The Power of Discourse: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

The Power of Discourse: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

The Power of Discourse: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis

The Power of Discourse: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis


This volume is intended for students who desire a practical introduction to the use of language in daily and professional life. It may be used either as part of a course or as an aid to independent study. Readers will find that concepts relating to language and discourse are highlighted in the text, explained clearly, illuminated through examples and practice exercises, and defined in the "Glossary/Index" at the back of the book.

Divided into two parts, this text presents an introduction to the elements and practice of discourse analysis in general, as well as an introduction to the actual kinds of discourse crucial to personal and professional life. In Part I, examples and practice exercises are used which make use of a variety of genres common in daily and professional life. Genres included are advertising, biography, travel guide, news clipping, prose fiction, students' writing, telephone conversation, poetry, police-suspect interview, face-to-face conversation, war cry, political speech, medical text, legislation, textbook, discourse of the mentally disturbed, and detective fiction among others. Wherever feasible, authentic examples are used. Part II of the book applies the principles and techniques of Part I to an investigation of discourse in daily use. Chapters include discourse in education, medicine, law, the media, and literature. Not only will these be of particular interest to students planning to enter any of these professions, but will also be of general interest, since all of us encounter them in daily life. As a result, this is a very practical book.


This book is for individuals who like to talk and listen, read letters or poems, squeeze the "hot air" out of the speeches of politicians, and make sure that advertisers are not able to pull the wool over consumers' eyes. It is a book on discourse and how to analyze it. But more than that, it is a book designed to demonstrate how people -- as masters of the language they speak -- are already experts in this field and require only some communicative "fine tuning" and some added awareness of what it is that people do when they attempt to communicate through words, gestures, or signs.

First consider discourse and what it is. Discourse is a process resulting in a communicative act. The communicative act itself takes the form of a text. A text is commonly thought of as consisting of written or printed words on a page; but a text may also consist of sign language or spoken words, or it may comprise only the thoughts of a writer, or speaker, on the one hand, or a reader or listener, on the other. In addition to words, a text may consist of other symbols, sounds, gestures, or silences, in any combination that is intended to communicate information such as ideas, emotional states, and attitudes. It may fail to communicate, but if the intention to communicate is clearly there, it must be regarded as a text. Figure GI.1 shows schematically this relation between discourse and text.

Analysis of discourse is a methodology for examining texts and the communicative process that gives rise to them. Its primary purpose is to enable discourse analysts to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of texts. Because most texts are goal oriented, part of the . . .

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