Discourse analysis

Studying and critiquing language in use

Authored by: Stephen Pihlaja

The Routledge Handbook of English Language Studies

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138913455
eBook ISBN: 9781351001724
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on how discourse analysis — the study of language in use — is employed in a variety ways within English Language Studies. Although historically, grammar and structure have been the key focus for linguists in understanding language as a system, the ability to inexpensively record naturally occurring conversation led to increased focus in how communication was shaped in moment-by-moment interaction of interlocutors. Discourse analysis has developed to describe this interaction and the ways social life shapes and is shaped by language-in-use. This chapter describes the history of the field, and in particular the tools to analyse both empirical elements (like particular words belonging to a particular register) and non-empirical elements (like goals or intentions) of interaction. This chapter looks at the ways in which discourse analysis has been employed from a variety of different perspectives, including descriptions of influential methods and theories and the important role each approach plays in English Language Studies. Finally, the chapter discusses the role of technology, the Internet, and social media as both creating contexts for doing discourse analysis as well as developing tools to further analyse interaction.

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