As a communicative tool, language is organised into spoken and written texts that are used to perform different social acts such as making people do different things – joke with them, make them feel good, or inform them of something. Doing things with language is a type of social practice and it fulfils different communicative functions. Language typically fulfils three main communicative functions: (1) it tells us something about the world (referential function); (2) it communicates who you are and how you relate to other people (interpersonal function); and (3) it carries information about its relevance to context (textual function). Communication is shaped by relations of power (i.e. patterns of influence and authority), and invested with ideologies (i.e. our beliefs and assumptions about the world). This course defines some of the key concepts in the study of language as social practice which lies at the heart of the meaning of discourse, explains basic approaches to theorising it, and introduces a useful toolkit for analysing real-life examples (texts). We will explore discourse in a wide range of situations with a specific focus on contexts and genres of talk and text, aspects of social interaction, and critical approaches to discourse and interaction.
The aim of this course is therefore to survey the full range of discursive phenomena, in all their richness and variety, in such a way that the students will feel, on completing the course, he or she has made face-to-face contact with the undeniably ‘messy’ real world contexts (linguistic or otherwise) of communication. At the same time, it aims to show that even the messy bits can, at least to some extent, be tamed by the application of interdisciplinary research findings and critical thinking made possible by the theoretical approaches which are based on discourse (with and without a ‘capital D’), thereby embracing the continuity with and application in other elective courses dealing with language and discourse for which this course seeks to lay the groundwork.
Texts, texture, discourse, ideology, conversational strategies, genre analysis, computer-mediated communication, social functions, power and politeness, context, culture, socialisation, gender and sexuality, intercultural communication
- Describe and explain the theoretical concepts and analytical procedures associated with the major approaches of discourse analysis including critical discourse analysis, mediated discourse analysis, genre analysis, conversation analysis, Gricean pragmatics, speech act theory, and interactional sociolinguistics
- Critically examine how language reflects socio-cultural and political ideologies evident in discourses
- Apply knowledge of the theories learned to real world interaction in various genres and media
- Demonstrate an awareness of the intricate relationship between language, culture and meaning-making
Lectures will introduce the main theoretical approaches to discourse in the analysis of interactional data from a range of settings, develop students’ critical awareness of the key issues in discourse research, and engage with issues around power, culture and gender as they relate to discourse analysis. In-class activities will provide opportunities for students to engage in the analysis of authentic data using the theoretical foundations acquired in the course, and participate in polls/surveys and non-graded quizzes. Tutorials will provide formative feedback on students’ reflective commentaries on key topics covered in the course for them to self-assess how well they have absorbed and understood the material.
Assessment is by 100% coursework, consisting of:
- Participation in class activities (20%)
- Reflective diary for class presentations and discussions (40%)
- Final essay (40%)
A list of primary and recommended readings will be provided.