Human life is encompassed by discourse,written or spoken, formal or informal, long or short.
It is an irrevocablefactor, from everyday ordinary life to scholarly discussions, literature andnovels. It is not far from reality when it is said that life is ‘made up of’discourse. Weiyun beautifully illustrates the importance of discourse in thehandbook of Linguistics (2001): “Toimagine a world without discourse is to imagine a world without language andtherefore to imagine the unimaginable.” Every discourse takes place in the context in which thespeaker or writer engage in. As pervasive an element as this is worthy ofclosely exploring and investigating. Learning how to engage in a discourse in aspecific context is essential in teaching a language. Therefor studyingdiscoursecannot be eliminated from teaching and has a central part in appliedlinguistics.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
This is what discourse analyst do. In the field of appliedlinguistics discourse analysis plays an important role by studying texts andtheir relationships between the contexts in which they arise. Schiffrin., et .al (2001) expound in theirbook titled as ‘The Handbook of Discourse Analysis’:”Given this disciplinary diversity, it is no surprise that theterms “discourse” and “discourse analysis” have different meanings to scholars in different fields. Formany, particularly linguists, “discourse” has generally been defined asanything “beyond the sentence.” For others (for example Fasold 1990: 65), thestudy of discourse is the study of language use.
These definitions have incommon a focus on specific instances or spates of language. But criticaltheorists and those influenced by them can speak, for example, of “discourse ofpower” and “discourses of racism,” where the term “discourses” not only becomesa count noun, but further refers to a broad conglomeration of linguistic andnonlinguistic social practices and ideological assumptions that togetherconstruct power or racism”.Jorgensen and Philips (2002) define discourseand discourse analysis as follows: “Underlying the word ‘discourse’ is thegeneral idea that language is structured according to different patterns that people’s utterances follow when they take partin different domains of social life, familiar examples being ‘medicaldiscourse’ and ‘political discourse’. ‘Discourse analysis’ is the analysis ofthese patterns”. Discourse analysis provides moreunderstandings of social interactions. Two essential preconditions are takeninto account in every discourse analysis. First, the discourse selected foranalysis is always a ‘real text’, i.e.
the texts are not invented orconstructed, but they are taken from a real context. Second, discourse analystsdon’t limit their studies on the notion of sentence, they work beyond thewritten sentences and work with ‘utterances’ i.e. sequences of words written orspoken in specific context, rather than ‘sentences’ i.e. sequence of wordsconfirming, or not, to the rules of grammar. Discourse analysts focus on thefollowing questions when analyzing a text: How do we know what writers or speakers mean?How we interpret their meanings from the texts? How we take benefit of thecontext to understand the meaning of writer or speaker? Who are theparticipants in the discourse? And what is their relations and standings? Arethey equal? What is the differences regarding power or knowledge? (Schmitt,2012) Discourse analysis is the analysis of languagein its social context. As mentioned earlier, discourse can be spoken orwritten.
However, the process of analysis of a written text could be differentfrom spoken one. Beattie (1983) argues “Spontaneous speech is unlike writtentext. It contains many mistakes, sentences are unusually brief and indeed thewhole fabric of verbal expressions is riddled with hesitations and silences.”In addition in the analysis of spoken texts there is a need to transcribe itwith all pauses, repetitions, turn takings and false starts.
In general thedifferences between spoken and written texts can be considered respecting thefollowing factors. First the formality of vocabulary and second, proportion ofcontent words to grammatical items. Written discourses contains more formalvocabulary and content words than spoken texts. In other words, the lexicaldensity in written discourses are high. Considering the written text, there are somevarious characteristics for different types of it.
For instance the type ofvocabularies used for academic written texts is different from vocabulariesused in a novel. Academic texts are usually detached from usual formal styles;the amount of pronouns like I and You in academic discourses is usually lowerthan that amount in novels. Even among various genres of novels there are somediversities in discourse and the utilized vocabulary. Therefore, discourseanalysis can be a useful device for studying and exploring these differencesand provides us with fruitful results.
Johnson (2012) suggests that people do notalways say what they mean, and they do not always mean what they say. This isone of the important reason of crucial need for discourse analysis. He namesfour reason for this process. The first reason is that “we can often depend onthe person we are talking to be able to guess what we mean with minimal input’.
The second reason he argues is that “we may risk hurting someone else’sfeelings or risking embarrassment”. The third reason he suggests is that “oneof the things that gives richness to human relationships is the space we createin our discourse for multiple meanings and multiple interpretations”. Accordingto his forth reason ambiguity in discourse enables us to make joke and manyother things that make relations strong and interesting. The field of discourse analysis is so vast,and a comprehensive review of all its approaches cannot fit into this work.Various approaches towards discourse analysis are classified by Eggins andSlades (2005) to the following categories. Sociology which is applied throughconversation analysis; Sociolinguistics overlapping Ethnography, InteractionalSociolinguistics and Variation Theory; Philosophy consisting of Speech acttheory and Pragmatics; Linguistics including Structural Functional (whichinvolves Birmingham School and Systemic Functional Linguistics) and Socialsemiotic; and Artificial Intelligence. Among these approaches SystemicFunctional Linguistics is the discourse analysis approach used in this study.
Next section is allocated to explaining it. 2.2. Systemic Functional LinguisticsSystemic Functional linguistics (SFL) is anapproach to linguistics developed by Halliday considering language as a socialsemiotic system.
Halliday seeks the nature of language as a social system andhe focuses on this question that ‘how does language work?” Systemic functionallinguistic is “Functional” because it considers language to have evolved underthe pressure of particular functions. SFL deals with language functions insocial contexts. So its focus is on social context and language use rather thanstructures, essentially it is concerned with the relationship of language, textand social life, it also describes how people use language with each other toaccomplish every day social life and how language is structured to achievethese meanings. SFL is amulti-perspectival model, providing analysts with complementary perspectivesfor interpreting language in use.The key notion in Systemic FunctionalLinguistics is that language is far beyond being good or bad, since it is thecontext of use that makes it appropriate or inappropriate.
Language cannot betaken apart from its context, it takes place in a social setting. The roots of Systemic Functional Linguistics goes back to thePrague School of Linguistics founded in the 1920s in Czechoslovakia. The followingfour central tenets of this school which are mentioned in the Handbook ofApplied linguistics edited by Simpson (2011) provide the theme for early andcurrent SFL and especially the work of Halliday:1. Theview of language as a network of relations which refers to the fact thatvarious aspects of language function as a network and they do not exist inisolation. 2.
The view of language as a system composed ofsub-systems. According to this view every language has different levels and ateach level different aspects of language are manifested. For instances, thefocus of lexicogrammatical level is on structure and vocabulary. While in thesemantic level the focus is on meaning, content and attitude.3. The emphasis is on the functional nature oflanguage, how different meanings, purposes and intentions are conveyed throughlanguage.4.
The view that form derives from function,emphasizing that the form or the structure of a language, is rooted in themeanings that people want to convey as they speak or write to each other. The Prague framework built on these conceptual views is furtherexpanded in the work of J. R.
Firth, the first professor of general linguisticsand founder of the London School of Linguistics. Halliday was one of his earlystudents and followed Firth, who maintained that language is a network ofsystems revealing again the focus on the relational nature of language. Firthfurther insisted that meaning is central in linguistic explanation, and thatlanguage expresses central functions in a variety of situational contexts.Another central issue in Firth’s work was his focus on language asa system of networks, a system of meanings, which has remained a core conceptin current SFL theory. Firth’s interest in the uses to which people put languageled to his early theorizing about the role of functions in contexts of use.
ForFirth, “function was tied to context in the sense that systems of optionsbecome available in different situations”. He was the first who closelyexplored the contextual and linguistic concepts in one frame, and his student,Halliday had a great role in expanding this view. Young in the Handbook of Applied Linguistics (2011) argues that SFLis a perspective describing language both as a social phenomenonand as a formalsystem for expressing meanings. It does so by explaining how people interactwith each other through language, andproviding a methodology for the analysisof many types of discourse. Through SFL language is organized as a functionalsystem; these functions (technically referred to as metafunctions)underlie andgenerate the structures of language. The functional focus allows researchers”toexamine any text – verbal or visual – and be able to analyze it and explainwhy texts meanwhat and how they do so”.
SFL researchers view language as “asystem of choices”, which allowsthem to explain choices made in a particularinstance of language use. Then, the emphasis in SFL is on the functions andsystems of choice. Systemicists study”what language does, not what it is; showingwhat it does better illustrates what it is”. Halliday (1994) defines theconcept of function in two ways. First, “function equals use”; and second, “itis a fundamental property of language, basic to the evolution of the semanticor meaning system: every natural language can be interpreted in terms of afunctional theory”. There are three general functions or metafunctions oflanguage, which are simultaneously expressed in instances of language use: · Ideational Metafunction: Language is used to talk about what ishappening at any given moment, what will happen at some future time and whathas been happening. · Interpersonal Metafunction: language is used to express a point ofview or an opinion on the present or future happening.· Textual Metafunction: make the output of the previous two functionsinto a coherent whole.
So every utterance simultaneously expresses three metafunctions.These functions of language are built into the language code, allowing users tocombine different functions into each utterance. When people speak they notonly share some experience but also express their stance towards it, theiropinion of it and attitude towards it; and they also seek to relate theexperience to what has gone before; they seek to make their interaction cohereto what has already been said, not only in this language event but also inprevious ones. The grammar of a language is there to connect the selections inmeaning derived from the metafunctions of language and realize them in aunified structural form (Halliday, 1978). Attitude is one of the subsystems of Interpersonal metafunctionwhich is briefly explained in the following part.
2.3. Appraisal Appraisal is a framework for analyzing evaluation in language. Ithas emerged from Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday 1994; Martin 1992;Matthiessen; 1995). This framework explores the ways in which language is usedfor evaluation and adaption of stances by discourse producers.
It deals withsocial functions of language use and consider language as a mean of expressingfeelings and stances. The medium of analysis in Appraisal framework is mainlylexical rather than grammatical. This framework is developed by Martin (2000) and is applied bothfor written and spoken texts. Since its establishment, it has been applied asan evaluative system in various areas and contexts like educational,professional, political contexts.
Despite the powerful and useful stance ofthis framework for evaluation and understanding different discourses, Martinand White (2005) states that it is an ongoing process and lots of its facetsare still uninvestigated and untouched: “…our maps of feelings (foraffect, judgment and appreciation) have to be treated at this stage as hypotheses about the organization of therelevant meanings-offered as a challenge to those concerned with developingappropriate reasoning…”Appraisal belongs to interpersonal metafunction of Systemic FunctionalLinguistics and deals with social functions of language and the way language isused for adaption of stances by speaker or writer. Appraisal framework hasthree subsystems named Attitude, Gradation and Engagement. · Attitudes explores the activation of positive or negativepositioning in the text. Attitudinal meanings can be categorized in three broadsemantic meanings: Affect, Judgment, and Appreciation.§ Affect deals with emotion, it displays positive or negativefeelings expressed in the text by speaker or writer. Feeling happy or sad,confident or anxious, interested or bored?