Discorse Analysis

Topics: Implicature, Pragmatics, Gricean maxims Pages: 25 (8703 words) Published: January 9, 2013
Iñiguez, L (2003) Análisis del Discurso (chapter 3). Editorial UOC. Very readable and avoids technical terminology. Wetherell, M (2001) Themes in Discourse Research: the case of Diana. In Wetherell et al (eds) Discourse Theory and Practice London: Sage Comprehensive and clear.

Discourse Analysis
"Discourse analysis" means many things to many people.
One thing they all agree on is that the analyst's first focus must be on language, and what it does in the world. So far, CA agrees. The next thing they agree on is that the analyst must 'go beyond' the data itself. The analyst has to interpret by appeal to a theory (e.g. a theory about society, or power, or culture). At this point, DA splits off from CA, which is against interpretation of that kind. DA then starts to divide into various traditions.

The most general, the one that people tend to refer to if they just say "Discourse Analysis", is a linguistic approach to talk and text that tries to see how the speakers' or authors' choice of words "constructs" a social object. When the data are spoken, this approach is sometimes called "interactional sociolinguistics". Critical DA people explicitly look for the workings of ideology, or power. We'll get to that later. For the moment, here are two basic DA principles:

1. One of language's functions is to "do things" at the societal level (i.e. above the merely interpersonal) What things does it do?
It is 'constitutive': some things, at least, are set up and constructed out of language. A good example is The Law: the law in any one society is constituted by all the statutes that Parliament has passed, all the regulations that are written inthe Constitution, and so on. All these are 'just words', but they constitute something very real. It promotes someone's (or some group's) interests. The Law is a good example again. Discourse analysts want to say that the Law is actually not neutral or impartial (though it claims to be). The language in which it is set up is good for some, and bad for others. The recent debate over how the law treats women's 'murder' of abusive partners is a good example. The question raised by discourse analysts was whether the language of the laws on murder and manslaughter was systematically biassed against women's (alleged) style of reaction to provocation (see "Justice for Women" for a British example of campaigning website on this issue). 2. People use "discourse practices" to do these things.

What are discourse practices?
Discourse analysts (of whatever kind) look for how things are constituted by what they call "discursive practices". If you set out on an investigation into a certain social phenomenon, you will find an identifiable set of things that go together .... e.g particular words, phrases, terms of reference, metaphors, rhetorical styles, systematisations of knowledge (e.g. rule books, catechisms, manuals, style guides ....) ......which, together, construct that pheonomenon as a certain kind of social object (e.g. 'homosexuality', 'Science' 'Muslims' etcetera). In each of those cases, the social object is being constructed by the discourse's choice of description, and the associations it implicitly makes. e.g. the choice between:

Muslim vs Islamic
fundamentalist vs devout
and the association between "Muslim" and ..
terrorism vs insurgency vs freedom vs ....?
Whichever choice you make, and whatever associations you imply, you will help to construct (or 'constitute') a certain social object. For DA (in common with many theories of language in general) the choice of one description over another, and the association of one description with another, is significant. The categories of the world are not ready-made, nor is any use of them neutral. 2. Method: Three examples.

How do you identify a "set of linguistic practices" whch do things? There is no one, single, universally agreed, answer in the literature on DA. In fact many people who do DA resist the...
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