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Approaches to Discourse


Neither Austin nor Searle were concerned with the analysis of continuous discourse. Speech Act Theory Unit of analysis: speech ... the sentence is to grammar ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Approaches to Discourse

Approaches to Discourse
  • Universitas Negeri Semarang

Speech Act Theory (Austin 1955, Searle 1969)
  • A logico-philosophic perspective on
    conversational organization focusing on
    interpretation rather than the production of
    utterances in discourse.
  • From the basic belief that language is used to
    perform actions.
  • Every utterance can be analyzed as the
    realization of the speakers intent
    (illocutionary force) to achieve a particular
  • Neither Austin nor Searle were concerned with the
    analysis of continuous discourse.

Speech Act Theory
  • Unit of analysis speech act (SA) or
    illocutionary force (IF).
  • Principal problems the lack of a one-to-one
    match up between discourse function (IF) and the
    grammatical form.
  • Provides the insight that the basic unit of
    conversational analysis must be functionally
    motivated rather than formally defined one.
  • Systemic name speech function (SF) central
    issue in discourse structure.

Interactional Sociolinguistics (Gumperz 1982,
Goffman 1959-1981)
  • Grows out of the work of anthropologists.
  • Centrally concerned with the importance of
    context in the production and interpretation of
  • Units of analysis grammatical and prosodic
    features in interactions.
  • Gumperz demonstrated that interactants from
    different socio-cultural backgrounds may hear
    and understand discourse differently according to
    their interpretation contextualisation cues in
    discourse. E.g. intonation contours, speaking
    for another, alignment, gender.

Interactional Sociolinguistics
  • Schiffrin (1987) focused on quantitative
    interactive sociolinguistic analysis, esp.
    discourse markers (defined as sequentially
    dependent elements which bracket units of talk).
  • Schiffrins unit of analysis turn.
  • Basic concern the accomplishment of
    conversational coherence.
  • She argues for the importance of both qualitative
    and quantitative / distributional analysis in
    order to determine the function of the different
    discourse markers in conversation.

Ethnography of Communication (Dell Hymes (1972b,
  • Concerned with understanding the social context
    of linguistic interactions who says what to
    whom, when, where. Why, and how.
  • Prime unit of analysis speech event.
  • Definition The speech event is to what analysis
    of verbal interaction what the sentence is to
    grammar It represents an extension in the size
    of the basic analytical unit from the single
    utterance to stretches of utterances, as well as
    a shift in focus from text to interaction.

Ethnography of Communication
  • Speech event refers to activities that are
    directly governed by rules or norms for the use
    of speech (Hymes 197256)
  • Speech event comprises components (Hymes SPEAKING
  • Analysis of these components of a speech event is
    central to what became known as ethnography of
    communication or ethnography of speaking, with
    the ethnographers aim being to discover rules of
    appropriateness in speech events.
  • Genres often coincides with speech events

Ethnography of Communication
  • The ethnographic framework has led to broader
    notions of communicative competence.
  • Problem Lack of explicitness in Hymes account
    on the relationship between genre and other
    components of the speaking grid and their
    expression in language and
  • Recognition of the close relationship between
    speech events and their social/cultural contexts.

Pragmatics (Grice 1975, Leech 1983, Levinson
  • Formulates conversational behaviour in terms of
    general principles rather than rules.
  • At the base of pragmatic approach is to
    conversation analysis is Griceans co-operative
    principle (CP).
  • This principle seeks to account for not only how
    participants decide what to DO next in
    conversation, but also how interlocutors go about
    interpreting what the previous speaker has just
  • This principle is the broken down into specific
    maxims Quantity (say only as much as necessary),
    Quality (try to make your contribution one that
    is true), Relation (be relevant), and manner (be
    brief and avoid ambiguity).

  • Provides useful means of characterizing different
    varieties of conversation, e.g. in interactions,
    one can deliberately try to be provocative or
  • Significant problem it implies that
    conversations occur co-operatively, between
    equals where power is equally distributed etc.
  • In reality conversations involve levels of
    disagreement and resistance power is constantly
    under contestation.

Conversation Analysis (CA) (Harold Garfinkel
  • Garfinkel (sociologist) concern to understand
    how social members make sense of everyday life.
  • Sack, Schegloff, Jefferson (1973)tried to explain
    how conversation can happen at all.
  • CA is a branch of ethnomethodology.
  • Two grossly apparent facts a) only one person
    speaks at a time, and b) speakers change recurs.
    Thus conversation is a turn taking activity.
  • Speakers recognize points of potential speekar
    change turn constructional unit (TCU).

Conversation Analysis (CA)
  • CA identified TCU as the critical units of
    conversation, it has not specified exactly how a
    TCU boundary can be recognized in any situation.
  • Models conversation as infinitely generative
    turn-taking machine, where interactants try to
    avoid lapse the possibility that no one is
  • Contribution the identification of adjacency
    pairs conversational relatedness operating
    between adjacent utterances.

Conversation Analysis (CA)
  • Adjacency pair first and second pair parts.
  • Major problems a) lack of systematicity- thus
    quantitative analysis is impossible 2) limited I
    its ability to deal comprehensively with
    complete, sustained interactions 3) though
    offers a powerful interpretation of conversation
    as dynamic interactive achievement, it is unable
    to say just what kind of achievement it is.

Variation Analysis (Labov 1972a, Labov and
  • L W argue that fundamental narrative structures
    are evident in spoken narratives of personal
  • The overall structure of fully formed narrative
    of personal experience involves six stages 1)
    Abstract, 2) Orientation, 3) Complication, 4)
    Evaluation, 5) Resolution, 6) Coda where 1) and
    6) are optional.
  • Strength its clarity and applicability.

Variation Analysis
  • Problems data was obtained from interviews.
  • Variationists approach to discourse stems from
    quantitative of linguistic change and variation.
  • Although typically focused on social and
    linguistic constraints on semantically equivalent
    variants, the approach has also been extended to

Structural-Functional Approaches to Conversation