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LINGUIST List 24.272

Tue Jan 15 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; Discourse Analysis: Jones (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 15-Jan-2013
From: Meixia Li <lmx595yahoo.com.cn>
Subject: Discourse Analysis: A resource book for students
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2401.html

AUTHOR: Rodney H. Jones
TITLE: Discourse Analysis
SUBTITLE: A resource book for students
PUBLISHER: London and New York: Routledge
YEAR: 2012

Meixia Li, School of English Language, Literature and Culture, Beijing
International Studies University, Beijing, China

SUMMARY

“Discourse Analysis” is not just a reference book for students, it is also a
useful book for university teachers and researchers who are pursuing discourse
studies. For students or beginners, by reading through this book, they will
have a complete overview of discourse analysis and might be stimulated to
further explore this subject. For university teachers and researchers, this
book will not only provide them with updated developments in discourse
analysis, but also enable them to do further research on the topics sketched
by the author.

The macro-structure of this book covers four parts. The first part introduces
the key topics in the study of discourse analysis. The second part develops
discourse analysis approaches mentioned in the first part. The third part
explores how to put the approaches and methodological tools into practices.
The fourth part presents the key readings in discourse analysis.

In the introductory part, the author introduces the key topics in the study of
discourse analysis, with chapters on What Is Discourse Analysis?; Texts and
Texture; Texts and Their Social Functions; Discourse and Ideology; Spoken
Discourse; Strategic Interaction; Context, Culture and Communication; Mediated
Discourse Analysis; Multimodal Discourse Analysis; and Corpus-Assisted
Discourse Analysis. In the first chapter, “What is discourse analysis?”, Jones
states that “discourse analysis is not just the study of language. It is a way
of looking at language that focuses on how people use it in real life to do
things such as joke and argue and persuade and flirt, and to show that they
are certain kinds of people or belong to certain groups” (p. 2). In chapter 2,
the author defines ‘texture’ as “that quality that makes a particular set of
words or sentences a text rather than a random collection of linguistic items”
(p. 6). For ‘text’, the author states that what makes a text a text is
relationships or connections, which includes internal relationships (i.e.
cohesion), external relationships (i.e. coherence), and intertextual
relationships. The chapter “Texts and Their Social Functions” surveys the
topic from three aspects. First, the author says that “the study of social
functions of different kinds of texts is called genre analysis” (p. 8) and
genres are conceived as communicative events. Second, communicative events are
governed by constraints. Third, expert users employ these constraints in
creative and unexpected ways. In “Discourse and Ideology,” the author examines
“how texts promote certain points or versions of reality” (p. 11) with focus
on such subtopics as ‘whos-doing-whats’, and relationships, intertextuality
and discourses. Next “Spoken Discourse” is dealt with. In the author’s point
of view, spoken discourse promotes particular versions of reality or
ideologies, which can be accounted for by utilizing two theoretical
traditions: pragmatics and conversation analysis. In “Strategic Interaction”,
two strategies including face strategies and framing strategies are given
attention. In the chapter “Context, Culture and Communication,” the author
specifies the origin and development of context, and presents a dynamic scene
of the interrelationship among context, culture and communication. Finally,
the remaining three chapters, “Mediated Discourse Analysis,” “Multimodal
Discourse Analysis” and “Corpus-Assisted Discourse Analysis” are given a
detailed explanation. To sum up, these ten topics represent the fundamental
contents in the field of discourse analysis.

The second part is “Development: Approaches to Discourse Analysis.” This part
contains development of the ten topics illustrated in the previous part. To
start with, the author presents “Three Ways of Looking at Discourse”: the
first a formal approach, the second a functional approach, and the third a
social approach. Then, the two core notions “Cohesion and Coherence” are
focused on. “Cohesion primarily has to do with linguistic features in texts,
and coherence has to do with the kinds of ‘frameworks’ with which readers
approach texts and what they want to use texts to do.” (p. 39) Additionally,
the author claims that the analysis of cohesion depends on two broad kinds of
linguistic devices: grammar and lexis, while the analysis of coherence
involves generic frameworks, cultural models and habitual ways of looking at
the world. The next chapter is “All the Right Moves,” in which by employing
Swales’ genre analysis, the author informs readers how to analyze the
communicative purpose of genres. Also by borrowing Bhatia’s notion ‘genre
blending’, the author explicates the phenomenon of the flouting of the
conventions of genres which leads to the production of seemingly creative or
unique genres. In the chapter “Constructing Reality,” the author explicates
how participants and processes are combined in texts to create certain
versions of reality. Constructing reality involves representing not only what
is going on, but also what the relationship is between the author and the
reader. In “The Texture of Talk,” the author defines the “texture of talk” as
covering the structure and patterning of the communication, and the broader
expectations about meaning and behaviour that participants bring to it. In
“Negotiating Relationships and Activities,” the author discusses how people
use face strategies and framing strategies to negotiate relationships and
activities. In “The SPEAKING Model,” the author reexamines the components of
the SPEAKING model devised by Hymes and states that the eight components
including setting, participants, ends, act sequence, key, instrumentalities,
norms and genre can not be considered alone: each component interacts with
other components in multiple ways. By using this model, the analyst “is not
just to determine the kinds of knowledge about the different components
members of speech communities need to successfully participate in a given
speech event, but also to determine how the different components are linked
together in particular ways for different speech events” (p. 67). The
chapter “Mediation” covers two components: culture tools and sites of
engagement, which further clarify the nature of mediated discourse analysis.
In chapter 9, “Modes, Meaning, and Action,” the author gives a specific
illustration of the components and the procedure of multimodal discourse
analysis. Finally, a very useful approach, “Procedures for Corpus-Assisted
Discourse Analysis” is described, including six basic procedures such as how
to generate word frequency lists, how to calculate type token ratio, how to
analyze concordances, how to analyze collocation, how to analyze keywords and
how to create dispersion plots.

The third part is “Exploration: Analyzing Discourse.” This part is the
meeting-place of theories and practices. The ten topics refer back to the
theoretical notions and frameworks illustrated respectively in Part A and Part
B; that is, the author thematises what is to be done in Part C. In this part,
by making use of many examples, the author covers the topics “Doing Discourse
Analysis,” “Analyzing Texture,” “Analyzing Genres,” “Other People’s Voices,”
“Analyzing Speech Acts,” “Analyzing Conversational Strategies,” “Analyzing
Contexts,” “Doing Mediated Discourse Analysis,” “Doing Multimodal Discourse
Analysis,” and “Analyzing Corpora.”

The last part is “Extension: Readings in discourse analysis.” This part
contains the same ten topics discussed in Parts A, B and C. Each of the ten
topics is approached by presenting well-known readings, such as the works of
Zellig Harris, M. A. K. Halliday, John Swales, Norman Fairclough, James Paul
Gee, John L. Austin, Emanuel A. Schegloff, Dell Hymes, Gunther Kree, Paul
Baker, etc.

EVALUATION

The most conspicuous point of this book is the way the contents are presented.
The contents include ten aspects: 1. how to define discourse analysis, 2. what
makes a stretch of utterance a text, 3. how discourses function in the social
world, 4. how texts promote versions of reality, 5. how spoken discourse
differs from written discourse, 6. what methods we use when we engage in
negotiations with the people with whom we are interacting about the activity
and our identities, 7. how to analyze context, 8. how to do mediated discourse
analysis, 9. how to analyze multimodal discourse, 10. how to use corpora to do
discourse analysis. The ten aspects are not handled one by one sequentially;
instead, they are dealt with by a gradual recursive method. In Part A, Jones
just gives a brief introduction to these topics so that readers, especially
beginners, can familiarize themselves with the basic topics in the study of
discourse analysis, which functions as a lead-in. In Part B, the same ten
topics are further developed, which not only strengthens students’ basic
knowledge about discourse analysis, but also leads students into the depth of
this area. In Part C, the same ten topics are explored again, this time
putting theories into action. In Part D, the same ten topics are extended,
with discussion of readings in the domain of discourse analysis. Both the
method of the presentation of contents and that of textual structure will
greatly impress students, whose interest and curiosity are gradually
stimulated and enhanced.

The next striking point is that this book contains many recent updated topics
and approaches in discourse analysis, such as mediated discourse analysis,
multimodal discourse analysis, corpus-assisted discourse analysis, etc.

Mediated discourse analysis is a very important perspective on discourse.
“Mediated discourse analysis is a framework for looking at such actions with
two questions in mind: What is the action going on here? How does discourse
figure into these actions?” (Scollon, 2001:1). This approach helps us
understand how the use of language can be directly or indirectly related to
the concrete, real-time actions that are going on in some specific places at
particular moments, and how they link together to create social identities and
social practices. Nevertheless, in the previous books, this approach was
rarely dealt with. So by reading this book students and even university
teachers and researchers can acquaint themselves with how to use this approach
so as to find out what underlies discourse and action.

Multimodal discourse analysis is also an established and prevalent approach in
the field of discourse analysis. Since the 1990s, discourse analysts have
shifted their focus from language systems to images (O’Tool, 1994, Kress & van
Leeuwen, 1996/2006), sound (van Leeuwen, 1999), motion (Martinec, 1998) and
many other types of multi-modal interactive devices. In this book, based upon
the brief introduction to the previous research, the author extracts the
essence of this approach and puts forward his point of view, which provides
readers with thought-provoking ideas and also pushes the development of this
approach.

Although the above approaches have proved useful, the data used are not in
large quantity and the research results are not so convincing. So another
approach, corpus-assisted discourse analysis, is complementary. In this book
the author gives a full and step-by-step explanation of this approach, from
which we can find answers to these questions. This part gives readers
instructions so that they can know how to do this kind of analysis easily by
following the procedure specified in the text.

The third special characteristic of this book is that its data are diversified
and cover many areas, such as “conversational interaction, ceremonial vows,
dating adverts, social media such as Facebook, blogs and MSN, films such as
When Harry Met Sally, popular music lyrics and newspaper articles on areas as
diverse as international political incidents and Lady Gaga” (cover blurb). The
diversity of the data not only makes the analysis interesting, but also
accords with the aim of discourse analysis -- the study of language in use.

Next, this book is unique in that it presents not only a wide range of
activities, study questions and issues to reconsider, but also additional
online resources for each topic, which provide readers with primary sources in
discourse analysis, and also draws readers into these diverse topics,
enhancing their interest to do further research.

Furthermore, in the last part of this book, the author quotes excerpts from
influential scholars in the field of discourse analysis, which further sheds
light on the key notions, approaches and methods in discourse analysis and
helps readers to appreciate the contemporary thinkers in the area of discourse
analysis.

In addition, the layout of this book provides readers with two optional routes
in reading. The first route is that readers can read the book straight through
from the beginning to the end. The second route is that they can read it
across the numbered units. For example, the first chapters in each of the four
parts constitute a strand first introducing the topic -- what is discourse
analysis, then developing this topic, then testing out the key ideas and
finally offering readers related important materials to read. It is also the
case with the other chapters in the four parts. So either way will easily lead
readers into the area they are interested in and will give them a coherent
explanation on a topic.

In spite of this, there is still room for this book to be improved. Take “What
is Context?” as an example. In this book the author introduces functionalist
(such as Malinowski, Firth and Halliday’s) approaches to the study of context,
without mentioning the contribution made by psychologists, cognitive
linguists, etc. If the author of this book could have touched upon the
contextual models put forward by other schools or other scholars such as van
Dijk (1999) and could have treated the other topics in the similar way, the
book would have been improved.

The defects, however, cannot obscure the virtues. “Discourse Analysis” is
definitely a fascinating book. It is really worthy of reading and studying.

REFERENCES

Kress, G & T. van Leeuwen. 1996/2006. Reading images: The grammar of visual
design, 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge.

Martinec, I. 1998. Cohesion in action. Semiotica. (1/2): 161-180.

O’Tool, M. 1994. The language of displayed art. London: Leicester University
Press.

Scollon, Ron. 2001. Mediated discourse: The nexus of practice. London:
Routledge.

van Dijk, T. A. 1999. ''Context models in discourse processing''. In H. van
Oostendorp & S. R. Goldman (Eds.), The construction of mental representations
during reading (pp.123-148). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

van Leeuwen, Theo. 1999. Speech, music, sound. London: Macmillan.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Meixia Li is Professor of Linguistics in the School of English Language,
Literature and Culture, Beijing International Studies University. In 1989 she
got her B.A. degree from Xi’an International Studies University, in China. In
1999 she received her M.A. degree from Southwest China Normal University. In
2002 she received her Ph.D. degree from Beijing Normal University, in China.
Her research interests lie in discourse studies, functional linguistics,
cognitive linguistics, computational linguistics and language teaching and
learning. She has published five monographs and more than fifty academic
articles.
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