Discourse and pragmatics
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Discourse and Pragmatics. Week 2 What is Discourse?. Reading Quiz. Companion Website. Additional explanations, exercises, audio lectures. 4 Assumptions of Discourse Analysis. Language is ambiguous Language is always ‘in the world’

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Discourse and Pragmatics

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Discourse and Pragmatics

Week 2

What is Discourse?

Reading Quiz

Companion Website

Additional explanations, exercises, audio lectures

4 Assumptions of Discourse Analysis

  • Language is ambiguous

  • Language is always ‘in the world’

  • Language is a way we show who we are and what groups we belong to

  • Language is never used all by itself

Language is ambiguous

  • People don’t say what they mean

  • People don’t mean what they say

    • Boyfriend: What do you want for your birthday?

    • Girlfriend: Your love is the only gift I need.

  • Discourse analysis is not optional

  • Why don’t we just communicate more clearly?

    • Do you have a pen?

    • I have to wash my hair.

    • We must get together for lunch sometime.

Language is ambiguous

  • Elliptical meanings

Language is always ‘in the world’

  • Two ways we figure out what people mean

    • Text

    • Context

      • Who

      • What

      • Where

      • When

      • Why

      • How

Context and meaning

  • I love you

    • To your boyfriend

    • To your mother

    • To your dog

  • Can you please take off your clothes?

    • In the doctor’s clinic

    • In the doctor’s flat

Language is always situated…

  • In the material world

  • In relationships

  • In history

  • In a ‘web of discourse’

Language is situated in the material world

The Medium is the Message

Language is situated in relationships

Language is situated in history

Language is situated in a ‘web of discourse’


Language is about showing who you are and what group you belong to

  • Bolton and Kwok: The Hong Kong Accent



We also use language to create identities for other people

  • ""What's your name boy?" "DrPoussaint. I'm a physician. "What's your first name, boy?" "Alvin." (Ervin Tripp, I980: 22)

Language depends on other stuff

  • Multimodality


pp. 88-89

3 Ways of Looking at Discourse

  • Discourse as language above the sentence

    • What holds this text together as a text?

  • Discourse as language in use

    • What are people doing and how are they using language to do it?

  • Discourse as social practice

    • How are people showing their social identities and their ideologies?

    • What ‘Discourses’ are involved?

3 Perspectives

  • Zelig Harris

  • Henry Widdowson

  • James Gee

Which perspective on discourse do they promote?

Give evidence from the text.

Do you think this perspective is useful? How?

Discourse is…

  • How language reflects reality

  • How language creates reality

  • How language shapes our identities and interactions

  • How language is used as to tool to control people

Different Questions > Different Kinds of Discourse Analysis

  • What kind of knowledge do you need to be a competent communicator? (Ethnography of Communication)

  • How are texts and interactions structured and how do we learn to structure them this way (Conversation Analysis, Genre Analysis)

  • How do we show what we’re doing? (Interactional Sociolinguistics)

  • What is the the underlying ideology governing our communication? Who has power and how do they use it? (Critical Discourse Analysis)

  • What actions can be taken using this discourse. How do the communication tools make some actions easier and other actions harder? (Mediated Discourse Analysis)

DiscussionSites of Investigation

  • Why you have chosen this particular site for investigation?

  • What kinds of discourse can you collect there?

  • What kinds of issues around discourse and social interaction do people face in this site, and what kinds of problems do you think applying the ideas that you learn in this course will help the people in this site to solve?

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