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Post Structural Approaches To Discourse


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Title: Post Structural Approaches To Discourse

Post Structural Approaches To Discourse
  • Paul Ricoeur
  • Provided one of the first, definitive criticisms
    of structuralism.
  • Others include Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu.

  • Structure ?? Word ?? Event
  • LANGUAGE is an object for an empirical science
  • WITHIN LANGUAGE two sciences one of states of
    the system one of changes
  • IN A (SYNCHRONIC) system there are no absolute
  • THE SIGNS MUST be maintained as a closed system.
  • THE SIGN UNITY of signifier and signified. -
    doesn't stand for a thing.

Structuralism Defined
  • IF WE HAVE CORRECTLY separated a language from
    speech, the states of a system from the history
    of changes, the form from the substance, and the
    closed system of signs from all references to a
    world, we must define the sign not only by its
    relation to all other signs of the same level but
    also in itself as a purely internal (or immanent)
  • STRUCTURALISM can thus be defined as the complete
    awareness of the exigencies contained in this
    series of presuppositions.
  • THE ISOLATED NATURE of langue.

Speech Discourse
  • TO USERS language i.e., Speech is not an
    object, but a mediator a means to communicate.
  • TO SPEAK is to act this is termed the issue of
  • TO SPEAK is to overcome the closure of signs in
    the intention of saying something about something
    to someone.
  • TO SPEAK is the act by which language moves
    beyond itself,..toward its reference and toward
    its opposite. In use, Language (langue) seeks
    to disappear it seeks to die as an object in
    favor of parole.
  • THE SYSTEM (langue) has no outside, it is an
    autonomous entity of internal dependencies.
  • THIS STRUCTURALISM is a methodological decision
    which does violence to (linguistic) experience.

The Task.
  • To reconstruct the understanding of language
  • To reclaim for the understanding of language what
    the structural model excluded and what perhaps is
    language itself as act of speech, as saying.
  • To develop a phenomenology of speech as opposed
    to a science of language.
  • Our task appears to be to go all the way with the
    antinomy (opposition).
  • This would involve producing
  • the act of speech at the very center of a
  • in a fashion of a setting forth meaning,
  • of a dialectical production, which makes
  • the system occur as an act and
  • the structure an event.

Fairclough Language and Power
  • Power What is it?
  • Foucault Power versus Domination
  • Power implies control but is not necessarily
  • Domination implies the exploitation of one person
    by another.
  • Critical Language Study
  • Critical means a careful look at language, power
    and ideology.

Fairclough Language and Power
  • ABOUT CONNECTIONS BETWEEN language use and
    unequal relations of power (domination).
  • IN CONTRAST to sociolinguistic studies which have
    generally set out to describe prevailing
    sociolinguistic conventions in terms of how they
    distribute power unequally they have not set out
    to explain these conventions as the product of
    relations of power and struggles for power.
  • MAIN FOCUS ON trying to explain existing
    conventions as the outcome of power relations and
    power struggle.

Comments from papers
  • The nature of parole
  • Saussures version very limited the executive
    side of language
  • More recent views expand it into communication
  • Question of the subject (structuralism v.
  • Ricoeur wrote this when we didnt have a very
    good idea of syntax.

Papers Continued
  • Mead v. Whorf
  • Role Self different societies.
  • Faircloughs Critical Discourse Analysis
  • How do disenfranchised groups react to common

CLS and other disciplines
  • LINGUISTICS HAS GIVEN relatively little attention
    to actual speech or writing it has characterized
    language as a potential, a system, an abstract
    competence, rather than attempting to describe
    actual language practice.
  • THESE ASSUMPTIONS AND the neglect of language
    practice result in an idealized view of language,
    which isolates it from the social and historical
    matrix outside of which it cannot actually exist.
  • Sociolinguistics narrow sense
  • Shows systematic correlations between variations
    in linguistic form (...) and social variables. ?

Sociolinguistics continued
  • Heavily influenced by positivist' conceptions of
    social science sociolinguistic variation … tends
    to be seen in terms of sets of facts to be
    observed using methods analogous to those of
    natural science.
  • Strong on what?' questions (the facts of ltSLgt
    variation?) but weak on why?' and how?'
  • Why are the facts as they are? How, in terms of
    the development of social relationships of power,
    was the existing sociolinguistic order brought
    into being? how is it sustained? How might it
    be changed to the advantage of those who are
    dominated by it?
  • SL has often described SL conventions in terms of
    what are the appropriate' linguistic forms for a
    given social situation whatever the intention,
    this terminology is likely to lend legitimacy to
    the facts' and their underlying power relations.

Sociolinguistics Continued
  • Key insight language seen as form of action
    (this insight is incorporated into CLS
  • Main weakness is its individualism
  • Action is thought of as atomistically as
    emanating wholly from the individual, and is
    often conceptualized in terms of the strategies'
    adopted by the individual speaker to achieve her
    goals' or intentions'.
  • Gives the implausible impression that
    conventionalized ways of speaking or writing or
    reinvented' on each occasion of their use by the
  • The result is an idealized and utopian image of
    verbal interaction which is in stark contrast
    with the image offered by CLS of a SL order
    molded in social struggles and riven lttorn apartgt
    with inequalities of power.

Cognitive Psychology And Artificial Intelligence
  • Stresses the importance and active nature of
  • you do not simply decode' an utterance, you
    arrive at an interpretation through an active
    process of matching features of the utterance at
    various levels with representations you have
    stored in your long-term memory.
  • Have given little attention to the social origins
    or significance of member's resources ltsimilar to
  • STRENGTHS works with extended samples of real
  • But has been resistant to making connections
    between such micro' structures of conversation
    and the macro' structures of social institutions
    and societies.
  • Similar to pragmatics, it gives a rather
    implausible image of conversation as a skilled
    social practice existing in a social vacuum.

  • WORK ON IDEOLOGY Increasing relative importance
    of ideology as a mechanism of power in modern
  • FOUCAULT has ascribed a central role to
    discourse in the development of specifically
    modern forms of power.
  • HABERMAS theory of communicative action
    highlights the way in which our currently
    distorted communication nevertheless foreshadows
    communication without such constraints.
  • ALL SHARE THE DEFECT of being theoretical and not
    over-rationalized to apply to specific instances
    of discourse.

RELATIONSHIP OF CLS to these approaches.
  • SEEN AS COMPLEMENTING other approaches.
  • CLS OBJECTS to the langue centered presumption of
    the state of the discipline.

Main Points
  • Subject Position (Roles)
  • Power and Struggle
  • Power versus Domination (Foucault)
  • Members Resources (Bourdieau) Capital
  • Power Behind Language (Grammar)
  • Power In language (Discourse)
  • The Social Construction of the Text

Med School Subject Position
Example of Police Interview Power
  • PPoliceman WWitness
  • P Did you get a look at the one in the car?
  • W I saw his face, yeah.
  • P What sort of age was he?
  • W About 45. H was wearing a ….
  • P And how tall?
  • W Six foot one.
  • P Six foot one. Hair?
  • W Dark and curly. Is this going to take long?
    Ive got to collect the kids from school.
  • P Not much longer, no. What about his clothes?
  • W He was a bit scruffy-looking, blue trousers,
    black …
  • P Jeans?
  • W Yeah.

Example of School Master Interview. struggle
  • H Why didnt you go straight down Queen Street?
  • Y Im not walking down there with a load of
    coons from St. Hildas coming out of school.
  • H Whys that.
  • Y Well thats obvious, isnt it. I dont want
    to get belted.
  • H Well there isnt usually any bother in Queen
    Street is there?
  • Y No. None of us white kids usually go down
    there, do we? What about that bust-up in the
    Odeon carpark at Christmas?
  • H That was nearly a year ago, and Im not
    convinced you lot were as innocent as you made
    out. So when you got to the square, why did you
    wait around for a quarter of an hour instead of
    going strait home?
  • Y I thought my mate might come down that way
    after work. Anyway, we always go down the square
    after school.

His Kind of Loving Inferencing
Three Pillars of Thacherism (Authoritarian
  • Authoritarian Traditionally Conservative
  • attempt to strengthen the power of the state in
    areas of police, military, law and order.
  • commitment to free market, free enterprise
    (protect industry from interference from
    government, labour unions)
  • Populist
  • Direct appeal to ordinary people as part of the
  • Whatever is said in 1 and 2 must be put in
    terms that ordinary people can relate to.
  • authoritarian government needed for law and
    order, anti crime, drugs, control unions.
  • free enterprise government not needed for
    regulating business, protecting environment,
  • Supports other positions of ordinary people
  • where it does not interfere with Authoritarian
  • thus pro religion, pro family
  • Strategy
  • Add to this an aggressive strategy of never
    backing away from a position, no matter how
    ridiculous or indefensible.

Things to watch for in the text.
  • Shifting Discourses
  • Shifting Pronouns
  • Literal meanings of pronouns v usage.

Michael Charlton and Margaret Thatcher BBC Radio
3, 17 December 1985.
  • MC Prime Minister, you were at Oxford in the
    nineteen forties and after the war Britain would
    embark on a period of relative prosperity, for
    all the like of which, it had hardly known, but
    today there are three and a quarter million
    unemployed, and em Britain's economic
    performance by one measurement has fallen to the
    rank of Italy. Now can you imagine yourself
    back at the university today? What must seem to
    be the chances in Britain and the prospects for
    all now?
  • MT They are very different worlds you're talking
    about, because the first thing that struck me
    very forcibly, as you were speaking of those
    days, was, now, we do enjoy a standard of living
    which was undreamed of then, and I can remember
    Rab Butler saying, after we returned to power in
    about 1951-52, that if we played our cards right,
    the standard of living within twenty five years
    would be twice as high as it was then, and em he
    was just about right, and it was remarkable,
    because it was something that we had never
    thought of. Now I don't think now one would
    necessarily think wholly in material terms,
    indeed, I think it's wrong to think in material
    terms because really the kind of country you want
    is made up by the strength of its It is its
    people. Do they run their industries well? Are
    their human relations good? e Do they respect
    law and order? Are their families strong, All of
    those kinds of things. And you know, it's just
    way beyond economics.

Deborah Tannen
Tannen and Wallat Interactive Frames and
Knowledge Schemas
  • Linguistic Register
  • Teasing, reporting, conversational
  • Frame
  • a sense of what activity is being engaged in
  • how speakers mean what they say)
  • Footing
  • how participants negotiate interpersonal
  • A change of footing often signals a change in
  • Knowledge Schemas
  • expectations about people, objects, events and
    settings in the world,as distinguished from
    alignments (footing).

A Semiological Reinterpretation
  • Register, Frame and Knowledge Schema
  • The register is the signifier of different signs
    (aka Frames)
  • Examples Teasing, reporting, conversational
  • The Knowledge Schema is the signifed. It
    indicates the type of context in which the
    discourse is taking place and provides the
    knowledge that is needed to interpret it.
  • In order to comprehend any utterance, a listener
    (and a speaker) must know within which frame it
    is intended for example, is this joking? Is it
  • expectations about people, objects, events and
    settings in the world,
  • Fairclough and Foucault would call this an order
    of discourse.

Tannen and Wallat continued
  • Footing
  • how participants negotiate interpersonal
  • A change of footing often signals a change in
  • Involves roles (Subject positions and relations)
    and members resources (Fairclough)
  • Social Interactions
  • Conversations commonly involve the shifting of

Register (Frame) Types
Conflicting Frames
The mothers question invoked the consultation
frame, requiring the doctor to give the mother
the information based on her medical knowledge,
plus take into account the effect on the mother
of the information that the childs life is in
Notice that it is admirable that the doctors
sensitivity makes her aware of the need to use
both frames
Mismatched Schemas
… the pediatritian has a schema for cerebral
In she knows what a child with CP can be expected
to do or not do… contrast, as emerged in
discussion during a staff meeting, the mother has
little experience with other cp children, so she
can only compare Jodys condition and development
to non CP people
  • Different Interact ional Styles
  • Role of interruptions
  • Zimmerman and West versus Tannen
  • Different Cultural Norms

  • F How often does your acting group work?
  • M Do you mean how often do we rehearse or how
    often do we perform?
  • F            
  • M Laughs uneasily
  • F  Why are you laughing?
  • M  Because of the way you said it. It was like
    a bullet. Is that why your marriage broke?
  • F  What?
  • M Because of your aggressiveness.

Tannen Properties of JCS
  • Topic a) prefer personal topics, b) shift topics
    abruptly, c) introduce topics without hesitance,
    d) persist if new topic is not picked up,
    reintroduce it, repeatedly if necessary.
  • Genre a) tell more stories, b) tell stories in
    rounds, c) internal evaluation is preferred over
    external. Evaluation lt Labovs Narrational
    analysis. Internal (in the story) external
    stated explicitly)
  • Pacing a) faster rate of speech, b) inner-turn
    pauses avoided (silence is regarded as lack of
    rapport), c) faster turn taking, d) cooperative
    overlap and participatory listenership.
  • Expressive paralinguistics a) expressive
    phonology, b) pitch and amplitude shifts, c)
    marked voice quality, d) strategic within-turn

  • Wife Johns having a party. Wanna go?
  • Husband OK.
  • Later
  • Wife Are you sure you want to go to the party?
  • Husband OK, lets not go. Im too tired anyway.
  • Indirect My wife wants to go to this party,
    since she asked, Ill go to make her happy.
  • Direct My wife is asking if I want to go to the
    party. I feel like going so Ill say yes.

Direct and Indirect percent choosing indirect.
Exam Questions
  • What are three ways that Structuralism and
    Poststructuralism differ?
  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________
  • How would a poststructuralist address the
    question of language and thought.