Structural approaches to discourse
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Structural Approaches To Discourse. Sociolinguistics: Labov Ethnography of Speaking: Hymes Narrative Analysis: Labov. Historical Background. Structural Analysis made great strides 1930's and 40's Phonology and Morphology 1950's and 60's Syntax (Chomsky's major contribution)

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Structural Approaches To Discourse

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Structural approaches to discourse

Structural Approaches To Discourse

Sociolinguistics: Labov

Ethnography of Speaking: Hymes

Narrative Analysis: Labov

Historical background

Historical Background

  • Structural Analysis made great strides

  • 1930's and 40's Phonology and Morphology

  • 1950's and 60's Syntax (Chomsky's major contribution)

  • Also a period of interest in linguistic geography from 50s onwards.

Focus of structural linguistics

Focus of Structural Linguistics

  • Chomsky: Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-community, who knows its language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic in applying his knowledge of the language in actual performance.

  • Chomsky, Aspects of a theory of syntax 1965:3

Chomsky s reaction to sociolinguistics

Chomsky's reaction to sociolinguistics

  • Ques: More generally, what does sociology mean to you today?

  • N.C.: Again, a discipline is defined in terms of its object and its results. Sociology is the study of society. As to its results, it seems that there are few things one can say about that, at least at a fairly general level. One finds observations, intuitions, impressions, some valid generalizations perhaps. All very valuable, no doubt, but not at the level of explanatory principles. Literary criticism also has things to say, but it does not have explanatory principles. Of course ever since the ancient Greeks, people have been trying to find general principles on which to base literary criticism, but, while I'm far from an authority in this field, I'm under the impression that no one has yet succeeded in establishing such principles. Very much as in other human sciences. That is not a criticism. It is a characterization, which seems to me to be correct. Sociolinguistics is, I suppose, a discipline that seeks to apply principles of sociology to the study of language; but I suspect that it can draw little from sociology, and I wonder whether it is likely to contribute much to it.

Structural approaches to discourse

  • Ques: In general one links a social class to a set of linguistic forms in a manner that is almost bi-unique.

  • N.C: You can collect butterflies and make many observations. If you like butterflies, that’s fine; but such work must not be confounded with research, which is concerned to discover explanatory principles of some depth and fails if it does not do so.

  • Language and Responsibility: Noam Chomsky based on conversations with Mitsou Ronat. 1977. (pages 56-58)

Structural approaches to discourse

  • What is missing?

    • Question of what is a speech community?

  • Dissatisfaction lead to several movements:

    • Sociolinguistics (Labov)

    • Ethnolinguistics (Frake)/Ethnography of Speaking (Hymes)

    • Pragmatics (Austin, Searle)

    • And others.

Two meanings for sociolinguistics

Two meanings for Sociolinguistics

  • The study of sociolinguistic variables.

  • Any study of language that goes beyond the analysis of the three semiological systems of language.

    • Fairclough calls the latter “sociallinguistics.

    • Other terms like language and culture work too.

The sociolinguistic variable

The Sociolinguistic Variable

  • Linguistic Norm: Any linguistic feature that occurs regularly in the speech of more than one speaker in the community.

  • Linguistic Variable: Any linguistic unit realized by more than one norm.

  • Sociolinguistic Variable: Any linguistic variable sensitive to social context.

The variable in

The Variable ‘in

  • Phonetics of –in and -in

  • -iŋ is older

Things influencing greater use of ing

Things influencing greater use of ing

  • Being a girl

  • Being a "model boy" (v "typical boy") Fisher's terms.

  • Being in a test situation. (also recitation)

  • Using prestigious words: criticizing v punchin'

  • Fisher's observations have been repeatedly replicated.

Martha s vinyard

Martha’s Vinyard

Centralized diphthongs

Centralized Diphthongs

Centralized diphthongs occur in a variety of dialects.

Cf. Ontario English

Distribution of centralization by age

Distribution of Centralization by Age

Why are there sociolinguistic variables

Why are there sociolinguistic variables?

  • Fairclough criticizes sociolinguistics because it is good on the what (identifying and describing SL variables, but weak on why they exist.

  • Sociolinguistic variables are often expressed as (variable) rules

    • {-iŋ}  {-in} 40% of the time in X social contexts

  • Types of rules:

    • Constitutive (rules of a game, grammar)

    • Algorythmic (how to do something)

    • The two are often confused.

  • The variable as a statement of meaning. Bourdieu

    • The choice between {-iŋ} and {-in} allows the speaker to make a statement.

The ethnography of speaking

The ethnography of speaking

  • Ethnography here is conceived in reference to the various efforts of Conklin, Frake, Goodenough, Metzger, Romney, and others to advance the techniques of ethnographic work and to conceptualize its goal, such that the structural analysis of cultural behavior generally is viewed as the development of theories adequate to concrete cases, just as the structural analysis of behavior as manifestation of a linguistic code is viewed. 23

Emic and etic accounts

Emic and Etic Accounts

  • Emic

    • "An emic account is one in terms of features relevant in the behavior in question;“

    • Struuctral: (how things stand as part of the system

    • from the insider's point of view.

  • Etic

    • "an etic account, however useful as a preliminary grid and input to an emic (structural) account, and as a framework for comparing different emic accounts, lacks the emic account's validity.“

    • non-structural

    • starting point for analysis

    • the IPA

    • from the outsider's point of view

The anthropological appropriation of the term s etic and etic

The anthropological appropriation of the term’s etic and etic.

  • Kenneth Pike proposed applying etic (phonetic) and emic (phonemic) to cultural phenomena. This usage is reflected in the previous slide.

  • Marvin Harris (Cultural Materialism) reinterpreted the terms as:

    • Emic: the insider’s (native’s) perspective, i.e., what they will tell you

    • Emic: the outsider’s (researcher’s) perspective, i.e., how things really are.

Hymes dimensions of the ethnography of speaking

Hymes: Dimensions of the Ethnography of Speaking

  • sender(addresser)

  • receiver(addresssee(s)

  • channels (representational system)

  • codes (shared) (language structure)

  • setting(context)

  • message(forms of messages: styles...

  • Topic(types of topics)

  • event(their kinds and characters)

Diagram of the various components

Diagram of the various components.



  • The components of communicative events. Previous slide

  • The relations among components

    • Given the various components of the communicative event, one can expect that the relationship between these components may be different from culture to culture.

  • The capacity and state of components

    • The relation of language to environment (both natural and social. 34 (e.g., vocabulary to describe)

    • ... the relationship between the capability of the code and the capabilities of the users. e.g. the Whorfian Hypothesis) 34

  • The activity of the system so constituted.

  • In Kenneth Burke's terms, there has been a tendency to treat language and its use as matters of `motion' (as if of the purely physical world) rather than matters of `action' (as matters of the human, dramatistic world of symbolic agency and purpose). 36

Frake how to get a drink in subanum

Frake: How to get a drink in Subanum

  • Segments of a drinking encounter:

    • A turn (continuous drinking by one person)

    • A round (a set of related turns)

    • Encounter stage (a set of related rounds)

  • Segments of drinking talk:

    • An utterance (continuous speech by one person)

    • An exchange (a set of related utterances)

    • Discourse stage (a set of related exchanges)

Stages in a subanum drinking event

Stages in a Subanum Drinking Event

Elements of narrative structure based on labov

Elements of Narrative Structure (based on Labov)

  • Abstract

    • Summarizes the central action and the main point of the narrative. Narrators often begin with one or two clauses summarizing the whole story.

  • Orientation:

    • Sets the scene. At the outset it is necessary to identify in some way the time, place, persons and their activity or situation.

  • (Complicating) Action

    • What happened (then)?

  • Evaluation

    • Answers the question, so what?

    • The means used by the narrator to indicate the point of the narrative, ... why it is being told and what the narrator is getting at.

  • Result or resolution

    • What finally happened to conclude the scquence of events.

  • Coda

    • At the end of the narrative. Signals end and return to the present.

    • And that was that.

    • And that was one of the most important ...

Example of narrative structure

Example of Narrative Structure

Gun locks face possible recall

Gun locks face possible recall


A nationwide program to distribute free gun locks to protect children has been suspended after police discovered the devices can spring open.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation a trade group based in Newtown, distributed 400,000 cable locks through more than 600 law enforcement agencies before police in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn. reported the problems last week.

Robert Delfay the group's president and chief executive said a decision on whether any of the locks will he recalled will be made after the tests.

Project HomeSafe began about a year ago, with the foundation promoting it as a way for gun owners to feel more sure that their weapons are safe from children.

The cable locks, which differ from trigger locks, are pulled through gun handles or barrels te prevent the weapon from being fired or loaded. Some of the nation's largest and most violent cities participated in the project.

Police in the Tennessee cities said they are concerned gun owners might have a false sense of security about the locks Delfay said the foundation shares the worry and recommends that all weapons be stored in safety boxes. He said the locks were never meant to be foolproof.

French structuralism and claude l vi strauss

French Structuralism and Claude Lévi-Strauss.

  • If there is meaning to be found in mythology, this cannot reside in the isolated elements which entered into the composition of the myth, but ONLY IN THE WAY THOSE ELEMENTS ARE COMBINED.

  • Although myth belongs to the same category of language, being as a matter of fact part of it, it is only part of it.

  • These properties (semiological) in myth are only to be found above the ordinary linguistic level: that is, they exhibit more complex features BESIDE those which are to be found in any kind of linguistic expression.

  • If the above are correct

    • Myth like language is made up of constituent units.

    • Those units presume linguistic units.

    • Mythical units differ from linguistic units differ from each other.

    • Called "Gross Constituent Units.

Structural v non structural

Structural v Non structural

  • The following examples have gone beyond the narrow structural treatment of phonology, morphology, and syntax.

  • But they have done so in a structural way by finding other dimensions of structure in the text.

  • What does a structuralist see in a text?

  • How else can one look at a text?

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