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Situated meanings and cultural models 4.

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Cultural models 5. Discourse analysis 6. Processing and organizing language 7. An example of discourse analysis Appendix: grammar in communication References Index says, 'getting physically, socially, culturally, or morally "bitten" by the world' Ron Scollon, Georgetown University What People are Saying About This From the Publisher 'This useful book provides an extensive set of tools for systematically analyzing language use. Earlier editions have proven their usefulness to both beginning and advanced students, and this new edition contains the useful original material together with nice additions like more extensive sample analyses and a primer on analyzing multimodal texts.

Written in a refreshing and high accessible style and full of interesting, contemporary examples, this book is useful not just for beginners seeking to understand the personal, practical and political implications of how we use language to communicate, but also for seasoned scholars seeking new ideas and inspiration. This new edition is substantially revised and reorganized, making it even more user-friendly, and includes a wealth of new, up-to-date examples and theoretical material, including material on images and multimodal texts.

This book stimulates various analytical, theoretical, and conceptual conversations among students, researchers, and practitioners.

Discourse analysis

See All Customer Reviews. But, you cannot be any old who you want to. You cannot engage in any old what you want to. That is to say that whos and whats are creations in history and change in history, as we have just seen, in fact, in the examples from biology. Two Aspects of Grammar Each social language has its own distinctive grammar. However, two different aspects of grammar are important to social languages. One aspect is the traditional set of units like nouns, verbs, inflections, phrases, and clauses.

That is, we speakers and writers design our oral or written utterances to have patterns in them in virtue of which interpreters can attribute situated identities and specific activities to us and our utterances. The situation here is much like choosing clothes that go together in such a way that they communicate that we are engaged in a certain activity or are taking up a certain style connected to such activities. An Example Fet me give you another example of these two aspects of grammar traditional units like nouns and noun phrases and patterns we create out of these units.


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Lung cancer death rates are clearly associated with an increase in smoking. No single grammatical feature marks the social language of this sentence. Rather, all these features and a great many more if we took a larger stretch of text, including many discourse-level features form a distinctive configuration a correlation or, better, co-relation that marks the social language. Linguistic relationships like these do not exist and are not learned outside the distinctive social practices w hats of which they are an integral part.

To learn such relationships is part of what it means to learn to recognize the very social context one is in and helping to create. This is not to say there is no role here for overt instruction there is. It is only to say that there is no way we can leave out immersion in situated practices if we want to teach people new social languages. Consider sentence 1 again. This sentence is no more explicit than informal language. It is no less contextualized. It is simply inexplicit and contextualized in a different way. Though we tend to think of writing, at least academic writing, as clear, unambiguous, and explicit in comparison to speech, sentence 1, in fact, has 52 Social Languages, Conversations, and Intertextuality at least different meanings!

What is odder still is that anyone reading sentence 1 at least anyone reading this book hits on only one of these meanings or but one of a select few without any overt awareness that the other meanings are perfectly possible. There are theories in psycholinguistics that claim that what happens in a case like sentence 1 is that we unconsciously consider all possible meanings and rule out all but one, but we do this so fast and so below the level of consciousness that we are completely unaware of it.

Be that as it may, how can sentence 1 have so many meanings and why do we all, nonetheless, hit on one and, in fact, exactly the same one? This fact is due to the grammar of the sentence. One can then insert this compacted infor- mation into another sentence thereby making bigger and bigger sentences.

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The trouble is this: once one has made the compacted item the nominalization , it is hard to tell what information exactly went into it. Our question is why? Such verbal expressions are ambiguous in two respects. Thus, does sentence 1 say that one thing causes another e. You and I may know, in fact, that smoking causes cancer, but sentence 1 can perfectly mean that lung cancer death rates lead to increased smoking. It is even possible that the writer did not want to commit to a choice between cause and correlate, or to a choice between smoking causing cancer or fear of cancer causing smoking.

We can also ask, in regard to the death rates and the increased smoking taken together, if the people who are increasing their smoking whether old smokers or new ones are the people who are dying from lung cancer, or whether other people are dying as well e.

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This gives us at least seven more meaning possibilities: 4a. Like an old-fashioned Chinese menu, you can take one from list A and another from list B and yet another from list C and get a specific combi- nation of meanings. This gives us 4 times 4 times 7 possibilities, that is, different possible meanings. All of these meanings are perfectly allowed by the grammar of sentence 1.

An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method

And, in fact, there are other possibilities I have not discussed, e. The answer to the mystery I am discussing here may be perfectly obvious to you, but I want to suggest that, nonetheless, it is important for how we view language and language learning. We all hit on only one and the same one of the meanings because we have all been part of — we have all been privy to — the ongoing discussion in our society about smoking, disease, tobacco companies, contested research findings, warnings on cartons, ads that entice teens to smoke, and so on and so forth through a great many complex details.

Given this discussion as background, sentence 1 has one meaning. Obviously, however important grammar is, the conversation is more important. It leaves open one meaning or a small number of possibilities, like allowing that sentence 1 also covers people getting lung cancer from secondary smoke. A more technical way to put this point is this: meaning is not merely a matter of decoding grammar, it is also and more importantly a matter of knowing which of the many inferences that one can draw from an utterance are relevant. So, we have concluded, we speak and write not in English alone, but in specific social languages.

The utterances of these social languages have meaning — or, at least, the meanings they are, in fact, taken to have — thanks to being embedded in specific social discussions. Though I have established these points in regard to a single sentence sentence 1 above , I take them to be generally true.

Introduction to Discourse Analysis

Social Languages, Conversations, and Intertextuality 55 To teach someone the meaning of sentence 1 — or any sentence for that matter — is to embed them in the conversational sea in which sentence 1 swims. To teach someone the sort of social language in which sentences like sentence 1 occur is to embed them in the discussions that have recruited and which, in turn, continually reproduce that social language.

We are talking about the public debates that swirl around us in the media, in our reading, and in our interactions with other people, not any one specific discussion among specific people. On certain issues e. Some of these sorts of issues are known by nearly everyone in a society, others are known only by specific social groups e.

This knowledge is an ever-present background you can bring to interpret things you hear and read or in terms of which you can formulate your own talk and writing. Of course, this big Conversation is composed of a myriad of interactional events taking place among specific people at specific times and places. One might wonder, then, what the core values of a cigarette company might be.

Given the Conversations that most of us are familiar with — about the U. Note here, then, how values, beliefs, and objects play a role in the sorts of Conversations I am talking about.


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  • In turn, these two value and belief orientations can be historically tied to much wider dichotomies centering around beliefs about the responsibilities and the role of governments. Furthermore, within this Conversation, an object like a cigarette or an institution like a tobacco company, or an act like the act of smoking itself, takes on meanings — symbolic values — within the Conversation, but dichotomous meanings.

    Smoking can be seen as an addiction, an expression of freedom, or a lack of caring about others. The point is that those familiar with the Conversation know, just as they can select the meaning of sentence 1 above out of possibilities, the possible meanings of cigarettes, tobacco companies, and smoking. The themes and values that enter into Conversations circulate in a multitude of texts and media.

    They are the products of historical disputes between and among different Discourses. Think, for example, of the historic debate between the Discourse of evolutionary biologists and the Discourse of fundamentalist creationists. This debate, over time, has constituted a Conversation that many people in society know something about.

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    For that reason it is hard for a newspaper to discuss evolution in any terms without triggering people to think about this debate and to try to interpret what the newspaper is saying in terms of it. Of course, people today often know these themes and values without knowing the historical events that helped create or sustain them in the past and pass them down to us today.

    They argued and fought, not only to not return the slaves, but to disobey the court and the federal officials seeking to enforce its mandate. Many people today have no knowledge of the debates over escaped slaves in Massachusetts and nationally in the nineteenth century though these debates, of course, helped lead to the Civil War.

    However, these debates sustained, transformed, and handed down themes and values that are quite recognizable as parts of ongoing Conversations in the mid twentieth century e. Of course, I must hasten to add, again, that a number of other important Discourses played a significant role in the escaped-slave cases in Massachusetts. Blacks were part of some integrated Discourses, as well as their own distinctive Discourses, as well. Furthermore, all these Discourses interacted with each other, in complex relations of alliance and contestation, with some important overlaps between Discourses e.

    A single written or oral text can be in one social language or it can switch 58 Social Languages, Conversations, and Intertextuality between two or more or even mix them up pretty thoroughly. The warning from the aspirin bottle switches back and forth between two different varieties of language. So we have a pretty distinctive social language here. Flowever, this text is through and through intertextual in the ways in which it alludes to other texts. However, any linguist will readily recognize that the linguistic work being mentioned is, in fact, one distinctive and recognizable type of linguistic research.