Discourse - Cook

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<p>Discourse [Cook] 1. What is Discourse? 1.1Discourse and the Sentence:</p> <p>We have two different kinds of language as potential objects for study: One abstracted in order to teach a lang or literacy, or to study how the rules of language work And another which has been used to communicate something, and it s felt to be coherent (and may or may not correspond to a correct sentence or a series of correct sentences). The latter kind is language in use, for communication, is called Discourse; and the search for what gives discourse coherence is Discourse Analysis. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Discourse may be composed of one or more well-formed grammatical sentences but it doesnt have to be. It can have grammatical `mistakes in it, and often does. Discourse treats the rules of grammar as a resource, conforming to them when it needs to, but departing from them when it does not. What matters is not its conformity to rules, but the fact that it communicates and is recognized by its receivers as coherent. There is a degree of subjectivity in identifying a stretch of language as discourse, yet in practice we find that discourse is usually perceived as such by groups, rather than individuals. 1.2Grammar withing and beyond that sentence: Grammar doesnt stop with a full stop but reaches over it. There are also rules which limit what kind of sentence can follow another. In the same way that there are rules within sentences, limiting which words can follow others, so there might also be rules within discourses, limiting which sentences can follow another one. So we now have two possible answers to the problem of how we recognize a stretch of language as unified and meaningful. One is that we employ lang rules of the type studied by grammarians and taught in most language textbooks, and that these rules operate between sentences as well as within them. The other is that we employ knowledge of the world, of the speaker, of social convention, of what is going on around us as we read or listen in order to make sense of the language we are encountering. Coherence is created by factors outside language. 1.3Language in and out of context:</p> <p>When we receive a linguistic message, we pay attention to many other factors apart from the language itself. If we are face to face with the person sending the message, then we notice what they are doing with their face, eyes, and body while speaking. In a spoken message we notice the quality of the voice as well. These are called paralinguistic features. We are also influenced by the situation in which we receive messages, by our cultural and social relationship with the aprticipants, by what we know and what we assume the sender knows. These factors take us beyond the study of language, in a narrow sense, and force us to look at other areas of inquiry the mind, the body, society, the physical world in fact, at everything. There are good arguments for limiting a field of study to make it manageable; but it is also true to say that the answer to the question of what gives discourse its unity may be impossible to give without considering the world at large: the Context. In linguistics, specially in the English-speaking world bet the 1930s and 1960s there have been several schools ot thought which believe that context - this knowledge outside the world outside lang which we use to interpret it should be ruled out of language analysis as far as possible. In this way, it is believe, linguists will be able to make discoveries abt the language itself, and its system of rules which exists quite independently of particular circumstances. We may validly characterize it as sentence linguistics, because it confines its inquiries to what happens within sentences. Sentence linguists follow one of two procedures: they eitherinvent their examples for analysis, using their own intuitive knowledge as native speakers (their linguistic competence) as a yardstick, or they take language which people have actually used and remove all the features which tey believe to be irrelevant to their purposes. This process of eliminating the unique combination of circumstances in which language happens is technically known as Idealization. Yet for the discourse analyst it may be exactly these transient and variable features which enable us to understand the meaning of what is said, and the reason why the order of sentences proceeds in the way that it does. The langauge learner needs to be able to handle language which is not idealized language in use. The lang teacher needs, therefore, to decide on the extent to which idealized language may help the development of this ability. We have then, two approaches to language: sentence linguistics and discourse analysis. Both have an invaluable contribution to make to the understanding of language, and both ultimately need each other. We cannot communicate with only the rules of semantics and grammar, so we just as surely cannot communicate very well without them.</p> <p>Sentence Linguistics Data Data Isolated sentences be unified Grammatically well-formed Without context Invented or idealized 1.4The origins of discourse analysis:</p> <p>Discourse Analysis Any stretch of lang felt to Achieving meaning In context Observed</p> <p>The first known students of language in the Western tradition, the scholars of Greece and Rome, were aware of these different approaches too, and divided grammar from rhetoric, the former being concerned with the rules of languge as an isolated object, the latter with how to do things with words, to achieve effects, and communicate successfully with people in particular contexts. Ironically, some schools of discourse analysis often thought of as one of the newest disciplines of language study employ terms from classical rhetoric, one of the oldest. And there have always been, throughout history, studies of language in context. In North America, in the early decades of this century, exciting work was conducted by people who were at once both anthropologists and linguists, often involved in research into the languages and societies of the native Americans (Indians). In Britain J.R. Firth, saw language not as an autonomous system, but as part of a culture, which is in turn responsive to the environment. There are many other disciplines which often examine their object of study through language, and are thus carrying out their own discourse analysis. Perhaps the most useful distinction is to think of other disciplilnes as studying something else through discourse; whereas discourse analysis has discourse as its prime object of study, and though it may take excursions into many different fields, must always be careful to return to the main concern. Ironically, it was a sentence linguist who both coined the term `discourse analysis and initiated a search for lang rules which would explain how sentences were connected withing a text by a kind of extended grammar. This was Zellig Harris. In 1952, in an article entitled `Discourse Analysis, he analysed an advertisement for hair tonic, but his conclusions are extremely interesting. At the beginning of the article he observed that there were two possible directions for discourse analysis. One was `continuing descriptive Linguistics beyond the limits of a single sentence at a time. This was what he aimed to achieve. The other was `correlating culture and language (i.e. non-linguistic and linguistic behaviour). But having weighed up the two options, at the end of the article, he concluded: `... in every</p> <p>language it turns out that almost all the results lie within a relatively short stretch which we may call the sentence... Only rarely can we state restrictions across sentences. If we are to find an answer to the problem of what gives stretches of language unitiy and meaning, we must look beyond the formal rules operating with sentences, and consider the people who use language, and the world in which it happens as well. Yet before we do so, it would be as well to see just how far formal, purely lingusitic rules can go in accounting for the way one sentence succedes another. 2. Formal Links 2.1 Formal and contextual links: In order to account for discourse, we need to look at features outside the language. This facts enable us to construct stretches of lang as discourse, as having a meaning and a unity for us. The way we recognize correct and incorrect sentences is different. We can do this through our knowledge of grammar without reference to outside facts. We can describe the two ways of approaching language as contextual, referring to facts outside language, and formal, referring to facts inside language. Contextual features are somewhere outside this physical realization of the language. Streteches of language treated only formally are referred to as text. Now although it is true that we need to consider contextual factors we cannot say that there are no formal links bet sentences in discourse. We shall now try to categorize these formal links and then examine how far they will go in helping to explain why a succession of sentences is discourse, and not just a disconnected jumble. Formal links bet sentences and bet clauses are known as Cohesive Devices. Verb forms: The form of the verb can limit the choice of the verb form in the next. Parallelism: Another link within discourse is effected by parallelism, a device which suggests a connection, simpy because the form of one sentence or clause repeats the form of another. This is often used in speeches, prayers, poetry, and advertisements. It can have a powerful emotional effect. It doesnt have to be necessarily grammatical parallelism. It may be a sound parallelism; as in the rhyme, rhythm, and other sound effects of verse. One might even extend the idea and talk of semantic parallelism where two sentences are linked because they mean the same thing.</p> <p>Referring expressions: These are words whose meaning can only be discovered by referring to other words or to elements of the context which are clear to both sender and receiver. The most obvious example of them is third person pronouns. It is not only the third pers. pronouns which work in this way. The meanings of this and that, and here and there have also to be found either formally in another part of the discourse or contextually from the world. Anaphoric ref.: The identity of someone or something is given once at the beginning, and thereafter referred to with pronouns. Cataphoric ref.: The pronouns are given first and then the identity is revealed. Exophoric ref. : The meaning is foundcontextually from the outside world. Referring expresions fulfuil a dual purpose of unifying the text (they depend upon some of the subject matter remaining the same) and of economy, because they save us from having to repeat the identity of what we are talking abt again and again. Repetition and lexical chains: Repetition of wds can create the same sort of chain as pronouns, and there are sometimes good reasons for preferring it. In Britain, mother tongue learners of Eng are discouraged from using repetition on the grounds that it is `bad style , and ecouraged to use a device known as `elegant repetition, where synonymous or more general wds or phrases are used. So instead of writing: The pineapple.. the pineapple.. the pineapple.. the pineapple They might write The pineapple.. the lusciuous fruit.. our meal.. the tropical luxury. The kind of link that we choose will depend upon the kind of discourse we are seeking to create, and elegant repetition is not always desirable. It may sound pretentious in causal conversation, or create dangerous ambiguity in a legal document. We have described referring expressions, repetition, and elegant repetition as establishing `chains of connected wds running through discourse. Such lexical chains need not necessarily consist of wds which mean the same, howver. They may also be created by wds which associate with each other. This association may be by virtue of some formal semantic connection (good, for example, associates with its opposite bad), or it may be because wds are felt to belong to some more vaguely defined lexical group (rock star; wld tour; millionaire; yacht). This last kind of connection, though it is sometimes treated as</p> <p>a kind of cohesion is really too dependent upon individual experience and knowledge to be treated as a formal link. Substitution: Another kind of formal link bet sentences is the substitution of wds like do or so for a wd or group of wds which have appeared in an earlier sentence: Do you like mangoes? Yes, I do. / Yes, I think so. Ellipsis: Sometimes we dont even need to provide a substitute for a word or phrase which as already been said. We can simply omit it, and know that the missing part can be reconstructed quite successfully. Instead of answering: Would you like a glass of beer? With: Yes, I would like a glass of beer. We can just say: Yes I would. The rest is understood. Conjunction: Yet another type of formal relation bet sentences is provided by those wds and phrases which explicitly draw attention to the type of relationship which exists bet one sentence or clause and another. These are conjunctions. They can simply add more info to what has already been said (and, furthermore, add to that) or elaborate or exemplify it (for instance, thus, in other wds). They may contrast new info with old info, or put another side to the argument (or, on the other hand, however, conversely). They may relate new info to what has already been given in terms of causes (so, consequently, because, for this reason) or in time (formerly, then, in the end, next) or they may indicate a new departure or a summary (by the way, well, to sum up, anyway). They all indicate the relationship of utterances in the mind or in the world and are thus in a way contextual.</p> <p>3. Why formal links are not enough Formal links bet sentences, then, are not enough to account for our feeling that a stretch of lang is discourse. Tehy are neiher necessary nor sufficient. 3.1 Language functions: What kind of rules enable people to infer the function of what is said from its literal, formal meaning? In order to discover how such inferences are made, we will need firstly to examine the range of possible functions of language, and secondly to try to understand how people correctly interpret them. Understanding this connection bet the form and the function of lang will help us to explain how stretches of lang can be coherent without being cohesive. We cannot assume that these interpretations will be made in the same way in all cultures and in all languages, so understanding how interpretation proceeds in the culture of the</p> <p>language we are teaching is crucial if we are to help foreign learners to make their wds function in the way that they intend. From now on, we shall use the term utterance for a unit of language used by somebody in context to do sth to communicate and reserve sentence...</p>


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