LINGUIST List 13.1101

Sat Apr 20 2002

Review: Discourse Analysis: Dooley & Levinsohn (2001)

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  1. Chaoqun Xie, Dooley & Levinsohn (2001) Analyzing Discourse

Message 1: Dooley & Levinsohn (2001) Analyzing Discourse

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 22:21:11 +0800
From: Chaoqun Xie <>
Subject: Dooley & Levinsohn (2001) Analyzing Discourse

Dooley, Robert A., and Stephen H. Levinsohn (2001) Analyzing Discourse:
A Manual of Basic Concepts. SIL International, viii+165pp, paperback
ISBN 1-55671-115-8

Chaoqun Xie, Fujian Teachers University

As suggested by the title, this is a book devoted to what the authors
think are the basic concepts in discourse analysis. This book is
divided in three thematic parts broken down into 18 chapters, most of
which are brief with no longer than 6 pages, followed by appendices,
references and index. The first part, consisting of chapters 1-4,
discusses text types of text, or how discourses differ. According to
the authors, discourses typically differ along the following four
i. the means of production: the number of speakers who produced the
 discourse (Chapter 1);
ii. the type of content: the text genre (Chapter 2);
iii. the manner of production: style and register (Chapter 3); and
iv. the medium of production: oral versus written (Chapter 4).

More specifically, in Chapter 1, the authors explain monologue versus
dialogue, conversational turns and moves in dialogues. The authors
remind us that conversations do not always take place in neat "turns",
that different cultures have different ways to indicate the end of a
turn and that the three categories of conversational moves namely,
initiating, countering and resolving moves designated by Longacre
(1996) may not be adequate enough (cf. p. 6).

In Chapter 2, the authors, following Longacre (1996), present two
primary features of genres---contingent temporal succession and agent
orientation, which in turn result in four broadest categories --
narrative, procedural, behavioral and, expository. Also discussed in
this chapter are embedded discourse and communicative intent. It is
concluded in this chapter that a text type is a culturally-typical type
of action performed by linguistic means and that communicative intent
involves reasons lying behind linguistic actions.

Chapter 3 covers individual style and register and how these concepts
are related to genre and dialect. The authors regard individual style
as "the pattern of how a speaker will typically express him or herself,
given a certain set of circumstances and text type" (p. 12), and claim
ritual versus everyday situations (field) and deference versus exercise
of power (tenor) as common but striking differences of register (p.

Chapter 4 sums up the most common differences between oral and written
texts of the same genre in terms of frequency of repetition, deviations
from default orders, organization, preciseness, paralinguistic signals
and, practical applications.

Chapters 5-15 make up Part 2 focusing on common characteristics in
discourse of all types. Chapter 5 talks about coherence, internal
contextualization and external contextualization, arguing that "the
coherence of a text is, in essence, a question of whether the hearer
can ... interpret it within a single mental representation" (p. 27).

In Chapter 6, the authors tackle cohesion, "the use of linguistic means
to signal coherence" (p. 27). They, following Halliday and Hasan (1976)
and Brown and Yule (1983), discuss and illustrate several types of
cohesive ties as linguistic signals of coherence: descriptive
expressions alluding to entities mentioned earlier, identity, lexical
relations, morphosyntactic patterns, signals of relations between
propositions and intonation patterns (cf. pp. 28-32). The authors
conclude that the importance of cohesion to coherence is "the
importance of what we say to what we mean" (p. 33).

Chapter 7 begins with thematic groupings, asserting that conceptual
chunking is what thematic groupings reflect. The chapter then looks at
thematic continuity and discontinuity in narrative shown in the four
dimensions of time, place, action and, participants, before concluding
with introducing practical steps in segmenting texts into thematic

Chapter 8 touches upon text charting. It is believed that narrative is
a suitable kind of text for beginning text analysis in terms of both
results and degree of understanding (cf. p. 44). In this chapter, the
authors present one way to chart a text, the conventions to follow, and
a particular application of it to thematic groupings.

Chapter 9 discuss mental representation, suggesting, among others, that
experience and culture play an The authors are right in pointing out
that "mental representations are not limited to understanding
discourse, but are basic tools of human cognition" (p. 50) and that
hierarchical arrangement is the most important structural feature of
schemata. Some basic concepts of mental representation are introduced
before the emphasis is placed on two general strategies for arriving at
mental representations: bottom-up processing and top-down processing.

Chapters 10 to 15 focus on various aspects of discourse organization.
Chapter 10 considers cognitive statuses of different types. The authors
begin with Chafe's (1987) three processes relating to activation
states: activation (including reactivation), deactivation, and
maintenance in active status, pointing out that "the amount of coding
material required varies directly with the cognitive effort required"
(p. 57). The authors then move on to definiteness, generic reference
and referential status, concluding that the activation status of a
concept depends on the speaker rather than on the analyst.

Chapter 11, titled "Discourse-pragmatic structuring of sentences",
covers 16 pages, the longest of the work. It first defines focus and
scope of focus before looking at three types of articulation: topic-
comment, presentational and focus-presupposition. After that, the focus
is on general signals of focus, where it is pointed out that fronting,
instead of relating itself to a particular pragmatic role, is often
associated with prominence or saliency (p. 66). In considering
dislocated elements occurring outside the clause but within the
sentence, the authors introduce point of departure and tail,
distinguishing discourse topic from sentence topic. This chapter also
touches upon single-difference contrast and double-difference contrast,
signals of overall structuring, marked versus unmarked structuring and
common discourse functions of configurations.

Chapter 12 focuses on foreground and background information. After
presenting linguistic correlates and distinction between foreground and
background, the authors talk about events and nonevents. For events, it
is stated that primary events have greater information salience than
secondary ones; for nonevents, six types listed by Grimes (1975) are
introduced: participant orientation, setting, explanation, evaluation,
discourse irrealis and, performative information (cf. pp. 82-83). In
considering aspect, subordination and reported conversation, the
authors hold that correlations between linguistic signals and kinds of
information, even though, are of great value to the analyst (pp. 83-
84). This chapter concludes with a short discussion of markedness in

Chapter 13 deals with signaling relations between propositions, arguing
that propositions comprising the content framework of a discourse are
related not only in a hierarchy but also by specific semantic relations
(p. 87). Four clues namely, intonation, the order of elements,
expectation structures and morphemic signals, are considered to suggest
possible interpretations for semantic relations. For pragmatic
connectives, associatives, additives and development markers are

Chapter 14 investigates reported conversation. It first looks at the
presentation of speech, saying that the speaker's purpose, syntactic
and discourse-pragmatic factors may determine the way the speech is
reported. It then discusses the type of information of reported
conversations and changes of direction in reported conversations.

Chapter 15 dwells on conventionalized aspects of text organization
thought of as "furnishing a kind of template or outline" (p. 107). It
begins with the story schema, which according to Labov (1972: 363),
includes the following: abstract, orientation, complicating action,
evaluation, result or resolution and coda (pp. 104-106). It then
introduces patterns of repetition and convention in oral and written

The third part including chapters 16-18 is devoted to participant
reference. Chapter 16 introduces basic notions of reference, with much
emphasis placed on three kinds of tasks a viable system of reference in
any language must accomplish: semantic, discourse-pragmatic and,

Chapter 17 discusses two types of strategies of reference: sequential
(look-back) strategies and VIP (very important participant) strategies.
According to the authors, different kinds of sequential strategies have
three things in common (cf. p. 117); and a VIP can be identified either
on the global level or on a local level (pp. 119-124). This chapter
concludes with two levels involved in a useful way of describing
systems of reference, namely, the default case and special cases,
arguing that strategies of reference vary with the language and with
text types.

Chapter 18, the last one, provides a methodology for analyzing patterns
of reference. This methodology involves eight steps as follows: 1. Draw
up an inventory of ways of encoding reference to participants; 2.
Prepare a chart of participant encoding in a text; 3. Track the
participants; 4. Identify the context in which each reference to a
participant occurs; 5. Propose default encoding for each context; 6.
Inspect the text for other than default encoding; 7. Incorporate any
modifications to the proposals of step 5 and 8. Generalize the
motivations for deviances from default encoding.

It was Harris (1952) who first used the term 'discourse analysis' when
he touched upon the syntax of units of communication larger than words
or sentences. Ever since the 1960s, discourse analysis has gradually
grown into a research topic of much concern, and the last two or so
decades of the 20th century in particular witnessed a nearly geometric
increase in the number of articles and books dealing with discourse
analysis couched within various theoretical frameworks. And to
appreciate the diversity of approaches, methods, and even definitions
regarding discourse analysis, one only needs to take a glance at the 41
articles collected in The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (Schiffrin et
al. 2001; cf. Xie, to appear).

As clearly stated at the very beginning of the preface, this volume is
"written as an introduction to discourse analysis for future linguistic
field workers" (p. vii). By adopting a functional and cognitive
approach, the authors try to present what they think are the most basic
concepts of discourse. To be sure, this book delivers what it promises,
with most basic concepts in discourse analysis discussed. And the
authors intend this book to be introductory rather than comprehensive
and to be covered in fifteen classroom hours. In this sense, this is a
suitable book for anyone new to this very line of inquiry. However,
since this book is an introductory one, it is inevitable that some of
the discussions are a bit cursory without going in depth. And it would
be much better if more illustrative texts could be provided. Actually,
when it comes to introductions or course books on discourse analysis,
one would rather recommend, among others, Brown and Yule (1983), Cook
(1989), Coulthard (1977), or Stubbs (1983).

Brown, Gillian, and George Yule (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Chafe, Wallace L. (1987). Cognitive constraints on information flow. In
Tomlin, Russel S.. ed., Coherence and grounding in discourse 21-51.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Cook, G. (1989). Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coulthard, M. (1977). An introduction to discourse analysis. London:

Grimes, Joseph E. (1975). The thread of discourse. The Hague: Mouton.

Halliday, M. A. K., and Raqaiya Hasan (1976). Cohesion in English.
London: Longman.

Harris, Zellig S. (1952) Discourse analysis. Language 28: 1-30.
Reprinted in Katz, Jerrold J. and Jerry A. Fodor, eds. (1964) Readings
in the Philosophy of Language. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Longacre, Robert E. (1996). The grammar of discourse (2nd ed.). New
York: Plenum.

Labov, William (1972). Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black
English vernacular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Schiffrin, Deborah, Deborah Tannen, and Heidi E. Hamilton, eds. (2001).
The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers,

Stubbs, M. (1983). Discourse analysis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Xie, Chaoqun (to appear). Review of Discourse Analysis, by Barbara
Johnstone, Applied Linguistics 23(4).

Chaoqun Xie is a Lecturer with Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian
Teachers University, China. His main areas of research interests
include pragmatics, sociolinguistics, communication and translation.
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