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Discourse Analysis

 What is discourse?
An extended communication dealing with some particular topic is called ‘discourse’.
However, the mode of communication can be written or spoken. Discourses are formed
by sequence of utterances. It is obvious that many utterances taken by themselves are
ambiguous. They can become clear only within a discourse.
For example, a simple sentence; “The runway is full at the moment” uttered by an air
traffic controller most likely means to a pilot that it is impossible to land the plane at this
moment, i.e. the expression has a particular meaning in a particular situation. However, if
I say the same thing to a friend who is waiting with me to pick up a friend at the airport,
the expression might be taken as a perception of why the plane is late landing and not as
an instruction to not land the plane.
1. Structural definition of discourse:
Structural or textual definition of discourse: Discourse is a particular unit of language
(above the sentence).
2. Functional definition of discourse:
Discourse is a particular focus of language use.
 Discourse Analysis:

Discourse analysis examines patterns of language texts and considers the relationship
between language and the social and cultural contexts in which it is used. Discourse
analysis also considers the ways that the use of language presents, different views of the
world and different understandings. It examines how the use of language is influenced by
the relationships between participants as well as the effects the use of language has upon
social identities and relation. It also examines how the views of the world and identities are
constructed through the use of discourse.

Discourse analysis looks the knowledge of language beyond the word, phrase, clause or
sentence. It looks at patterns of language across text and considers the relationship
between social and cultural contexts in which it is used. It examines both spoken and
written texts.
 History of Discourse Analysis:
The term ‘discourse analysis’ was used by Zellig Harris in 1952 as a way of analyzing
connected speech and writing.
Two main interests:
1. Examination of the language beyond the level of the sentence
2. Relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic behavior.
An early and important observation made by him states:
connected discourse occurs within a particular situation-whether of a person speaking or
of a conversation , or of someone sitting down occasionally over the period of months to
write a particular kind of book in a particular scientific or literary tradition.
 Difference between text and discourse:
1. Discourse Analysis focuses on the structure of naturally spoken language as found
in conversation interviews, commentaries and speeches.
2. Text analysis focuses on the structure of written language, as found in such text as
essays, notices, road signs and chapters. (Crystal. 1987)
Some scholars talk about ‘spoken or written discourse’ other about ‘spoken or written
text’ (Crystal. 1987) It means discourse and text can be used almost synonymously. But a
distinction is always there and that in discourse has some social purpose while text fulfills
the function of communication of some meaning only.
As suggested by Michel Stubbs (1983) who treats text and discourse as more or less
synonymous. Hawthorn (1992) says text may be non-interactive where as a discourse is
interactive. Means to say text is non-interactive that’s it only fulfils the function of
conveying some meaning. But discourse is always involved in two ways responses in
some formal or informal conversation and dialogues etc. Hawthorn (1992) further says
‘discourse is a linguistic communication seen as a transaction between speaker and
hearer. While text is also a linguistics communication (either spoken or written) seen
simply as a message coded in its auditory or visual medium’
 Need of studying DA:
1. As linguists, to find out how language works, to improve our understanding of an
important kind of human activity.
2. As educators, to find out how good texts work, so that we can focus on teaching
our students these writing/speaking strategies.
3. As critical analysts, to discover meanings in the text which are not obvious on the
surface (e.g., analyzing a politician’s speech to see their preconceptions).
Discourse analysis is an attempt to discover linguistic regularities in discourse using
grammatical, phonological and semantic criteria e.g. cohesion, anaphora, inter sentence
connectivity etc. It is an effort to interpret what the writer or speaker intended to convey
with in a sensitive social context.
For example:
Father: Is that your coat on the floor again?
Son: yes (goes on reading)
Here in the above example, ‘Discourse Analysis’ says that the answer of the son is not
clear one. It shows the exploitation of ambiguity about father’s command to pick up his
coat. Rather the son deals his father’s command as a simple content question which can
be answered in yes /no.
 Critical Discourse Analysis:
The norms and values which underlie text are often ‘out of sight’ rather than overtly
stated. The aim of critical approach to discourse analysis is to help reveal some of these
hidden, ‘often out of sight’ values, positions and perspectives. As Rogers (20004:6) puts
it, discourses ‘are always socially, politically, racially, economically loaded.’ Critical
discourse analysis examines the use of discourse in relation to social and cultural issues
such as race, politics, gender and identity and asks why the discourse is used in particular
way and what the implications are of this kind of use.

1. Aims of CDA:
CDA aims to help reveal some of the hidden and ‘out of sight’ values, positions, and
perspectives. It explores the connection between the use of language and the social and
political contexts in which it occurs.

2. Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis:

Some principles for CDA:
a) Social and political issues are constructed and reflected in discourse
b) Power relations are negotiated and performed through discourse
c) Discourse both reflects and reproduces social relations
d) Ideologies are produced and reflected in the use of discourse
3. Doing Critical Discourse Analysis:
CDA includes not only a description and interpretation of discourse in context, but also
offers an explanation of why and how discourses work. CDA might commence by
deciding what discourse type or genre of the text. The analysis may consider the framing
of the text. CDA, then, takes us beyond the level of description to a deeper understanding
of texts.
Fairclough/ Wodak (1997) established 10 basic principles of a CDA program.
(1) The approach is interdisciplinary. This entails different dimensions of
interdisciplinary. Teamwork consists of different researchers from different traditionally
defined disciplines working together. The methodologies are also adapted to the data
under investigation.
(2) The approach is problem-oriented, rather than focuses on specific linguistic items.
Social problems are the items of research, such as “racism, identity, social change”.
(3) The theories as well as methodologies are eclectic; i.e., theories and methodologies
are integrated which are adequate for an understanding and explanation of the text under
(4) The study always incorporates fieldwork and ethnography to explore the object under
(5) The approach is abductive: a constant back and forth movement between theory and
data is necessary.
(6) Multiple genres and multiple public spaces are studied, and intertextuality and
interdiscursive relationships are investigated.
(7) The historical context is always analyzed and integrated into the interpretation of
discourse and texts.
(8) Different approaches in CDA use different grammatical theories.
(9) Grand theories might serve as a foundation, in the specific analysis, Middle-Range
Theories serve the aims better.
(10) Practice and application are aimed at. The results should be made available to
experts in different fields, and, as a second step, be applied, with the goal of changing
certain social and discursive practices.