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Review of  Discourse Analysis


Reviewer: Meixia Li
Book Title: Discourse Analysis
Book Author: Rodney H. Jones
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Book Announcement: 24.272

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Review:
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
 
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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