Schiffrin, Deborah, Deborah Tannen, and Heidi E. Hamilton, eds.
(2001) The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Blackwell Publishers,
hardback ISBN 0-631-20595-0, xx+851pp, $124.95. Blackwell Handbooks
Suzhen Zhuang, unaffiliated scholar
What is discourse? What is discourse analysis? The variety of
papers in 'The Handbook of Discourse Analysis' reflects the full
range of variation in definitions of and approaches to discourse
analysis. Discourse analysis, "a rapidly growing and evolving
field" (p. 1), and "widely recognized as one of the most vast, but
also one of the least defined, areas in linguistics" (Schiffrin
1994: 5), is enjoying increasing popularity. And this brilliant
handbook provides a comprehensive and authoritative view of the
central issues in contemporary discourse analysis. All the forty-
one well-written articles are contributed by leading and
influential scholars in this field. This wonderful handbook has
successfully shown to us that a great variety of academic domains,
such as communication, cognitive psychology, social psychology,
artificial intelligence, pragmatics and narratology can all
contribute to research in discourse analysis.
This voluminous handbook is divided into four thematic parts, plus
the Contributors, the Introduction, and the Index. At the end of
each article is followed by notes and references. Part 1 explores
the relationship between discourse analysis and linguistics. Part 2
focuses on the methodology of discourse analysis and its
relationship to theory. Part 3 is devoted to the interactive
contexts in which and through which language is used. This part is
further divided into 2 sections: the first section focuses on
relatively public discourse, while the second on how discourse
situated in culture, community and genre is reflected in and
enacted by the language produced by groups of speakers in
particular contexts. Part 4 investigates discourse across
disciplines. In the Introduction, the three editors briefed how
they began their love affairs with discourse analysis before moving
on to the purpose and organizational structure of this Handbook.
Part 1, 'Discourse Analysis and Linguistics' (pp. 11- 196)
Chapter 1, 'Intonation and Discourse: Current Views from Within'
(pp. 13- 34), is written by Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen. In this
article, the author attempts to do a so-called 'stock-taking' with
respect to intonation and discourse. It was not until the 1980s
that some insightful linguists saw a need to investigate the
discourse function of intonation (see Couper-Kuhlen 1986). Looking
at now, the author notes that three strands of research in the
field of intonation in discourse, growing out of three different
methodological approaches, may be identified. Finally, the author
claims that two major directions prosodic research might take in
the more distant future.
Chapter 2, 'Cohesion and Texture' (pp. 35-53), is contributed by J.
R. Martin. This chapter is divides into three main sections.
Section 1 (pp. 36-37) looks at traditional approaches to cohesion
as nonstructural resources for textual organization. Section 2 (p.
37-44), the author presents a more semantic perspective on cohesion
in relation to texture. And in section 3 (pp. 44-47), the author
approaches coherence from the perspective of social context.
Chapter 3, 'Discourse Markers: Language, Meaning, and Context' (pp.
54-75), is written by one of the three editors, Deborah Schiffrin.
First, the author reviews three influential perspectives on
discourse markers by Halliday and Hasan (1976), Schiiffrin (1987a),
and Fraser (1990, 1998). The author then presents a brief analysis
of one marker 'and' in one discourse primarily from her own
Chapter 4, 'Discourse and Semantics' (pp. 76-99), is written by
Neal R. Norrick. In this chapter, the author illustrates how
linguistic analysis has become increasingly oriented toward
discourse in recent years, and how this reorientation has detected
new problems and discovered new solutions to old one.
Chapter 5, 'Discourse and Relevance Theory' (pp. 100-118), is
contributed by Diane Blakemore. In this chapter, the author focuses
on an approach to discourse which assumes that discourse coherence
provides the key to a theory of discourse comprehension, and shows
how in a relevance theoretic framework hearers' intuitions about
coherence can be explained as a consequence of the hearers' search
for an interpretation that is consistent with the Principle of
Relevance advocated by Sperber and Wilson (1986/1995).
Chapter 6, 'Discourse and Information Structure' (pp. 119-137),
contributed by Gregory Ward and Betty J. Birner, suggests that a
complete functional account of the noncanonical constructions of
English requires reference to open propositions. Specifically, the
author argues that:(1) preposing constructions require the preposed
constituent to represent information that is old in some sense,
while postposing constructions require the postposed constituent to
represent information that is new in some sense;(2) the
constraints on preposing and postposing are absolute, while those
placed on argument reversal are relative;(3) the functional
constraints observed for the classes of preposing and postposing
constructions do not hold for superficially similar constructions
in which the marked constituent's canonical position is filled by a
Chapter 7, 'Historical Discourse Analysis' (pp. 138-160), is
contributed by Laurel J. Brinton. In this chapter, the author
presents three approaches toward a historical discourse analysis.
The first approach involves an application of discourse analysis to
language history. The second approach involves an application of
discourse analysis to historical linguistics. The third approach
involves a study of the changes in discourse marking, functions,
and structures over time.
Chapter 8, 'Typology and Discourse Analysis' (pp. 161-174), is
written by John Myhill. In this chapter, the author tries to show
that typology and discourse analysis are fields which have much to
offer each other. The author first identifies general problems
associated with methodology combining typology and discourse
analysis. The author then moves on to discuss two approaches to
these problems, the use of universal conceptual systems of
classification and the use of translation data.
Chapter 9, 'Register Variation: A corpus Approach' (pp. 175-196),
co-authored by Douglas Biber and Susan Conrad, illustrates the
importance of register variation for diverse aspects of discourse
study. First, the author shows the systematicity and importance of
register patterns in describing the use of related grammatical
features. The discussion then focuses on comparisons between
broadly defined spoken and written registers across languages.
Part 2, 'The Linking of Theory and Practice in Discourse Analysis'
Chapter 10, 'Nine Ways of Looking at Apologies' (pp. 199-214),
contributed by Robin Tolmach Lakoff, discusses the necessity of an
inter-, cross-, and multidisciplinary approach for discourse
analysis. To illustrate her argument, Lakoff uses as an example the
speech act of apology, considering what we need to know about it in
order to achieve a full and satisfying explanation of its
properties and range of use.
Chapter 11, 'Interactional Sociolinguistics: A Personal
Perspective' (pp. 215-228), written by John J. Gumperz, suggests
that sequential analysis cannot by itself account for situated
analyses, arguing that assessments of communicative intent at any
one point in an exchange take the form of hypotheses that are
either confirmed or rejected in the course of the exchange.
Chapter 12, 'Discourse as an Interactional Achievement III: The
Omnirelevance of Action' (pp. 229-249), contributed by Emanuel A.
Schegloff, focuses on two themes. The first theme is as follows:
how an action done by a speaker-taken as an action �C has decisive
consequences in shaping the trajectory of the talk's development
(cf. pp. 231-234). The second theme is that discourse involves not
just action, but action in interaction, and the consequential
eventfulness of its absence (cf. 234-242).
Chapter 13, 'Discourse and Interaction' (pp. 250-264), is
contributed by Monica Heller. In this chapter, the author aims to
explore the nature of discourse in interaction itself as a way of
understanding how we construct social reality, and to explain what
we understand to be the nature of discourse in terms of the social,
political, and economic conditions of discursive production.
Chapter 14, 'The Linguistic Structure of Discourse', is written by
Livia Polanyi. The author proposes answers to three basic
questions: what are the atomic units of discourse? What kinds of
structures can be built from the elementary units? How are the
resulting structures interpreted semantically? The author argues
that the Linguistic Discourse Model provides a significant set of
tools for systematic investigation of discourse-level linguistic
Chapter 15, 'The variationist Approach toward Discourse Structural
Effects and Socio-interactional Dynamics' (pp. 282-303), co-
authored by Sylvie Dubois and David Sankoff, demonstrates that
there are three types of extralinguistic effects on the properties
of enumeration: (1) some properties are influenced by interactional
and social effects together; (2) some factors are exclusively
influenced by the social dimension; and (3) some factors are linked
solely or largely to the interactional dynamic.
Chapter 16, 'Computer-assisted Text and Corpus Analysis: Lexical
Cohesion and Communicative Competence' (pp. 304-320), contributed
by Michael Stubbs, illustrates some computer-assisted methods of
analyzing the use of words and phrases in texts and corpora.
Specifically, the following topics are covered: (1) the
contribution of words and phrases to text cohesion; (2) the
intertextual relations between texts; and (3) the extent to which
our linguistic competence includes knowledge of norms of language
Chapter 17, 'The Transcription of Discourse' (pp. 321-348), written
by Jane A. Edwards, provides an overview of factors which are
relevant whenever transcriptions are used. It begins with general
principles of design which are relevant regardless of research
questions. Next it surveys alternative conventions and their
underlying assumptions. Then the discussion turns to practical
issues of applying transcription conventions to actual data in a
consistent and efficient manner. Finally, it reviews some
historical precursors to transcriptions, and summarizes developing
standards and future trends.
Part 3, 'Discourse: Language, Context, and Interaction'
Section A, 'Political, Social, and Institutional Domains'
Chapter 18, 'Critical Discourse Analysis' (pp. 352-371),
contributed by Teun A. Van Dijk, starts with a definition of
critical discourse analysis (CDA) and some basic concepts, such as
macro vs. micro, and power, devising a theoretical framework that
critically relates discourse, cognition, and society. The author
then moves on to review several areas of CDA research, concluding
that CDA deals with the relationship between discourse and power,
and integration of various approaches in very important to arrive
at a satisfactory form of multidisciplinary CDA.Chapter 19,
'Discourse and Racism' (pp. 372-397), contributed by Ruth Wodak and
Martin Reisigl, argues that 'a starting point of a discourse
analytical approach to the complex phenomenon of racism is to
realize that racism, as both social practice and ideology,
manifests itself discursively' (p. 372). After briefly reviewing
concepts of 'race' and explanations of racism, the authors present
five discourse analytic approaches to racism.
Chapter 20, 'Political Discourse' (pp. 398-399), written by John
Wilson, touches upon the relationship between politics and
discourse. As the author asserts, one of the core goals of
political discourse analysis is to seek out the ways in which
language choice is manipulated for specific political effect. It is
shown that most samples of political discourse may be mapped onto
the various levels of linguistics from lexis to pragmatics.
Chapter 21, 'Discourse and Media' (pp. 416-436), written by Colleen
Cotter, outlines a range of work that considers media discourse
from several vantage points, examining many aspects of discourse
structure, representation, and involvement with audience and
society. The author points out that the news media can be studied
in terms of its texts or stories, and also in terms of the process
involved in the production of texts and stories.
Chapter 22, 'Discourse Analysis in the Legal Context' (pp. 437-
452), written by Roger W. Shuy, attempts to show that discourse
analysis has a bright future in legal disputes. After presenting a
brief history of discourse analysis and law, the author examines
how discourse analysis can be used to address legal issues in
certain criminal and civil cases (cf. pp. 438-444). The author also
claims that we can also use criminal cases to address linguistic
problems (pp. 444-451).
Chapter 23, 'The Discourse of Medical Encounters' by Nancy
Ainsworth-Vaughn presents a selective, issue-oriented review of
three dimensions of the discourse organization of the medical
encounter: sequential phases of the encounter, its discourse genre
(usually, interview vs. conversation); and its major constitutive
Chapter 24, 'Language and Medicine' (pp. 470-502) by Suzanne
Fleischman, concentrates on western biomedicine and on research in
and about English. After briefly touching upon doctor-patient
communication in section 1, the author deals with medical language
as an 'occupational register' and its constituent written genres in
section 2. Section 3 looks at the literature-medicine interface.
Section 4 deals with metaphors, in and of medicine. Section 5
probes the relationship of medical language to the 'real world' of
sickness and health.
Chapter 25, 'Discourse in Educational Settings' (pp. 503-517)
offers a selective overview of some of the chief analytic
constructs that have been employed in describing classroom
interaction and some of the topics of discourse study in
educational settings. The chapter closes by considering how
insights from discourse analysis in schools can help to make them
Chapter 26, 'Narrative in Institutions' (pp. 518-535) by Charlotte
Linde, proposes that there are two basic approaches to the study of
narrative in institutions. The first approach is the study of the
way narrative is used to carry out the daily work of the
institution. The second approach is the study of the work that
narrative performs in institutions to create and reproduce its
identity by the creation and maintenance of an institutional
Section B, 'Culture, Community, and Genre' (pp. 537-670)
Chapter 27, 'Discourse and Intercultural Communication' (pp. 538-
547) by Ron Scollon and Suzanne Wong Scollon, starts with a brief
historical account of several of the main lines of development of
different perspectives on intercultural communication. The
discussion then moves on to a close investigation of the
presuppositions about the nature of discursive and communicative
research underlying these different approaches. Finally the author
discuss some of the problematical areas which remain in the
intersection of discourse analysis and intercultural communication.
Chapter 28, 'Discourse and Gender' (pp. 548-567) co-authored by
Shari Kendall and Deborah Tannen, reviews the historical
development of the research in discourse and gender and presents
some of the most widely accepted tenets and the most widely debated
issues. As the authors note, points of agreement include (1) the
social construction of gender, (2) the indirect relationship
between gender and discourse, (3) gendered discourse as a resource,
and (4) gendered discourse as a constraint. And the most widely
debated issues are gender duality and performativity.
Chapter 29, 'Discourse and Aging' (pp. 568-589) by Heidi E.
Hamilton, discusses the multiple disciplinary perspectives and
approaches that underlie this diversity (section 2), tracing in
detail the different modes of inquiry (section 3) and areas of
inquiry (section 4) that characterize the literature on discourse
and aging today.
Chapter 30, 'Child Discourse' (pp. 590-611) by Jenny Cook-Gumperz
and Amy Kyratzis, aims to show how the field of child discourse
studies has shifted focus onto children as active constructors of
their world within the domains of adult-child and peer discourse.
Chapter 31, 'Computer-mediated Discourse' (pp. 612-634) by Susan C.
Herring, presents an overview of computer-mediated discourse,
focussing on issues of categorization, linguistic structure,
interaction management, and social practice in computer-mediated
Chapter 32, 'Discourse Analysis and Narrative' (pp. 635-) by
Barbara Johnstone, begins with a brief description of structuralist
narratology and some of the earliest and most influential American
work on narrative in linguistics, that of Labov and Waletzky (1967;
Labov 1972: 354-396). Subsequent sections cover other important
work on the linguistic structure of narrative, the development of
narrative skill and style and, variation in narrative. This chapter
ends with a discussion of the current state of narrative study in
Chapter 33, 'Discourse and Conflict' (pp. 650-670) by Christina
Kakava, covers representative research that has been done on
language and conflict: (1) the structural properties of conflict;
(2) the communicative strategies of conducting conflict; (3)
conflict negotiation and resolution; and (4) the meanings of
conflict. Some recent trends and future directions in this area are
outlined in the conclusion.
Part 4, 'Discourse across Disciplines' (pp. 671-816)
Chapter 34, 'The Analysis of Discourse Flow' (pp. 673-687) by
Wallace Chafe, argues that a basic challenge for discourse analysis
is to identify the forces that give direction to the flow of
thoughts, one of which are topics. Once a topic has been
introduced, the more limited focus of active consciousness
navigates through it, and this navigation process is often guided
by a schema (cf. e.g. Bartlett 1932; Chafe 1986) or driven by the
less predictable interaction between conversational participants
(cf. Chafe 1994: 120-136).
Chapter 35, 'The Discursive Turn in Social Psychology' (pp. 688-
706) by Rom Harr�, explores the turn to analysis of discourse in
social psychology. The author illustrates the literal use of the
concept of 'conversation' as a guide to building working models of
psychological phenomena and shows how the scope of the concept of
discourse must be enlarged to include nonlinguistic interchanges of
certain sorts. It is also argued that 'we must acknowledge a
multiplicity of overlapping customs and constraints on what we do
and say to one another in creating and managing the next episode in
our lives' (p. 697).
Chapter 36, 'Discourse Analysis and Language Teaching' (pp. 707-
724) by Elite Olshtain and Marianne Celce-Uurcia, serves as a
parallel account for language teaching. The author assert that the
discourse perspective in language teaching places particular
importance on the notion of share language and that within the
teaching context, discourse analysis has significant applications
in the language areas of phonology, grammar and vocabulary. The
relationship between discourse analysis and the teaching of the
language skills is also touched upon in this chapter.
Chapter 37, 'Discourse Analysis in Communication' (pp. 725-749) by
Karen Tracy, begins with background about the field of
communication and how it connects with discourse analytic studies.
And five examples of discourse research, book-length analyses that
make apparent differences among traditions within communication are
dwelled on. The author concludes by identifying the intellectual
features that give discourse studies conducted by communication
scholars a family resemblance.
Chapter 38, 'Discourse and Sociology: Sociology and Discourse' (pp.
750-771) by Allen Grimshaw, presents an 'eclectic sampling of new
development linking discourse and sociology' (p. 763). Drawing on a
'discourse-oriented approach to culture' employed in Urban's work
(1991, 1996), the author gives an account of how ways of talking in
a society simultaneously reflect, constitute, and reproduce social
organization, and norms about everyday living. The discussion then
focuses on the talk of social conflict, followed by sketches of a
sampling of studies of discourse in institutional settings that
illumine issues of long-standing sociological concern.
Chapter 39, 'Imagination in Discourse' (pp. 772-786) by Herbert H.
Clark and Mija M. Van Der Wege, begins with the claim that taking
part in discourse often demands 'a vivid imagination' (p. 772). In
this chapter, the authors describe the challenge that imagination
poses for accounts of discourse and then evaluate several answers
to these challenges. It is argued that for a theory of narratives
to be complete, it must account for the experience of imagining,
the role of mimetic props, the coordination of imagining between
narrators and their audience, and the compartmentalization of
imagination from reality.
Chapter 40, 'Literary Pragmatics' (pp. 787-797) by Jacob L. Mey,
introduces the author's analytic method for understanding the
discourse of literary fiction. He argues that reading is a
cooperative act, the pragmatics of literary texts spell out the
conditions for this collaborative effort, without which the text
would not properly exist as text.
Last but not the least, chapter 41, 'Computational Perspectives on
Discourse and Dialog' (pp. 798-816), is contributed by Bonnie Lynn
Webber. Section 1 provides a brief discussion of computational
models of discourse and dialog from the perspective of
computational linguistics (pp. 800-804). The author goes on to
describe language technology in the area of discourse and dialog in
section 2 (pp. 804-808) and speculate on future directions and
developments in section 3 (pp. 808-809).
This brilliant, all-inclusive and interdisciplinary handbook, I
would suggest, is a 'must read' for scholars and students of
discourse analysis, pragmatics, communication, cognitive
psychology, social psychology and artificial intelligence. The
contributions of leading and authoritative scholars guarantee the
highest standards of academic scholarship. All these authors
approach the subject matter from different perspectives, fanning
out all the vastness and richness available of this academic domain
newly emerging and yet rapidly growing. This handbook is
meticulously written, cogent and reader-friendly. It is destined, I
would say, to become one of the most invaluable, comprehensive
reference books on discourse analysis.
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and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chafe, W. (1979) 'The flow of thought and the flow of language', In
T. Givon (ed.), Syntax and Semantics (Vol. 12: Discourse and
Syntax, pp. 159-181). New York: Academic Press.
Chafe, W. (1986) 'Beyond Bartlett: Narratives and remembering'. In
Elisabeth Guelich and Uta M. Quasthoff (eds.), Narrative Analysis:
An Interdisciplinary Dialogue. Special issues of Poetics, 15, 139-
Chafe, W. (1994) Discourse, Consciousness, and Time: The Flow and
Displacement of Conscious Experience in Speaking and Writing.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Couper-Kuhlen, E. (1986) An
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Fraser, B. (1990) 'An Approach to discourse markers', Journal of
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Fraser, B. (1998) 'Contrastive discourse markers in English'. In A.
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Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, pp. 301-326.
Halliday, M. and R. Hasan (1976) Cohesion in English. London:
Labov, W. (1972) Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvannia Press.
Labov, W. and Waletzky, J. (1967) Narrative analysis: Oral versions
of personal experience. In J. Helm (ed.), Essays on the Verbal and
Visual Arts (pp. 12-44). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Schiffrin, Deborah (1994) Approaches to Discourse. Oxford:
Sperber D. and Wilson, D. (1986/1995) Relevance: Communication and
Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Urban, Greg (1991) A Discourse-Centered Approach to Culture: Native
South American Myths and Rituals. Austin: University of Texas
Urban, Greg (1996) Metaphysical Community: The Interplay of the
Senses and the Intellect. Austin: University of Texas Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Suzhen Zhuang is an unaffiliated scholar in China. Her general
research interests include discourse analysis, pragmatics,
communication and culture.