What is discourse analysis? Discuss with reference to multidisciplinarity and a selection of relevant theoretical approaches

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Ninn GoldsworthyEN20211009697

Ninn Goldsworthy


What is discourse analysis? Discuss with reference to multidisciplinarity and a selection of relevant theoretical approaches.


This essay will try to answer the question of what discourse analysis is and what methods can be used to evaluate the spoken and written word. Dealing with two main example of analysing discourse, written and oral, this essay will provide examples of how these methods of analysing discourse work within the field, and how they link to analysing discourse as a whole.

Discourse analysis involves looking behind the written and spoken word and being able to explain the differences between all that is said and written. (Rogers, R. & Mosley, M et al. 2005, Pg: 365).  It is a little hard to determine the words discourse analysis accurately as there are several known definitions of discourse. In some definitions, discourse refers to the text that it is written in, or it may be that it denotes speech. (Crystal, 1992, Pg: 91) wrote that: ‘Discourse: a continuous stretch of (especially spoken) language larger than a sentence, often constituting a coherent unit such as sermon, argument, joke or narrative’ whether written, or spoken, discourse remains an intriguing and fascinating subject. The phrase ‘Discourse Analysis’ was first introduced in 1952 by Zellig Harri. Harris wrote:

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 literary or scientific tradition (Harris, 1952 as found in Paltridge, 2011, Pg: 2)

The multimodality of discourse analysis is such that multiple sources can be used for resourcing text or material. The different types of analysing data or written discourse are an endless list. Discourse analysis is not one thing or another, but a paradox to be unravelled time and time again and analysed, different each time by each different person. Analysing discourse is to see beyond the word, the clause, the phrase and the sentence that is needed for effective communication. Harris is quoted as saying that ‘there is a relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic behaviour’ (Paltridge, B. 2011, Pg: 3). to be fully aware of, the differences between different kinds of discourse, an analyst would use the terms ‘texts’ and ‘discourses’. The former ‘texts’, refers to the linguistic use within compositions, and the latter ‘discourses’, implies the variability of the process. In language study, implicates the use of language, regional dialects and admissible statements within an enclosed or autonomous people such as those found on housing estates or ethnic minorities. (Upton, T. & Cohen, and M. 2009 Pg: 585). The people who live in isolated communities and share similar speech patterns and similar thoughts and ideas are called a discourse community to give but one example of how discourse analysis works. Analysists have studied these communities for extended periods of time in order to assess and research these findings thoroughly.

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There are no set ‘texts’ that are studied in discourse analysis. Discourse analysts study any language in any form. Oral analysis, the study of spoken dialogue can be separated into several different categories according to how the discourse is being delivered. For example, a telephone conversation between a customer and a manager or between two friends from university. What is looked at is how the person conducts themselves in different situations. Oral discourse has more of an interchangeable nature, as, for example, when a tutor is giving a lecture.  The delivery is quite formal, more than when the tutor is ...

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