LINGUIST List 21.1516

Mon Mar 29 2010

Review: Discourse Analysis; Linguistic Theories: Renkema (2009)

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        1.    Mariza Georgalou, Discourse, of Course

Message 1: Discourse, of Course
Date: 29-Mar-2010
From: Mariza Georgalou <>
Subject: Discourse, of Course
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AUTHOR: Renkema, JanTITLE: Discourse, of CourseSUBTITLE: An Overview of Research in Discourse StudiesPUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing CompanyYEAR: 2009

Mariza Georgalou, Department of Linguistics and English Language, LancasterUniversity


''Discourse, of Course'' is a follow-up to Jan Renkema's introduction to''Discourse Studies'' (2004) for undergraduate students. This new edited volumegathers twenty short papers written by distinguished and thoroughly-experienceddiscourse analysts, aimed at graduate courses. The present collection stands outfrom other similar attempts in that it introduces material for advanced programsin 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, recentresearch, research proposal and practical relevance. In addition, they arethematically organized into eight distinct parts.

Part I, ''Discourse in communication'', deals with the position of discourse incommunication 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 therelationships 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 pragmaticgoals and links to its social and cultural context.

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

Part II, ''Discourse and other communication modes'', discusses the interminglingof the verbal and the visual mode. In ''Discourse across semiotic modes'', John A.Bateman criticizes most multimodal analysis frameworks, including Kress and vanLeeuwen's (1996) model, as inadequate in unfolding the meaning-making potentialof multimodal artifacts. As a counterbalance, he puts forward the GeM (Genre andMultimodality) model which defines the layers of multimodal analysis in terms oflayout, navigation, language, content, rhetorics and genre. According toBateman, 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 inadvertisements'' by Alfons Maes and Joost Schilperoord addresses the potential ofthe visual medium to express tropes (like metaphor) and schemes (like rhyme) aswell as the interaction of content and form in visual rhetoric with particularreference to the scheme of object grouping in print ads. The authors employ atripartite procedure (what-how-why) for fine-grained analysis of trope-schemecombinations.

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

In his chapter entitled ''Academic and professional written genres indisciplinary communication: Theoretical and empirical challenges'', GiovanniParodi reports his findings in genre classifications and descriptions based onSpanish corpora of texts which come from basic reading material in universitycourses and in professional settings of the same disciplines. Studying genresfrom an interdisciplinary and psycholinguistic perspective, Parodi has developeda multi-feature and multi-dimensional methodology for genre analysis.

Part IV of the volume, ''Discourse structures'', is concerned with the ways inwhich sentences or utterances are combined within a discourse. In ''Whyinvestigate textual information hierarchy?'', Elizabeth Le, driven by cognitivepsychology, exhibits a model of coherence analysis which allows one to linkmicro- and macro-uses of language at textual and social levels. Having analyzedacademic articles and newspaper editorials, she concludes that the model takesinto consideration the ''analyst's'' insights along with the fact that differentcoherent 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 avital aspect of the perception of coherence in discourse. The signaling of theserelations, be it explicit or implicit (i.e. syntactic information, reportedspeech, certain verbs, lexical and cohesive chains, punctuation, orgenre-related structures), can be deciphered by dint of corpus analysis andpsycholinguistic experimentation.

Part V, ''Stylistics and rhetorics'', looks at varieties in wording andcomposition in discourse and effects on target audience. In ''Style and culturein quantitative discourse analysis'', Martin Kaltenbacher coalesces discourseanalysis, systemic functional linguistics and corpus linguistics so as toidentify elements of cultural style in an Austrian and an American corpus oftourist websites. The core of his argument is that the style of a text dependson 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'', delvesinto whether modal verbs and adjuncts are used in the same way across differentregisters in legal and academic texts. The concept of ''register'' is central inher research as it refers to that kind of variation which goes hand in hand withvariation in the context of situation.

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

Part VI, ''Discourse and cognition'', comprises chapters which pertain to what ishappening in the human brain during the production and perception of discourse.The point of departure in Mark Sadoski's ''Embodied cognition, discourse, andDual Coding Theory: New Directions'' is the capacity of Dual Coding Theory toexplain cognition by means of the interaction of verbal and non-verbal code,both of which warrant meaning and memory. Through this spectrum, he focuses onpersuasive and argumentative discourse suggesting randomized experiments, textcomprehension 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 coherencerelations (CCR) accepts that all possible relations which connect parts ofdiscourse share particular conceptual properties used by humans in interpretingand producing discourse. The authors classify coherence relations in accordancewith four relational concepts: basic operation, source of coherence, order ofthe segments, and polarity.

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

Part VII, ''Discourse and institution'', is dedicated to the function of discoursein institutions from a sociological point of view. In her article ''Chinesequestions and power relations in institutional dialogue'', Jinjun Wang challengesthe turn-taking model (Sacks et al. 1974) on the grounds that it disregardsunequal distribution of power in communicative contexts. Applying criticaldiscourse analytical tools to data from a news interview, a medical and aclassroom encounter, she finds that power in verbal interaction is determined bythe speaker's institutional role, socio-economic status, gender or nationalidentity.

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

Kenneth C.C. Kong, in his paper ''Media discourse'', brings to the fore a largelyunexplored hybrid genre, that of transaction reports, namely news reports andproperty ads. Drawing on data from two property magazines in Hong Kong, theauthor 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 whatdiscourse can reveal as regards societal characteristics. ''Critical discourseanalysis'' written by Theo van Leeuwen gives a concise overview of CDA aims andmethods as well as critiques against it. The author introduces Social ActorAnalysis which apart from helping in discerning patterns of representation, alsoconstitutes a concrete base for critical evaluation. Social Actor Analysis isexemplified by showing how ordinary people are represented in two Britishnewspapers (''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 genderidentities through discourse, taking as a case in point a Danish bank. Leaningon the Appraisal framework (Martin and White 2005) and inspired not only byFairclough (1989, 1992, 1995a, 1995b, 2003) but also by Widdowson's (1998, 2000)critique against CDA, she deduces that each gender appraises favorably its owncategory.

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


''Discourse, of Course'' is a well-rounded piece of work targeted specifically atfuture PhD students within communication science, teachers of discourse analysisas well as researchers and scholars who wish to keep up with recent trends anddevelopments in the field. Its material is highly technical and thereforeintensive training in discourse studies and familiarity with other linguisticbranches such as semantics, pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, corpuslinguistics and stylistics are seen as a prerequisite for readers.

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

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

An outstanding feature of the volume is the fixed chapter format and moreprecisely the section on research proposal and the suggested assignments at theend of each chapter with texts ranging from political speeches andadvertisements to newspaper and academic journal articles. Not only do theyprovide solid ground for further meticulous research but they also spur thestudent to reflect critically on discourse matters combining diverse theoreticaland practical approaches.

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

For those interested in hybridized discourses, apart from social semiotics andmultimodal discourse analysis, Duszak interestingly endorses their study withintranslation theory, foreign language pedagogy and language policy. Moreover, sheprovides appealing suggestions on the phenomena of pidginization andinterlingual borrowing, social accommodation and convergence, code-switching andcode-crossing, domestication and foreignisation.

Lassen proposes fresh ideas too in exploring corporate discourses that pertainto stereotypical images of men and women. Being in favour of a diachronic study,she enumerates a wealth of potential genres to analyze along with researchmethods 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 thereforeengraved in readers' mind in terms of tables, figures, charts and graphs.

Another very positive aspect of the volume is that the status of oral discourseis duly acknowledged. Parodi invites researchers to investigate spoken or oralgenres in different languages adopting corpus-based approaches. For her part,Taboada underlines the importance of spoken language in allowing new types ofsignaling 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 goingdeeper in exemplifying. It would also have been preferable for Taboada and Yangto present coherence and modality respectively in a more sophisticated wayserving postgraduate students' need to enhance their knowledge of thosefundamental 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 areconcerned, there is some inconsistency in the surnames' alphabetic order on pp.360-362 (Joost Schilperoord is misplaced on p. 360). Finally, a reference ismissing 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, theabove do not detract from the volume's coherence and erudition.

On the whole, ''Discourse, of Course'' should not be viewed as a mere textbook butas a tool via which students will deftly cement their own research; as a guidevia which tutors will effectively design courses and seminars. In this sense,the volume fulfils Renkema's initial hope in intriguing and inspiringresearchers 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 VisualDesign. London: Routledge.Martin, J.R. and White, P.R.R. (2005) The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal inEnglish. London: Palgrave.Renkema, J. (2004) Introduction to Discourse Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. and Jefferson, G. (1974) ''A Simplest Systematics forthe Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation''. Language 50 (4): 696-735.Sanders, T., Spooren, W. and Noordman, L. (1992) ''Toward a Taxonomy of CoherenceRelations''. Discourse Processes 15: 1-35.Widdowson, Henry G. (1998) ''The Theory and Practice of Critical DiscourseAnalysis'' [Review]. Applied Linguistics 19(1): 136-151.Widdowson, H.G. (2000) ''On the Limitations of Linguistics Applied''. AppliedLinguistics 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).

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