Discourse analysis in linguistics how to perform

Discourse analysis

Discourse Analysis is a linguistic practice in the field of Communication, and consists of analyzing the structure of a text and, from this, understanding the ideological constructions present in it. In this article we will try to elaborate the concept of discourse analysis in linguistics.

The discourse itself is a linguistic construction linked to the social context in which the text is developed. That is, the ideologies present in a discourse are directly determined by the political-social context in which its author lives. More than a textual analysis, Discourse analysis is a contextual analysis of the discursive structure in question.

Michel Foucault described the Order of Discourse as a construction of social characteristics. The society that promotes the context of the analyzed discourse is the basis of the entire structure of the text, thus linking any and all elements that may be part of the meaning of the discourse. The text can only be called that if its receiver is able to understand its meaning, and this is up to the author of the text and the attention he gives to the context of the construction of his speech. It is the basic relationship for the existence of verbal communication : emission – reception – understanding.

Discursive practices also generate other areas of discourse analysis, such as the Universe of Competitions, which consists of the competition between several broadcasters to reach the same target audience. From this, the transmitters need to interact with the context of the life of their receiver, so that they can question them according to their own ideology, making their message received and assimilated by the receiver without him realizing that being the target of a persuasion attempt, so to speak.

Within the analysis of the Discourse there is also the aesthetic discourse, made through images, and that interpellated the individual through his sensitivity, which is also linked to his context. The sensitivity of an individual is defined from what, throughout his life, becomes important and sharpens his feelings. With this, we can analyze the arts produced at different times in history around the world and understand the different forms of interpellation and contextuality present in them. Aesthetic speech has the same ideological capacity as verbal speech, with the advantage of reaching the individual aesthetically, which can yield much more quickly the success of applied speech.

Discourse analysis: a theoretical and methodological proposal

Discourse analysis is the name given to a set of theoretical and methodological proposals that are actually very diverse . For this reason, it is difficult to offer a single definition of this technique and there is no kind of recipe that can be used in the same way by all researchers.

some background

Although its antecedents can also be traced to other traditions, discourse analysis stems mainly from the linguistic philosophy of the Oxford school , which considers that language directly affects social reality (interpersonal relationships, behavior, cognition, language).

Specifically, the theory of speech acts has had an important impact on discourse analysis, since it proposes that linguistic expressions produce effects that go beyond the words that are used. On the other hand, discourse analysis is also influenced by works that have a more political and sociological orientation.

Possible definitions

One of the possible ways to define discourse analysis is to point out that it is a flexible research method that serves to carry out a systematic interpretation of discourses .

And a discourse is a set of linguistic practices that maintain and promote social relationships (Iñiguez and Antaki, 1994), with which language is not only an individual communicative ability but is a practice that constitutes and regulates social relationships that are likely to be studied.

There are many ways to analyze a speech. In any case, the starting point is to ask what and how are the social relationships that are to be explained (pose a research problem related to discourse), and then gather the corpus of data that will be analyzed, that is, the linguistic materials. (for example, press release, interviews, a public policy, a regulation, etc.).

From there, the speeches can be analyzed by means of different tools . Some researchers start by performing a content analysis, categorizing the content of the texts according to the objectives of their research and then interpreting some of these categories.

Other researchers carry out deep, careful, repeated and systematic readings of each statement looking for language resources such as irony, metaphors, contradictions, trying to reveal the social relationships that are mobilized through these resources, that is, looking for the latent effects of language. language.

What is important in any case in terms of rigorous research is to adequately justify the steps we have followed during the analysis.

Critical discourse analysis

Critical discourse analysis has recently positioned itself as a new research method and has gained much popularity. Broadly speaking, it consists of applying a critical perspective to discourse analysis, that is, paying attention not only to social relations, but also to power relations, abuse of power and domination that shape social reality and that are move through language.

In other words, critical discourse analysis seeks to understand how domination is produced and reproduced through discourse. At the methodological level there is not a great substantial difference, it is just as flexible and interpretive as traditional discourse analysis.

Discourse analysis is not a specific qualitative research method, rather it is a general term to describe all approaches used to examine and understand discourses in relation to social interactions. Some of the most common approaches to discourse analysis are:

  • critical discourse analysis
  • Applied Linguistics
  • rhetorical analysis
  • Interactional Sociolinguistics
  • communication ethnography
  • speech act theory
  • Pragmatics
  • Variation analysis
  • conversation analysis
  • cognitive psychology

What is analysed?

Vocabulary: Words and phrases can be analyzed for ideological associations, formality, and euphemistic and metaphorical content.

Grammar: The way sentences are constructed (for example, tenses, active or passive construction, and the use of imperatives and questions) can reveal aspects of the intended meaning.

Structure: The structure of a text can be analyzed by the way it creates emphasis or builds a narrative.

Genre: Texts can be analyzed in relation to the conventions and communicative goals of their genre (for example, political speeches or tabloid articles).

Nonverbal Communication: Nonverbal aspects of speech, such as tone of voice, pauses, gestures, and sounds like “um,” can reveal aspects of the speaker’s intentions, attitudes, and emotions.

Conversational codes: The interaction between people in a conversation, such as turns, interruptions, and listener response, can reveal aspects of cultural conventions and social roles.

How to perform discourse analysis

There is no clear method to perform discourse analysis, as there are various approaches. However, here are the basic steps that can help you carry out a systematic discourse analysis.

Define the research question

The first step is to develop the research questions and determine the range of materials suitable for answering these questions.

Set the context

Gather the materials you need for your research and note the source and how the information fits into your study. You should get details about the author of the material, when and where it was posted, and to whom the message was spread.

Prepare the materials you have gathered for analysis

Prepare the materials in a way that makes it easy for you to analyze them. If you are working from a hard copy, we advise you to make copies of your source materials and to obtain a digital copy as well. Additionally, you can mark important features of the material by adding lines, figures, or any other features that can help you maintain orientation.

Code your materials

This step consists of assigning attributes to the words, phrases or paragraphs that are important in the materials.

Analyze the structural characteristics of texts

Examine the text to identify how the main argument is structured and if there are any counterfactuals. In addition, you must dissect the materials to understand the role that the introduction, conclusion, headings, and page layout play in the overall scheme.

Examine individual statements

Once you have a good understanding of the macro features of the text, you can proceed to examine the speech fragments. To do this, you have to assign codes to the different statements in the text and analyze them to understand their underlying meaning.

Identify cultural references

After establishing the context of the source material, the next step is to understand the cultural context of the materials. This involves finding out if there are references to other sources in your materials and the relationship between all these sources.

Identify linguistic and rhetorical mechanisms

This step consists of identifying the functioning of each of the fragments of the discourse at the linguistic level. To do this, it is necessary to verify who or what are the subjects and objects of the different fragments of the discourse. Also, you should look for the figures of speech, literary figures, manners, direct and indirect speech, and facts in each sentence.

Data interpretation

Now that you have a good idea of ​​what the individual statements mean and the overall context of the material, it’s time to put it all together to get the information. Now is the time to put it all together to understand the underlying meaning of the speech in the material and find answers to your research questions.

Present the results

The final step is to present the results to your target audience, adding evidence from your research as needed.

Discourse Analysis Example

Imagine the following scenario of your medical drama. A patient enters the emergency/accident unit, conscious but with burns. The attending physician tells you three things:

To the patient: “We are going to give you a small injection to relieve the pain.”

To the nurse: “10 cc sodium pentothal, stat (immediately)!”

To the surgeon: “We have severe second degree chemical burns, GA (General Anesthesia) administered”

In this situation, the doctor has said essentially the same thing 3 times, but each time using a different response for each recipient. First of all, when talking to the patient, the doctor does not use any medical community was welcomed with affection by its members. To distinguish himself from the others, the neophyte wore white clothing. In Christian religious terminology and uses reassuring and minimizing language to comfort him. This is a classic type of speech that we are familiar with from television medical dramas.

For the nurse, the doctor has a different tone, more authoritative and even condescending. It is a command ending with the term “stat,” a commonly used medical slang word. Actually, from the Latin word “statum”, which means immediately. This is interesting, because it’s not a term you’ll hear used in other professional settings, like a busy kitchen. It shows that there is a specific discourse for the environment and for the different people in the environment. “Sodium pentothal 10cc” is a commonly used anesthetic: the same “something to relieve pain,” but now with a pharmacological name and dosage.

Lastly, for the surgeon, the same prescription is described by the doctor as an abbreviation. Among high-level healthcare professionals, abbreviations could be used more frequently, in this case actually hiding the specific drug administered, on the grounds that the surgeon does not need to know. The use of the term “we have” could imply that the doctor and the surgeon are at the same level, as part of the team, a term that is not used when addressing the nurse.

Critical discourse analysis (hardcore mode)

Language and discourse are not absolute. There are at least three different ways in which discourse positionality can be shown to be constructed and not universal: meanings and reality can change over time, across cultures, and finally with discourse construction, due to the power dynamics in the fixation of language that controls how we understand concepts. The term deconstruction is used in the Derridean sense of the word, advocating the critical examination and dismantling of unquestionable assumptions about the meaning of words and their provenance.

Deep critical discourse analysis also draws heavily on Foucault and an examination of how language is the result of power dynamics and that society’s discourse largely regulates what is meant by words, as well as like who can use them. It also implies that, due to these control systems, speech is used to actually change and reshape thought and expression. But the key leap is understanding and explaining that what we take to be true about the world depends largely on the social relationships we are part of. This is the social construction and a key part of the philosophy behind much critical discourse analysis.

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