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Review of  Discourse, of Course

Reviewer: Mariza Georgalou
Book Title: Discourse, of Course
Book Author: Jan Renkema
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 21.1516

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AUTHOR: Renkema, Jan
TITLE: Discourse, of Course
SUBTITLE: An Overview of Research in Discourse Studies
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2009

Mariza Georgalou, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster


''Discourse, of Course'' is a follow-up to Jan Renkema's introduction to
''Discourse Studies'' (2004) for undergraduate students. This new edited volume
gathers twenty short papers written by distinguished and thoroughly-experienced
discourse analysts, aimed at graduate courses. The present collection stands out
from other similar attempts in that it introduces material for advanced programs
in discourse studies, proposes research projects to prospective PhD students,
and presents synoptically, albeit spherically, recent advances in discourse studies.

With a view to enabling students to self-study and design their own research,
all contributions in the volume follow a predetermined format of seven sections:
introduction, the research challenge, examples, research methods, recent
research, research proposal and practical relevance. In addition, they are
thematically organized into eight distinct parts.

Part I, ''Discourse in communication'', deals with the position of discourse in
communication by and large. Informed by discourse semantics and pragmatics,
Andrea Rocci in his opening chapter, ''Doing discourse with possible worlds'',
explores the introduction of different worlds in the discourse as well as the
relationships established between these worlds. Using excerpts from M. L. King's
''I have a dream'' speech, he sheds light on how a discourse pursues its pragmatic
goals and links to its social and cultural context.

Anna Duszak, in ''Discourses 'off course'?'', intersects critical discourse
analysis (henceforth CDA), social semiotics and applied linguistics to study
Polish hybridized texts (signs and ads). Her examples indicate the omnipotence
of discourse to exploit both perceptual and semantic salience, seriousness and
play, compliance and subversion while special emphasis is placed on intertextuality.

Part II, ''Discourse and other communication modes'', discusses the intermingling
of the verbal and the visual mode. In ''Discourse across semiotic modes'', John A.
Bateman criticizes most multimodal analysis frameworks, including Kress and van
Leeuwen's (1996) model, as inadequate in unfolding the meaning-making potential
of multimodal artifacts. As a counterbalance, he puts forward the GeM (Genre and
Multimodality) model which defines the layers of multimodal analysis in terms of
layout, navigation, language, content, rhetorics and genre. According to
Bateman, all multimodal products are filtered through three semiotic modes: the
(traditional) text-flow, the (spatial) page-flow and the (graphical) image-flow.

''Schemes and tropes in visual communication: The case of object grouping in
advertisements'' by Alfons Maes and Joost Schilperoord addresses the potential of
the visual medium to express tropes (like metaphor) and schemes (like rhyme) as
well as the interaction of content and form in visual rhetoric with particular
reference to the scheme of object grouping in print ads. The authors employ a
tripartite procedure (what-how-why) for fine-grained analysis of trope-scheme

The chapters included in part III, ''Discourse types'', focus on text typology and
genre classification, an area that has not been charted systematically. In ''Text
types and dynamism of genres'', Sungsoon Wang investigates the underlying
mechanism of linguistic variation of different text types in Korean. Embracing
the tenets of Relevance Theory, she asserts that every utterance can be seen as
an interpretive expression of a speaker's thought, whereas the notion of
interpretation constraint plays a pivotal role as a tool in genre analysis.

In his chapter entitled ''Academic and professional written genres in
disciplinary communication: Theoretical and empirical challenges'', Giovanni
Parodi reports his findings in genre classifications and descriptions based on
Spanish corpora of texts which come from basic reading material in university
courses and in professional settings of the same disciplines. Studying genres
from an interdisciplinary and psycholinguistic perspective, Parodi has developed
a multi-feature and multi-dimensional methodology for genre analysis.

Part IV of the volume, ''Discourse structures'', is concerned with the ways in
which sentences or utterances are combined within a discourse. In ''Why
investigate textual information hierarchy?'', Elizabeth Le, driven by cognitive
psychology, exhibits a model of coherence analysis which allows one to link
micro- and macro-uses of language at textual and social levels. Having analyzed
academic articles and newspaper editorials, she concludes that the model takes
into consideration the ''analyst's'' insights along with the fact that different
coherent readings of the same text are possible but limited.

According to Maite Taboada, in ''Implicit and explicit coherence relations'',
coherence relations, discourse relations or rhetorical relations constitute a
vital aspect of the perception of coherence in discourse. The signaling of these
relations, be it explicit or implicit (i.e. syntactic information, reported
speech, certain verbs, lexical and cohesive chains, punctuation, or
genre-related structures), can be deciphered by dint of corpus analysis and
psycholinguistic experimentation.

Part V, ''Stylistics and rhetorics'', looks at varieties in wording and
composition in discourse and effects on target audience. In ''Style and culture
in quantitative discourse analysis'', Martin Kaltenbacher coalesces discourse
analysis, systemic functional linguistics and corpus linguistics so as to
identify elements of cultural style in an Austrian and an American corpus of
tourist websites. The core of his argument is that the style of a text depends
on the writer's cultural background and national identity.

In the same line of synergy between systemic linguistics and corpus linguistics,
Xinzhang Yang, in ''Devices of probability and obligation in text types'', delves
into whether modal verbs and adjuncts are used in the same way across different
registers in legal and academic texts. The concept of ''register'' is central in
her research as it refers to that kind of variation which goes hand in hand with
variation in the context of situation.

The chapter ''Analysis and evaluation of argumentative discourse'' by Frans H. van
Eemeren and Bart Garssen elucidates the pragma-dialectal approach, that is the
methodical blending of empirical research of actual communication (pragmatics)
and critical regimentation (dialectics). Pragma-dialecticians rely on four
methodological principles, namely functionalization, socialization,
externalization and dialectification, highlighting the significance of strategic
maneuvering. Their approach is considered ideal for studying argumentative
discourse in the legal, the political and the medical realms.

Part VI, ''Discourse and cognition'', comprises chapters which pertain to what is
happening in the human brain during the production and perception of discourse.
The point of departure in Mark Sadoski's ''Embodied cognition, discourse, and
Dual Coding Theory: New Directions'' is the capacity of Dual Coding Theory to
explain cognition by means of the interaction of verbal and non-verbal code,
both of which warrant meaning and memory. Through this spectrum, he focuses on
persuasive and argumentative discourse suggesting randomized experiments, text
comprehension and recall, and text composition.

The next contribution comes from Ted Sanders and Wilbert Spooren with the paper
''The cognition of discourse coherence''. Their cognitive approach to coherence
relations (CCR) accepts that all possible relations which connect parts of
discourse share particular conceptual properties used by humans in interpreting
and producing discourse. The authors classify coherence relations in accordance
with four relational concepts: basic operation, source of coherence, order of
the segments, and polarity.

Max M. Louwerse and Patrick Jeuniaux, in ''A computational psycholinguistic
algorithm to measure cohesion in discourse'', describe how they came to produce a
linguistic algorithm which assists in determining the semantic associations
between texts from a psycholinguistic perspective. Their technique - called
Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) - measured cohesion in literary and newspaper
corpora, both at the local (sentence) and at the global (paragraph) level.

Part VII, ''Discourse and institution'', is dedicated to the function of discourse
in institutions from a sociological point of view. In her article ''Chinese
questions and power relations in institutional dialogue'', Jinjun Wang challenges
the turn-taking model (Sacks et al. 1974) on the grounds that it disregards
unequal distribution of power in communicative contexts. Applying critical
discourse analytical tools to data from a news interview, a medical and a
classroom encounter, she finds that power in verbal interaction is determined by
the speaker's institutional role, socio-economic status, gender or national

Centring on Belgian media discourse, Geert Jacobs and Tom van Hout, in ''Towards
a process view of preformulation in press releases'', adopt a diachronic,
natural-history view of the news to investigate the role of preformulation in
the news production process at PR departments and news desks. Their venture is
accomplished by combining a linguistic ethnographic approach and
computer-assisted writing process analysis.

Kenneth C.C. Kong, in his paper ''Media discourse'', brings to the fore a largely
unexplored hybrid genre, that of transaction reports, namely news reports and
property ads. Drawing on data from two property magazines in Hong Kong, the
author analyses the structural elements of this genre based on Bell's (1991,
1998) model of news structure.

The last part of the book, ''Discourse and culture'', is queried with what
discourse can reveal as regards societal characteristics. ''Critical discourse
analysis'' written by Theo van Leeuwen gives a concise overview of CDA aims and
methods as well as critiques against it. The author introduces Social Actor
Analysis which apart from helping in discerning patterns of representation, also
constitutes a concrete base for critical evaluation. Social Actor Analysis is
exemplified by showing how ordinary people are represented in two British
newspapers (''The Times'' and ''The Sun'').

Inger Lassen, in ''Gendered discursive constructions of bank manager positions:
Conflicting social identities'', embarks on how men and women build gender
identities through discourse, taking as a case in point a Danish bank. Leaning
on the Appraisal framework (Martin and White 2005) and inspired not only by
Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1995a, 1995b, 2003) but also by Widdowson's (1998, 2000)
critique against CDA, she deduces that each gender appraises favorably its own

The final contribution to this volume comes from Ruth Wodak with the chapter
''The semiotics of racism: a Critical discourse-historical analysis''. Wodak
starts by unveiling the tenets of CDA in general and the critical
discourse-historical approach in particular, commenting simultaneously on the
attacks that CDA has suffered. As she posits, racism, discrimination and
exclusion become manifest in discourse. Her case study involves visual material
from a recent Austrian election campaign by a right-wing populist party paying
emphasis to pragmatic devices, topoi and fallacies.


''Discourse, of Course'' is a well-rounded piece of work targeted specifically at
future PhD students within communication science, teachers of discourse analysis
as well as researchers and scholars who wish to keep up with recent trends and
developments in the field. Its material is highly technical and therefore
intensive training in discourse studies and familiarity with other linguistic
branches such as semantics, pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, corpus
linguistics and stylistics are seen as a prerequisite for readers.

All contributions show that discourse can be approached from vastly diverse
angles reminding us how rich and multifaceted the field is. The authors,
professors and researchers themselves at reputable universities around the
world, succeed stunningly in presenting and analyzing a wide variety of issues
and examples following very different schools in discourse studies. In addition,
the book is fortified by an extensive bibliographical list, a subject index and
authors' analytical biographical sketches, an option often neglected by edited

Given that the book addresses new researchers, the authors are well aware of
their mentoring role. Taboada expounds on a step-by-step guide for a PhD
proposal which mingles corpus and psycholinguistic experimentation. Kaltenbacher
presents a series of handy strategies on how to select and manipulate words from
a corpus. Similarly, Wodak lists an 8-stage program functional for systematic
discourse-historical approach analysis. On the other hand, Louwerse and
Jeuniaux's LSA may assist students but also teachers, publishing houses and
readers who want to familiarize themselves with cohesion and text readability.

An outstanding feature of the volume is the fixed chapter format and more
precisely the section on research proposal and the suggested assignments at the
end of each chapter with texts ranging from political speeches and
advertisements to newspaper and academic journal articles. Not only do they
provide solid ground for further meticulous research but they also spur the
student to reflect critically on discourse matters combining diverse theoretical
and practical approaches.

In this vein, the key to the assignments proves to be invaluable. Rocci, Maes
and Schilperoord, Le, van Eemeren and Garssen, and van Leeuwen do an excellent
job in furnishing detailed, comprehensive, and stimulating analyses.

For those interested in hybridized discourses, apart from social semiotics and
multimodal discourse analysis, Duszak interestingly endorses their study within
translation theory, foreign language pedagogy and language policy. Moreover, she
provides appealing suggestions on the phenomena of pidginization and
interlingual borrowing, social accommodation and convergence, code-switching and
code-crossing, domestication and foreignisation.

Lassen proposes fresh ideas too in exploring corporate discourses that pertain
to stereotypical images of men and women. Being in favour of a diachronic study,
she enumerates a wealth of potential genres to analyze along with research
methods encouraging the amalgamation of socio-cultural theory and CDA.

As regards the heart of each paper, theoretical points and examples by Rocci,
Parodi, Sanders and Spooren, and Kong are skillfully visualized and therefore
engraved in readers' mind in terms of tables, figures, charts and graphs.

Another very positive aspect of the volume is that the status of oral discourse
is duly acknowledged. Parodi invites researchers to investigate spoken or oral
genres in different languages adopting corpus-based approaches. For her part,
Taboada underlines the importance of spoken language in allowing new types of
signaling such as intonation, pauses and gesture.

Notwithstanding, the present work calls for some elucidation and probing.
Bateman's GeM model could have been explicated in more practical terms going
deeper in exemplifying. It would also have been preferable for Taboada and Yang
to present coherence and modality respectively in a more sophisticated way
serving postgraduate students' need to enhance their knowledge of those
fundamental concepts.

The volume displays a few bugs mainly related to typos: on pp. 88 and 91,
''Ostman'' should read ''Östman''; on p. 95 ''Bajtin's'' is written instead of
''Bahtin's''; on p. 207, ''childrens''' appears in lieu of ''children's''; on p. 333
''Pleas note'' reads in place of ''Please note''. As far as the authors' CVs are
concerned, there is some inconsistency in the surnames' alphabetic order on pp.
360-362 (Joost Schilperoord is misplaced on p. 360). Finally, a reference is
missing from Jacobs and van Hout's chapter, that of Agar (1995) on ethnography,
while Sanders and et al.'s (1992) work on p. 383 is cited twice. However, the
above do not detract from the volume's coherence and erudition.

On the whole, ''Discourse, of Course'' should not be viewed as a mere textbook but
as a tool via which students will deftly cement their own research; as a guide
via which tutors will effectively design courses and seminars. In this sense,
the volume fulfils Renkema's initial hope in intriguing and inspiring
researchers in the field of discourse studies.


Agar, M. (1995) ''Ethnography''. In J. Verschueren, J.-O. Östman and J. Blommaert
(eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 583-590.
Bell, A. (1991) The Language of News Media. Oxford: Blackwell.
Bell, A. (1998) ''The Discourse Structure of News Stories''. In A. Bell and P.
Garrett (eds.), Approaches to Media Discourse. Oxford: Blackwell. 64-104.
Fairclough, N. (1989) Language and Power. London: Longman.
Fairclough, N. (1992) Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Fairclough, N. (1995a) Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.
Fairclough, N. (1995b) Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Longman.
Fairclough, N. (2003) Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research.
London: Routledge.
Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. (1996) Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual
Design. London: Routledge.
Martin, J.R. and White, P.R.R. (2005) The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in
English. London: Palgrave.
Renkema, J. (2004) Introduction to Discourse Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. and Jefferson, G. (1974) ''A Simplest Systematics for
the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation''. Language 50 (4): 696-735.
Sanders, T., Spooren, W. and Noordman, L. (1992) ''Toward a Taxonomy of Coherence
Relations''. Discourse Processes 15: 1-35.
Widdowson, Henry G. (1998) ''The Theory and Practice of Critical Discourse
Analysis'' [Review]. Applied Linguistics 19(1): 136-151.
Widdowson, H.G. (2000) ''On the Limitations of Linguistics Applied''. Applied
Linguistics 21(1): 3-25.

Mariza Georgalou is a graduate of the Faculty of English Studies, Department of Language and Linguistics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece (2005). She holds an MA (with Honours) in Language Studies from Lancaster University, UK (2006) where she has just started her PhD in Linguistics focusing on the online discursive performance of self. Her areas of interest include [new] media discourse, [critical] discourse analysis, social semiotics and online ethnography. She works as a copy editor at the technology magazine PC Magazine (Greek edition).