LINGUIST List 24.272

Tue Jan 15 2013

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

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 15-Jan-2013
From: Meixia Li <>
Subject: Discourse Analysis: A resource book for students
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Rodney H. JonesTITLE: Discourse AnalysisSUBTITLE: A resource book for studentsPUBLISHER: London and New York: RoutledgeYEAR: 2012

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


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

The macro-structure of this book covers four parts. The first part introducesthe key topics in the study of discourse analysis. The second part developsdiscourse analysis approaches mentioned in the first part. The third partexplores 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 ofdiscourse analysis, with chapters on What Is Discourse Analysis?; Texts andTexture; Texts and Their Social Functions; Discourse and Ideology; SpokenDiscourse; Strategic Interaction; Context, Culture and Communication; MediatedDiscourse Analysis; Multimodal Discourse Analysis; and Corpus-AssistedDiscourse Analysis. In the first chapter, “What is discourse analysis?”, Jonesstates that “discourse analysis is not just the study of language. It is a wayof looking at language that focuses on how people use it in real life to dothings such as joke and argue and persuade and flirt, and to show that theyare 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 ofwords 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 isrelationships or connections, which includes internal relationships (i.e.cohesion), external relationships (i.e. coherence), and intertextualrelationships. The chapter “Texts and Their Social Functions” surveys thetopic from three aspects. First, the author says that “the study of socialfunctions of different kinds of texts is called genre analysis” (p. 8) andgenres are conceived as communicative events. Second, communicative events aregoverned by constraints. Third, expert users employ these constraints increative and unexpected ways. In “Discourse and Ideology,” the author examines“how texts promote certain points or versions of reality” (p. 11) with focuson such subtopics as ‘whos-doing-whats’, and relationships, intertextualityand discourses. Next “Spoken Discourse” is dealt with. In the author’s pointof view, spoken discourse promotes particular versions of reality orideologies, which can be accounted for by utilizing two theoreticaltraditions: pragmatics and conversation analysis. In “Strategic Interaction”,two strategies including face strategies and framing strategies are givenattention. In the chapter “Context, Culture and Communication,” the authorspecifies the origin and development of context, and presents a dynamic sceneof the interrelationship among context, culture and communication. Finally,the remaining three chapters, “Mediated Discourse Analysis,” “MultimodalDiscourse Analysis” and “Corpus-Assisted Discourse Analysis” are given adetailed explanation. To sum up, these ten topics represent the fundamentalcontents in the field of discourse analysis.

The second part is “Development: Approaches to Discourse Analysis.” This partcontains development of the ten topics illustrated in the previous part. Tostart with, the author presents “Three Ways of Looking at Discourse”: thefirst a formal approach, the second a functional approach, and the third asocial approach. Then, the two core notions “Cohesion and Coherence” arefocused on. “Cohesion primarily has to do with linguistic features in texts,and coherence has to do with the kinds of ‘frameworks’ with which readersapproach 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 oflinguistic devices: grammar and lexis, while the analysis of coherenceinvolves generic frameworks, cultural models and habitual ways of looking atthe world. The next chapter is “All the Right Moves,” in which by employingSwales’ genre analysis, the author informs readers how to analyze thecommunicative purpose of genres. Also by borrowing Bhatia’s notion ‘genreblending’, the author explicates the phenomenon of the flouting of theconventions of genres which leads to the production of seemingly creative orunique genres. In the chapter “Constructing Reality,” the author explicateshow participants and processes are combined in texts to create certainversions of reality. Constructing reality involves representing not only whatis going on, but also what the relationship is between the author and thereader. In “The Texture of Talk,” the author defines the “texture of talk” ascovering the structure and patterning of the communication, and the broaderexpectations about meaning and behaviour that participants bring to it. In“Negotiating Relationships and Activities,” the author discusses how peopleuse face strategies and framing strategies to negotiate relationships andactivities. In “The SPEAKING Model,” the author reexamines the components ofthe SPEAKING model devised by Hymes and states that the eight componentsincluding setting, participants, ends, act sequence, key, instrumentalities,norms and genre can not be considered alone: each component interacts withother components in multiple ways. By using this model, the analyst “is notjust to determine the kinds of knowledge about the different componentsmembers of speech communities need to successfully participate in a givenspeech event, but also to determine how the different components are linkedtogether in particular ways for different speech events” (p. 67). Thechapter “Mediation” covers two components: culture tools and sites ofengagement, which further clarify the nature of mediated discourse analysis.In chapter 9, “Modes, Meaning, and Action,” the author gives a specificillustration of the components and the procedure of multimodal discourseanalysis. Finally, a very useful approach, “Procedures for Corpus-AssistedDiscourse Analysis” is described, including six basic procedures such as howto generate word frequency lists, how to calculate type token ratio, how toanalyze concordances, how to analyze collocation, how to analyze keywords andhow to create dispersion plots.

The third part is “Exploration: Analyzing Discourse.” This part is themeeting-place of theories and practices. The ten topics refer back to thetheoretical notions and frameworks illustrated respectively in Part A and PartB; 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 DiscourseAnalysis,” “Analyzing Texture,” “Analyzing Genres,” “Other People’s Voices,”“Analyzing Speech Acts,” “Analyzing Conversational Strategies,” “AnalyzingContexts,” “Doing Mediated Discourse Analysis,” “Doing Multimodal DiscourseAnalysis,” and “Analyzing Corpora.”

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


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. whatmakes a stretch of utterance a text, 3. how discourses function in the socialworld, 4. how texts promote versions of reality, 5. how spoken discoursediffers from written discourse, 6. what methods we use when we engage innegotiations with the people with whom we are interacting about the activityand our identities, 7. how to analyze context, 8. how to do mediated discourseanalysis, 9. how to analyze multimodal discourse, 10. how to use corpora to dodiscourse analysis. The ten aspects are not handled one by one sequentially;instead, they are dealt with by a gradual recursive method. In Part A, Jonesjust gives a brief introduction to these topics so that readers, especiallybeginners, can familiarize themselves with the basic topics in the study ofdiscourse analysis, which functions as a lead-in. In Part B, the same tentopics are further developed, which not only strengthens students’ basicknowledge about discourse analysis, but also leads students into the depth ofthis area. In Part C, the same ten topics are explored again, this timeputting theories into action. In Part D, the same ten topics are extended,with discussion of readings in the domain of discourse analysis. Both themethod of the presentation of contents and that of textual structure willgreatly impress students, whose interest and curiosity are graduallystimulated and enhanced.

The next striking point is that this book contains many recent updated topicsand 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 withtwo questions in mind: What is the action going on here? How does discoursefigure into these actions?” (Scollon, 2001:1). This approach helps usunderstand how the use of language can be directly or indirectly related tothe concrete, real-time actions that are going on in some specific places atparticular moments, and how they link together to create social identities andsocial practices. Nevertheless, in the previous books, this approach wasrarely dealt with. So by reading this book students and even universityteachers and researchers can acquaint themselves with how to use this approachso as to find out what underlies discourse and action.

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

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

The third special characteristic of this book is that its data are diversifiedand cover many areas, such as “conversational interaction, ceremonial vows,dating adverts, social media such as Facebook, blogs and MSN, films such asWhen Harry Met Sally, popular music lyrics and newspaper articles on areas asdiverse as international political incidents and Lady Gaga” (cover blurb). Thediversity of the data not only makes the analysis interesting, but alsoaccords 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 ofactivities, study questions and issues to reconsider, but also additionalonline resources for each topic, which provide readers with primary sources indiscourse 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 frominfluential scholars in the field of discourse analysis, which further shedslight on the key notions, approaches and methods in discourse analysis andhelps readers to appreciate the contemporary thinkers in the area of discourseanalysis.

In addition, the layout of this book provides readers with two optional routesin reading. The first route is that readers can read the book straight throughfrom the beginning to the end. The second route is that they can read itacross the numbered units. For example, the first chapters in each of the fourparts constitute a strand first introducing the topic -- what is discourseanalysis, then developing this topic, then testing out the key ideas andfinally offering readers related important materials to read. It is also thecase with the other chapters in the four parts. So either way will easily leadreaders into the area they are interested in and will give them a coherentexplanation on a topic.

In spite of this, there is still room for this book to be improved. Take “Whatis 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, cognitivelinguists, etc. If the author of this book could have touched upon thecontextual models put forward by other schools or other scholars such as vanDijk (1999) and could have treated the other topics in the similar way, thebook would have been improved.

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


Kress, G & T. van Leeuwen. 1996/2006. Reading images: The grammar of visualdesign, 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 UniversityPress.

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

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

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


Meixia Li is Professor of Linguistics in the School of English Language,Literature and Culture, Beijing International Studies University. In 1989 shegot her B.A. degree from Xi’an International Studies University, in China. In1999 she received her M.A. degree from Southwest China Normal University. In2002 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 andlearning. She has published five monographs and more than fifty academicarticles.

Page Updated: 15-Jan-2013