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Review of  Discourse Analysis

Reviewer: Inas Youssef Mahfouz
Book Title: Discourse Analysis
Book Author: Brian Paltridge
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 24.2741

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This is the second edition of Discourse Analysis: An Introduction, part of the Bloomsbury Discourse Series. Ten chapters tackle various approaches to discourse. The first chapter, “What is Discourse Analysis?”, surveys discourse analysis, its origin, and the issues that interest discourse analysts. The chapter also defines the relation between language and context, namely that cultural differences influence how language is used. The chapter ends with a discussion of social and textual views of discourse analysis.

Chapter 2, ''Discourse and Society'', tackles the notion of discourse communities in depth. It examines the social and cultural aspects of spoken and written discourse, reflecting on how users express their social identity through language. The notions of gender and identity are thoroughly discussed as important topics in the area of discourse and society. Partridge argues that speakers have a linguistic repertoire from which they can make different choices in different situations. The notion of ‘linguistic repertoire’, introduced by John Gumperz in the early 1960s, refers to the fact that a ''speech style not only refers indexically to social categories but that it can also be employed by speakers as a means of moving beyond normative and constraining categorizations'' (Busch, 2012: 504).

The chapter focuses on gender and ideology as two manifestations of the use of different linguistic choices in different social contexts. Gender differences are not a natural consequence of one’s biological sex but they are acquired. From birth men and women are taught and expected to do gender through their use of language. Paltridge discusses identity and explains that language users have different identities, and at certain times one identity is more important than others. Identity is not natural, but rather constructed by language users and recognized by others, described by Paltridge as ''a two-way construction'' (p. 24). The chapter ends with a discussion of discourse and ideology and how language is influenced by social norms and values. Examining language with reference to social and cultural background helps in understanding how language is used to construct ideologies and perform processes.

Chapter 3, “Discourse and Pragmatics”, clarifies that both pragmatics and discourse analysis share an interest in the relationship between language and context and how language is used to perform different speech acts. The chapter begins by defining pragmatics, illustrating its focus on linguistic form and communicative function. Consequently, situational context, background knowledge context, and co-text context are important to a proper understanding of how language performs certain functions or speech acts. Paltridge explains the relationship between Grice's cooperative principle and discourse. According to Grice, people should observe four maxims in their interactions. One should be truthful, brief, relevant, and clear, and any failure to observe these maxims is considered a flouting or violation of the cooperative principle. Paltridge goes on to illustrate cross cultural variation in communication as exhibited by speech acts. Finally, the chapter concludes with an explanation of two important notions in discourse analysis from a pragmatic perspective, namely politeness and face. These two notions influence people's preference for expressing something in one particular way rather than another.

In chapter 4, ''Discourse and Genre'', Paltridge provides details on genre, its definition, and its types. Genre is ''a staged, goal-oriented, purposeful activity in which speakers engage as members of our culture''. Rhetorical genre studies consider genres from a social perspective where genres are not only socially embedded but also socially constructive. The chapter also probes into the relationship among genres, illustrating how the use of a certain genre is dependent on and may trigger other interrelated ones. The chapter proceeds to show how the use of written and spoken genres varies across cultures and how this has attracted much attention from researchers. The chapter ends with a note on genre analysis and its applications.

“Discourse and Conversation”, chapter 5, examines conversation analysis and its value in understanding how speakers use language to construct their social reality. Through the analysis of conversation several fine-grained features pertaining to the relation between speakers can be illustrated. The chapter also describes transcription and coding procedures. Paltridge gives a transcribed extract to clarify the particular transcription conventions that are used as part of conversation analysis where intonation, prolongation of sounds, and stress matter. For example, underlining and the use of capitals implies loud talk and word stress.

Paltridge provides a thorough review of conversation analysis, including conversation strategies, preference organization, feedback, repair, discourse markers, and second language conversation. The author discusses the various strategies used by speakers in conversation such as opening and closing a conversation, turn taking, and adjacency pairs. Adjacency pairs are ''composed of an utterance that is a first pair part produced by one speaker directly followed by the production by a different speaker of an utterance'' (Schegloff & Sacks,1973: 74). Examples of adjacency pairs include: 'question-answer', 'greeting-greeting', and 'offer-acceptance/ refusal'. Other conversation strategies that the chapter probes include feedback and repair. Feedback refers to the way listeners express their attention to what is being said, whereas repair refers to how speakers correct themselves or others. Finally, Paltridge discusses some criticisms that have been made of conversation analysis.

In chapter 6, “Discourse Grammar”, Paltridge tackles the idea that grammar discussions are no longer limited to sentences but extend to include discourse as well. This is illustrated through focusing on two perspectives of discourse grammar. The first is that expounded by Hughes and McCarthy (1998) which makes a strong connection among form, function, and context. Linguistic choices and the interpersonal factors affecting them gain special attention in this approach. The second perspective concentrates on the unity of texture, or what Paltridge defines as ''the way in which resources such as patterns of ‘cohesion’ create both cohesive and coherent texts'' (p. 114). Paltridge continues with a discussion of cohesion and how it is usually created through reference, repetition of certain lexical items, and collocation. The chapter ends with a discussion of grammatical differences between spoken and written discourse.

Chapter 7, “Corpus Approaches to Discourse Analysis”, treats corpus-based discourse studies. Paltridge starts by defining a corpus as ''collections of texts that are usually stored and analysed electronically'' (p. 144). He then goes on to illustrate the difference between general corpora and specialized ones, the design and construction of corpora, and some issues involved in their construction. The chapter focuses on The Longman Spoken and Written English (LSWE) Corpus as an example of corpus study. The conversational data in the corpus sheds light on the characteristics of conversational discourse and its constructional characteristics. The chapter also makes clear that corpus studies provide information on the social nature of discourse, collocations, and academic writing. The chapter ends with a note on the criticism that corpus studies are decontextualized and how this argument can be refuted.

Chapter 8, entitled “Multimodal Discourse Analysis”, explains that texts are no longer constructed just by words but by combinations of other modalities such as pictures, videos, and sound. The author argues that the use of these modalities make the reader more of a 'witness' of the events. The chapter gives background information on multimodal discourse analysis and some examples of it. The relation between multimodality, on one hand, and genre and speech acts, on the other, is also examined. Finally, Paltridge outlines some steps for carrying out multimodal discourse analysis and some of the limitations of such analysis.

Chapter 9, “Critical Discourse Analysis”, gives an overview of how discourse analysis unravels ''the connections between the use of language and the social and political contexts in which it occurs'' (p. 186). It begins with introducing the principles of critical discourse analysis, then moves on to a discussion of doing it. Paltridge also highlights the relation between critical discourse analysis and genre to clarify that certain genres are used to achieve particular discourse goals. Critical discourse analysis also examines how a text is introduced to its audience. Paltridge discusses how some critical discourse analysis studies have used the World Wide Web in an attempt to guarantee objectivity. Like most of the previous chapters, this chapter ends by discussing criticisms directed at critical discourse analysis and some ways of responding to them.

The last chapter, “Doing Discourse Analysis”, gives guidelines for planning and carrying out discourse analysis projects. It explains how to zero in on a research topic, turn a topic into a research question, and connect data collection with analysis. Paltridge not only categorizes discourse analysis projects into different kinds but also provides two sample studies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the issues involved in the evaluation of discourse analysis projects.

The book is an invaluable reference for those interested in discourse analysis. For beginners, it provides a lucid, graded explanation of discourse analysis and different approaches to it including discourse and society, discourse and pragmatics, discourse and genre, discourse grammar, corpus approaches to discourse, and critical discourse analysis. In addition, Paltridge includes a list of further readings at the end of each chapter and an extensive glossary at the end of the book. For those who have a strong background in discourse analysis, the book offers new perspectives on traditional approaches to discourse, including an entire chapter dedicated to multimodal discourse analysis. In addition, the variety of examples taken from movies, television, and everyday conversation paves the way to discovering areas that were once terra incognito.

From an educational point of view, the book is commendable for its organization, extensive explanations, chapter summaries the main areas covered, and exercises. All the chapters follow a systematic organization: the chapter opens with theoretical background of the approach discussed, followed by a discussion of important studies, and finally criticisms directed to this particular approach are highlighted. The companion website offers resources for both instructors and students. The data analysis projects and the exercises given at the end of each chapter are quite useful to teachers. Moreover, an answer key at the end of the book makes it appropriate for self-study.

Finally, students and researchers interested in discourse analysis should possess a copy of the book. Though the subtitle labels it an introduction to discourse analysis, the pages of the book provide simple yet shrewd coverage. Paltridge's book is an invaluable addition to the reading list of beginners and experienced discourse analysts.

Busch, B. (2012), ‘The Linguistic Repertoire Revisited’, Applied Linguistics, 33/5, 503-23. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Hughes, R. and McCarthy, M. (1998), ‘From sentence to discourse: discourse grammar and English language teaching’, TESOL Quarterly, 32, 263-87.

Schegloff, E. and Sacks, H. (1973), ‘Opening up closings’, Semiotica, 7, 289-437.
Inas Youssef Mahfouz is an assistant professor of Computational Linguistics at Ain Shams University, Egypt. She has published several papers on the computational analysis of language, lexicography and systemic functional grammar. The outcomes of these publications include a Process Type Database for Transitivity analysis, a database for sentiment analysis and an Arabic Ontology of State Terrorism. Her research interests include discourse analysis, computational linguistics, and Systemic Functional Linguistics.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1441167625
ISBN-13: 9781441167620
Pages: 296
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Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1441173730
ISBN-13: 9781441173737
Pages: 296
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