Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

The Discourse as a Cognitive Process and Space for Subjective Interaction

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

The Discourse as a Cognitive Process and Space for Subjective Interaction

Article excerpt


The article seeks to bring some needed clarification on the notion of discourse and to demonstrate that the delineation of discourse from the notion of text is unjustified. We will support the hypothesis that the two notions, discourse and text, are esentially equivalent and we will prove that they consist of cognitive acts, results of a series of fundamental cognitive processes: signification and communication (symbolization and networking). The theoretical aspects which underlie our hypothesis and which have led towards the reevaluation of the communication phenomenon and the notion of communicative ability are also being presented. We then draw our conclusions by emphasizing the double dimension of any discourse, understood as an authentic act of communication: cognitive process and subjective interaction.

Keywords: discourse, text, cognitive process, meaning, communication, standards of textuality, discursive types, subjective interaction.

The term included in the title of this article does not seem to pose any problems, at least in what the current language is concerned. But a more attentive look reveals that the semantic meaning of such a word is rather unprecise in nature. Like in many other cases, the fact that it is frequently utilized in various linguistic contexts gives the false impression that a rigurous definition of the term would be superfluous. An explanation is therefore needed: the aforementioned term is not a case of polysemy, as it is a case of ambiguity, of a lack of firm delimitation of its semantic boundaries, and a matter of loose definition. Apparently, the dictionaries contribute to this state of vagueness. For instance, the Romanian Dictionary (DEX ,98) gives a vague definition: usually a political statement (speech), made in front of an audience. Discussing in writing a scientifical or literary subject. (From the French "discours", Latin "discursus". The Larousse Dictionary is more generous on the matter but it still lacks precision: an oratorical development, over a determined subject, delivered in public, by an orator; Adress (allocution). Usually long statements suggested by someone. [...] A written or oral manifestation of a state of mind; an ensemble of didactic writings, of theoretical approaches over a theory, a doctrine etc

We can therefore relinquish, without any regrets, to the aid of dictionaries, by adding that the common knowledge associates the term discourse with the term of speech, or an oral presentation in front of an audience.

This problem of defining the term is not limited to general dictionaries only. The same difficulty of determining a tight definition, unanimously accepted (or at least agreed upon by a majority) is also encountered within the sphere of linguistic research. On one hand, we have the dispute on the notion of discourse and, on the other hand, the issue of separating the discourse from the text. This latter issue refers to the research conducted within the field of pragmatics and discourse analysis as opposed to that concerned with text theory.

With regard to the multiple scientific acknowledgements of the notion of discourse, Elena Dragos provides an edifying review2:

- The psycho-systematic orientation associates the discourse with the notion of momentary verbal production which further results in what John Austin named verbal acts. The discourse will therefore be the space within which the meaning and the contextualization processes shall take place and it will constitute the favorite object of study for pragmatics.

- The Enunciation Theory, as stated by Emile Benveniste, defines the discourse as a verbal event (an expression also supported by Paul Ricoeur, as we shall further see in this paper). The discourse is the result of the discursive activity which includes the employment of language by a speaker who addresses an either real or virtual receiver.

- Zelig Harris3 and his colleagues from the American School of Distributionalism refer to the notion of discourse as a distinctive level of study of linguistics, the transfrastic level (or the upper level of the phrase). …

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