Discourse Analysis Beyond the Speech Event
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Discourse Analysis Beyond the Speech Event

Stanton Wortham, Angela Reyes

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eBook - ePub

Discourse Analysis Beyond the Speech Event

Stanton Wortham, Angela Reyes

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In its first edition, winner of the 2016 Edward Sapir Book Prize from the Society for Linguistic Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association

Discourse Analysis Beyond the Speech Event introduces a new approach to discourse analysis. In this innovative work, Wortham and Reyes argue that discourse analysts should look beyond fixed speech events and consider the development of discourses over time. Drawing on theories and methods from linguistic anthropology and related fields, this book is the first to present a systematic methodological approach to conducting discourse analysis of linked events, allowing researchers to understand not only individual events but also the patterns that emerge across them.

This new edition:

  • Draws on theories and methods from linguistic anthropology and related fields;


  • Presents the first systematic methodological approach to doing discourse analysis of linked events;


  • Provides easy-to-use tools and techniques for analyzing discourse both within and across events;


  • Offers transparent procedures and clear illustrations to show how the approach can be applied to analyze three types of data: ethnographic, archival, and new media;


  • Includes a new chapter focusing on the discourse analysis of contemporary nationalist new media data.


Updated and revised for the second edition, this book is essential reading for advanced students and researchers working in the area of discourse analysis.

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Informazioni

Editore
Routledge
Anno
2020
ISBN
9781000245257
Edizione
2
Categoria
Linguistique

1

Discourse analysis across events

Discourse analysis is a research method that provides systematic evidence about social processes through the detailed examination of speech, writing, and other signs. This book describes an approach to discourse analysis drawn primarily from the field of linguistic anthropology (Agha, 2007; Duranti, 1997; Silverstein, 1976, 2003)—a discipline that studies language use in social and cultural contexts—although we also borrow concepts from related fields. Our approach makes two significant contributions. First, we clearly delineate a linguistic anthropological method for doing discourse analysis, offering transparent procedures and illustrations. Second, we extend discourse analysis beyond the speech event, showing how to study the pathways that linguistic forms, utterances, cultural models, individuals, and groups travel across events.
Recent theoretical and empirical work has made it clear that many important social processes can only be understood if we move beyond single speech events to analyze pathways across linked events (Agha, 2007; Agha & Wortham, 2005; Wortham, 2012). Learning, for example, involves systematic changes in behavior from one event to the next. A learner has experiences in one or more events and then behaves differently in subsequent events. In socialization, to take another example, a novice experiences events characteristic of a group and then participates more competently in subsequent events. No matter how sophisticated our analyses of discrete events, we cannot offer empirically adequate analyses of processes like learning and socialization unless we study pathways across linked events, because such processes are inherently cross-event. In order for discourse analysis to be a useful method for studying processes like learning and socialization, it must uncover how people, signs, knowledge, dispositions, and tools travel from one event to another and facilitate behavior in subsequent events. This book presents the first systematic methodological approach to doing discourse analysis of linked events.

An example

Consider the following example, taken from a ninth-grade combined English and history classroom in an urban American school. The two teachers are discussing Aristotle’s Politics with 18 students—6 boys and 12 girls, mostly African American. See Wortham (2006) for more information on this classroom. The class is exploring Aristotle’s account of human nature, specifically the question of what distinguishes humans from animals. In the passage they have read, Aristotle says: “he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be beast or god” (Aristotle, Politics, 1253a, line 29). This implies that an individual who lives outside society is more like an animal than a human. Teachers and students discuss what criterion Aristotle would have used to distinguish humans from “beasts.”
Right before segment 1, one teacher has tentatively proposed a criterion: humans have goals and animals do not. A student, Tyisha, objects. (Transcription conventions are in Appendices A and B; “TYI” is Tyisha; “T/B” is Mrs. Bailey, one of the two teachers running this classroom discussion.)

Segment 1: Tyisha’s cat as a beast

525
TYI:
Mrs. Bailey? I- I have to disagree
((class laughter))
T/B:
can I- can I finish this before you disagree, okay. the idea that he’s putting
out here is that they- they have goals, and that they can in discussion decide
the best way to accomplish their goal. now, Tyisha what’s your
530
disagreement?
TYI:
becau(hh)- because if a- like- if my- okay, if my cat want to- um you
know to get to the top of something, you know, he might sit there and be ((3
unintelligible syllables)) and he’ll sit there and try every day. and then finally
he will do it, that was the goal to try and get up there. he had a goal.
535
T/B:
okay (1.0) he’s got a [goal but
ST:
[was his goal really necessary? ((laughter from class))
T/B:
let’s- let’s- let’s take what- (3.0) let’s take what your cat’s doing that
every day he sees that- counter that he wants to get on, and every day when
he passes that counter he tries to get up there. that’s a goal. okay[=
540
ST:
[yeah.
T/B:
=how is that different than your goal, the goal that you might have
had last night when you had this reading, or-
((some chattering))
TYI:
˚I don’t know˚
In the first line (525), Tyisha states explicitly what type of action she is performing: disagreement. Such an explicit statement can be useful, as it offers discourse analysts guidance in interpreting the event. Discourse analysis would be easy if analysts could rely on people’s explicit descriptions of what they are doing. This cannot suffice as a methodological approach, however, for two reasons. First, speakers sometimes lie, speak ironically, or make mistakes. Maybe Tyisha is correct that this event is a disagreement, but perhaps not. Second, speakers do not typically provide explicit interpretations of their discourse. Most of the time, both participants and analysts must interpret implicit messages and infer what type of action is occurring.
Our approach to discourse analysis depends centrally on a distinction between what Jakobson (1957) called a narrated event and an “event of speaking” or narrating event (we place important technical terms in italics when introducing and defining them). The narrated event is what is being talked about, while the narrating event is the activity of talking about it. Narrated content includes more than just narratives. Jakobson uses “narrated event” to refer to any denoted content, and we use “narrating event” to refer to any discursive interact...

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