"). Examples . commas should separate it from the main clause.
they are nonessential and should be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. Note the difference between the sentences in each pair: .Since the adjectival clauses in the above examples are not needed to clarify the noun that they describe.
A nominal clause may function in a sentence as any of the following: subject object of preposition object subjective complement direct object retained object appositive indirect Nominal clauses may begin with interrogatives: who whom what which when where how why whoever whomever whatever An interrogative beginning a nominal clause. a nominal clause names a person. Each of the following examples illustrates • • a nominal clause the function of the nominal clause within the sentence . thing. or idea. has a function within the nominal clause.Nominal Clauses Like a noun. place.
• the function of the interrogative within the nominal clause Nominal clause as subject in sentence Nominal clause as subjective complement in sentence Nominal clause as object of preposition in sentence .
Nominal clause as direct object in sentence Nominal clause as indirect object in sentence Nominal clause as retained object in sentence Nominal clauses may also begin with expletives: .
that whether if An expletive beginning a nominal clause has no function within the nominal clause. Nominal clause beginning with expletive that Nominal clause beginning with expletive whether Nominal clause beginning with expletive if .
We may assume that in all languages the clause has the character of a message: it has some form of organization giving it the status of a communicative event. But there are different ways in which this may be achieved. we will consider first the one which gives the clause its character as a message. . One element in the clause is enunciated as the theme. p 37) • • • • creates discourse clause as message the linguistic expression of the other two metafunctions (ideational. when mapped on to each other. 3. make up a clause. interpersonal) theme vs. the clause is organized as a message by having a special status assigned to one part of it. The chef is preparing dinner in the kitchen. this then combines with the remainder so that the two parts together constitute a message. rheme Subject – grammatical function Actor – doer of the action Theme – ‘what the sentence is about’ 1. Dinner is being prepared in the kitchen. In the kitchen the chef is preparing dinner. 4.The textual metafunction "The textual metafunction creates discourse" "Of the various structures which. This is known as thematic structure. 2. In English. In the kitchen dinner is being prepared by the chef." (Halliday. as in many other languages.
mq. But I will have some photographs taken. b. Across the bay they found the other boat.ling. (From Christian Matthiessen: Glossary of systemic-functional terms. but it typically excludes textual and interpersonal Themes. I think it’s pretty easy. process or circumstance includes any element preceding the first participant. c. => IFG Chapter 3. d. b. Marked (Theme ≠ Subject): a. in Halliday's analysis of English. The term theme has an entirely different meaning in formal grammars (as does the term thematic roles). The Indian who was rowing them was working very hard. http://minerva. c. Textual clause function: the point of departure of the clause as message. but never in Halliday's Theme. And when you get down there you find he hasn’t actually got any.) Cf. http://minerva. . The two Indians stood waiting. Of course it’s an accident. (Sometimes the notion of given or known is also included in topic. g. Oh. which has nothing to do with the long tradition of work on theme in Prague School linguistics and other functional traditions. Nick and his father went into the stern of the boat. you’re a great man. There was no need of that.au/) Topic. what it is about – often as one member of the pair topic + comment. process or circumstance Theme. (From Christian Matthiessen: Glossary of systemic-functional terms.ling. h.mq. The subject matter of a clause. Topical theme. Topic corresponds roughly to the experiential part of Theme.Definitions of Theme • • • • the starting point of the clause message realized in English by first position in a clause must contain a participant. e.edu. It sets up the local context for each clause.au/) Theme in declarative sentences Unmarked (Theme = Subject): a.2. This local context often relates to the method of development of the text: the Theme is selected in such a way that it indicates how the clause relates to this method and contributes to the identification of the current step in the development. No. => LexCart Section 6. 39.edu. f. IFG p. In February 1979 he was awarded the George Cross posthumously.
Polarity (yes/no) questions: unmarked Theme = finite + Subject a. Are you interested in syntax? Would you like a cup of tea? Oh. finite. Any element preceding the first experiential element in the clause (modal/connective adjuncts. vocative. local context of clause as piece of text. Theme point of departure of clause as message. c. position following initial position initial position in the clause (table from Martin et al) What elements go into the Theme? 1. d. in the name of goodness. d. g. b. e. so is that your plan? But don't any of the artist-folk fancy children? By the way. b. That I don’t know. What are you doing here? Where are we going? Then. c. What she had felt he never knew. f. e. . what is presented in the local context set up by Theme. conjunctions.d. were you serious about moving to Milton Keynes? 1. Most troubling of all to some social scientists is the message men get that being a good father means learning how to mother. Theme in interrogative sentences 1. c. why shouldn't happy ball players produce more base hits? Theme in imperative sentences a. Don’t disturb me while I’m taking a nap. take some action. Oh please stop it. d. Wh-questions: unmarked Theme = Wh-word a. Let’s have a look at this recipe. Wake me up before the coffee break. Inside him was rising an urge to do something. b. why does she bother? If it's true that contented cows give more milk. Rheme Non-Theme – where the presentation moves after the point of departure. The first experiential element in the clause (participant/process/circumstance) 2.
. Feb 10. Theme in texts (article by P. The reason he asked you where you were going is because he hoped you would be visiting other areas. were closed in Aberdeenshire. a computer operator from Chessington. was worst hit. was recovering in hospital yesterday after suffering severe facial injuries. she decided to try next door. Theme in clause complexes When Theme structural Theme 1. Resisting the temptation to peer through the letter-box. As soon as she had pressed the doorbell – it let out a musical jingle – Philippa sensed that the house was empty. March): "More on thematic analysis": Multiple Theme. Theme and given/new. b. Week 7 (14+16. a punctured topical Rheme Philippa reached number 41 she Rheme Theme Rheme stopped Scotland Two hundred schools and more than seven inches of snow An injured climber Lawrence Reeve. Predicated Theme. 40. At least they would know whether Ducton still lived at 41 or where he had gone. 3. 2. was recorded at Aberdeen airport. Surrey. 1999) Theme Parts of Northern Britain Rheme were brought to a standstill by heavy snow and ice yesterday with roads closed and dangerous driving conditions. What they did was go into the stern of the boat.Thematic equative a. where roadswere impassable. survived 18 hours in sub-zero temperatures clinging to an ice-covered ledge after falling 400ft in Glencoe. What he meant by this was that he was no longer an apprentice. c. Fries) Theme–Rheme analysis of some sentences (Underlined: downranked themes): Newspaper article (from The Daily Telegraph.
don’t get a buzzing noise like that. without its meaning something. he said to himself means something. Milne: Winnie-the-Pooh: Theme Once upon a time. just buzzing and buzzing. said If there’s a buzzing noise." he thought for another long time said is making honey. a very long time ago now. sat down at the foot of the tree. about last Friday One day when he was out walking and in the middle of this place and from the top of the tree Winnie-the-Pooh Rheme Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.A. The lone walker was making his way along a ridge when he fell into Glen Cam. somebody’s making a buzzing noise is because you’re a bee. striking a boulder which saved him from a further drop of 300ft. and the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of Then and "And the only reason for being a bee that I know of And then and . From A.lung and frostbite. put his head between his paws and First of all "That buzzing noise You began to think. he came to an open place in the middle of the forest was a very large oak tree there came a large buzzing noise." he got up.
."And the only reason for making honey So he is so as I can eat it." began to climb the tree.
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