A very brief introduction
to
DISCURSIVE METHODS
DISCURSIVE METHODS
•Conversation Analysis
•Discourse Analysis
•Critical Discourse Analysis
Why Language?
• The ‘discursive turn’ driven by social
constructionism
• Discourse as a fundamental, centrally
constituting, feature of the social world.
“It is through language that we create the
real and the good, that we create our
histories and our destinies”
(Gergen, 2003; 61)
Why Language?
• Active social beings - understanding of the
world achieved in and through participation
in the world
• Objective ‘facts’ or unalterable ‘truths’ make
way for multiplicity of meaning through joint
action
• Discourse central to meaning making
Discourse
“‘a communicative event’ including
conversational interaction, written
text, as well as associated gestures,
facework, typographical layout,
images and any other ‘semiotic’ or
multimedia dimension of
signification”
(van Dijk, 2001; 98)
Discourse
Necessary to be clear how distinctions are being drawn –
between ‘discourse’ and ‘text’
a ‘materially durable product’
between ‘discourse’ and ‘realm’
e.g. media, science, lay
between ‘discourse’ and ‘genre’
e.g. press reports, editorials,
readers’ letters
between ‘discourse’ and ‘topic’
e.g. terrorism discourse
Differences of method, methodololgy and
underlying assumptions
Conversation Analysis
Discourse Analysis
Critical Discourse
Analysis
Differences of method, methodololgy and
underlying assumptions
• Distinct approaches to examining discourse
•Some central differences between them
•Powerful debate and disagreement between CA and CDA practitioners
CA: The analysis of the structural and sequential organisation of talk-ininteraction, examining only with what can be seen in the data, without
engaging in a-priori assumptions about the wider social.
CDA: Situating discourses within a socio-political context and examining the
distribution of power are fundamental features of CDA
Differences of method, methodololgy and
underlying assumptions
•But ….
they are all conceptualise language and discourse as
social action and consider the analysis of discourse as
having central importance for understanding the social
world
•Perhaps….. a spectrum of discursive methods, each
distinct from the other but not mutually exclusive
Conversation Analysis
• Seminal work of Harvey Sacks ‘Lectures on
Conversation’
• Language as social action
• Naturally occurring talk-in-interaction is
systematically organised
• Specific social business expectable and
achievable
Conversation Analysis
• Only study naturally occurring data.
• Interested in the ‘utterance’ not the
grammar/sentence
• Concerned with the real-life activities that
people perform with their utterances
• Only focused upon the data – no social critique
This is Mr Smith may I
help you
I can’t
hear
you
This is Mr Smith
Smith
Conversation Analysis
Areas of Research:
• Preference Organisation (e.g. agreeing and disagreeing;
dealing with invitations and requests, managing rejection, pursuing a
response)
• Topic Organisation (e.g. eliciting a topic, topic transitions)
• Aspects of Response (e.g. laughter in talk about troubles,
public speaking and audience response: inviting applause
Discourse Analysis
• Emerged out of early SSK work. Gilbert &
Mulkay (1984) ‘Opening Pandora’s Box’
• Marked a departure from realist accounts of
scientific knowledge
• Language is used variably. Accounts are
fundamentally tied to context and designed
to achieve particular social business
Discourse Analysis - Discursive Psychology
• Loughborough University pioneers in the field.
Building on Speech Act Theory (Austin, 1962),
Conversation Analysis (Sacks, 1992) ,
Ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1967), Social
Constructionism (Gergen 1985)
• Renamed Discursive Psychology (DP) by Edwards &
Potter (1992). Discourse Analysis (DA) considered to
be misleading: too many perspectives similar name.
However the name DA is still in use.
Discourse Analysis
• Examines ‘devices’ that operate in discourse (e.g.
contrast structures, footing, stake and interest, variable
vagueness)
• Focus on language as purposive rhetorical business
• Interested in many of the same things that traditional
psychology studies: memory, emotions, social
behaviour , gender
• Works with naturally occurring conversation, forms of
printed text, interview transcripts
Critical Discourse Analysis
• Emerged from critical linguistics
• Not a singular method – diverse approaches
• Concerned with relations of power within social
structure
• Discourse analysis “with an attitude”
(van Dijk, 2001, p. 96)
Critical Discourse Analysis
Guiding Principles
•
•
•
•
CDA addresses social problems
Power relations are discursive
Discourse constitutes society and culture
Discourse does ideological work
Critical Discourse Analysis
Guiding Principles
• Discourse is historical
• The link between text and society is mediated
• Discourse analysis is interpretative and
explanatory
• Discourse is a form of social action
Example 1...
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M.B:
Patrick ↑stay with us I want to bring in Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty
(0.2) uh:: to get ↓her reaction to what you have to say fi-fi-first of all er
Shami uhm good morning to you
(.)
S.C:
and to you Matthew=
M.B:
=uhm P-Patrick Mercer suggests that he would liked to have seen
more armed police (.) more dog patrols on the underground th-this
morning on the critical state of alert we are at (0.2) d’you think that would
be a↑good scheme
(0.2)
S.C:
.hh well I mean Patrick Patrick has an operational (0.2) uhm
experience which-wh-which I don’t but I (.) I am grateful to him and (0.2)
frankly to your callers (0.2) I want to vote for Kevin from Southampton to ah
(0.2) .hh to join Mr Brown’s government of all the talents (0.2) this is one of
the more (0.2) thoughtful conversations about er dealing with the terrorist
(0.2) threat that I have ever parti↑cipated in I think (0.2) .hh
Example 2
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Evolutionary psychology stresses both the universality of most human
traits and - through the notion of kin selection and reciprocal altruism the instinct to favour our own. Social psychologists also argue that the
tendency to perceive in-groups and out-groups, however ephemeral, is
innate. In any case, Burkeans claim to have common sense on their side
They argue that we feel more comfortable with, and are readier to
share with and sacrifice for, those with whom we have shared histories
and similar values. To put it bluntly - most of us prefer our own kind.
Example 3
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M.B:
[lemme-hang on-Jack–le hang on-okay-now-now-now to y(h)ou
(0.2) let me just bring in Charles Shoebridge who’s a bit of an expert on
these matters err Jack to cast a little bit of (0.2) .hhh light as well as
heat on the-on the issue (0.2) um he’s a security analyst and former
counter terrorism intelligence officer (0.5) .hhh umm ↑Charles d’you
have a different view about the threat that we’re facing toda:y than
you did (0.5) y’know a week ago? (14:15)
Example 4
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Moreover, welfare is less re-distributive than most people imagine – most of
the tax paid out by citizens comes back to them in one form or another so
the amount of the average person’s income going to someone they might
consider undeserving is small. This, however, does little to allay anxieties
based on perceptions rather than fiscal truths. And poor whites, who have
relatively little, are more likely to resent even small transfers compared with
those on higher incomes
Discursive Methods
A selection of methods through which it is
possible to examine social phenomena as
achievements of active human interaction
• Structural features of talk in interaction – CA
• Purposive rhetorical business of social
interaction - DA
• (Re) production of social structures (unequal
power relations) in and through social
interaction - CDA
Questions?
References
Gilbert, G. N., & Mulkay, M. (1984). Opening pandora's box: A sociological analysis of
scientists' discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Potter, J. (1996). Representing reality: Discourse, rhetoric and social construction.
London: Sage.
Sacks, H. (Ed.). (1995). Lectures on conversation. (Volumes 1 & 2). Oxford: Blackwell
Wetherell, M., & Potter, J. (1992). Mapping the language of racism: Discourse and the
legitimation of exploitation. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Wodak, R & Meyer, M. (Eds.), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage
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DISCURSIVE METHODS - Researcher Education Programme