Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays

Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays

Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays

Dramatic Discourse: Dialogue as Interaction in Plays


Whilst poetry and fiction have been subjected to extensive linguistic analysis, drama has long remained a neglected field for detailed study. Vimala Herman argues that drama should be of particular interest to linguists because of its form, dialogue and subsequent translation into performance. The subsequent interaction that occurs on stage is a rich and fruitful source of analysis and can be studied by using discourse methods that linguists employ for real-life interaction. Shakespeare, Pinter, Osborne, Beckett, Chekhov, and Shaw are just some of the dramatists whose material is drawn upon.Each chapter contains a theoretical section in which major concepts of each framework are explained before the relevance of the framework to dramatic discourse is analyzed and explored using textual examples. This book will be of interest to undergraduates and postgraduates studying in the areas of literary linguistics and stylistics, or anyone specialising in the relationship between the text and performance.


Dialogue as discourse is characterized by a fundamental structural principle; it is interactive and interactional. It is a mode of speech exchange among participants, speech in relation to another's speech and not merely the verbal expression of one character or actor's 'part'. Dialogue belongs not to the sphere of the 'I' but to the sphere of the 'we', as Gadamer noted (1986a:65). It requires, in standard cases, the agency and involvement of at least two participants who communicate through the medium of language, as the etymology of the word signifies-'dia'-through, 'logos'-word, from 'dialegomai'-to converse. The encounter of an 'I' with a 'you' in the speech situation is itself a form of drama, as Lyons (1977) following Buhler (1934) observed, which the category of 'person' in language reflects.

The grammatical category of 'person' depends upon the notion of participant-roles and upon their grammaticalization in particular languages. The origin of the traditional terms 'first person' 'second person' and 'third person' is illuminating in this connexion. The Latin word 'persona' (meaning 'mask') was used to translate the Greek word for 'dramatic character' or 'role' and the use of this term by grammarians derives from their metaphorical conception of a language event as a drama in which the principal role is played by the first person, the role subsidiary to his, by the second person, and all other roles by the third person. It is important to note, however, that only the speaker and addressee are actually participating in the drama. The third person is negatively defined with respect to the first person and second person: it does not correlate with any positive participant role.

(Lyons 1977:638)

In the 'drama' of speech exchange the roles of speaker and hearer are

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.