Discourse analysis and its approaches

Discourse analysis

Discourse analysis  is a comprehensive sociolinguistic approach whose purpose is to study discourse.

According to Jonathan Potter, the discourse analysis “pays special attention to the ways of organizing versions of the world, society, events and internal psychological worlds produced in the discourse.”

Discourse is an assignment of values. Discourse plays a key role in building the image of this world in a variety of ways. The way we talk about things – our phrases, our emphasis, what we highlight – causes certain sensations in other people. In doing so, we have an impact on the perception and understanding of others, and thus on them and our reality, on the reflection of the social world in consciousness (on the creation of discourse).

The origins of discourse analysis lie in various fields of humanitarian knowledge (social psychology, linguistics, sociology, philosophy).

In a general sense, discourse analysis is a structurally semiotic study of texts and the reaction of a listener or reader to them. The hidden meanings of the text, the context of its creation, the likely interpretations of the reader / listener, and the like are investigated.

There is no single version of discourse analysis. It can be applied to naturally occurring, and to specially organized forms of conversation and texts.

The words are analyzed. They can be combined, divided into subgroups, divided into semiotic segments, can be arranged (organized) in such a way as to enable the researcher to compare, compare, analyze and search for specific models. In this regard, various interpretations of the text (research material) are possible.

Unlike conversion analysis, discourse analysis pays much less attention to natural conversation. Discourse analysis can be applied not only to conversation, but to other forms of communication. It can be applied to such forms as texts, for example, company missions and the like. Therefore, it is more flexible than conversion analysis .

Like any sociolinguistic method, discourse analysis does not have clear criteria and measurement procedures. The researcher himself is the main “measuring device” in such a study. His work is sometimes compared with the work of a detective, trying to find and explain a hidden (implicit or latent) meaning, and sometimes an open (explicit) meaning.

Discourse analysis experts oppose the idea of ​​coding their practices, and argue that it is generally difficult to implement. Instead, they prefer to view their research style as an “analytical worldview” and as “craftsmanship more like riding a bicycle or determining the sex of chickens than following a tough chicken recipe” (W. Hill).

Researchers’ own prejudices and “blank spots” (lack of certain knowledge) also matter. Sometimes, researchers add a short description to the report of what, in their opinion, their own subjective views have brought to a specific study.

Examples of the use of discourse analysis in organizational research and management practice (by A. Bryman, D. Bell):

  • Studies of the discourse of international business leaders;
  • The use of computerized monitoring of organizations providing financial services;
  • Discourse of bank managers when describing their customers;
  • Identification of the attitude of company employees to corporate culture ;
  • Structuring corporate mission statements;
  • and etc.


Discourse  is a social dialogue that takes place through and through social institutions between individuals, groups and organizations, as well as between the social institutions themselves involved in this dialogue

Discourse analysis  is a way to understand the “purpose” of the text, the set of ideas and ideas with which the author explains and shapes reality.

A unit of discourse analysis  – a statement, which in itself intriguing, regardless of whether it is a sequence of words or sentences pronounced.

The intrigue of the message  is a set of ordered “facts” expressed by words, phrases, sentences, the sequence of which creates the effect of openness, understatement, the need for further work on the formation of meaning, resolution of the questions posed.

Local interconnection of the text  – the relationship of individual parts of the text with each other. One of the main conditions of the local interconnection texts  their approval should refer to the related to him the facts, for example with the help of matching time, conditions, causes, circumstances.

A metaphor  is the definition of a certain object, phenomenon, event through the characteristics of another, non- equivalent phenomenon, event. “Powerful like a hurricane”, “strong like an elephant”, “fragile like glass”  – all these statements are metaphors.

Paraphrase  – different types of text processing: a detailed explanation of a short text, an abbreviated exposition of a large text, a simplified exposition of a difficult-to-understand text with brief explanations.

The background  is a real, but hidden reason for some actions, events.

The semantics of the text  – direction , is considered substantive side of text , structuring of meanings , expressed openly, explicitly or not expressed directly; hidden.

Specification text  – transfer details to which you must pay special attention.

Style  – a set of techniques for using language tools used in media texts; a system of expressive means of language, which is customary to use in a certain communicative sphere.

A frame  is a central organizing idea that gives a certain meaning to an event, a phenomenon, acting as a kind of not always directly spoken interpretation scheme that allows you to localize, perceive, identify and designate events in which subjects directly or indirectly participate. The frame appears as having a certain independence, an internally relatively complete element of discourse.

Main approaches

Differences in the analytical perspectives of discourse analysis are described in the research programs of schools and schools. The main criteria for distinguishing here:

  • research focus
  • the type of knowledge on which explanatory analysis schemes are built
  • features of the data analysis procedure itself.

Based on these criteria, it is customary to distinguish linguistic approaches, discourse analysis in social psychology , sociology , cultural studies , as well as critical discourse analysis (splitting into several approaches). Some researchers form a separate paradigm that focuses on the study of Internet communication discourses: messages, reposts, comments, archives, social networking sites and pages, visual content, etc. – analysis of computer-mediated discourses (CMDA, Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis )

Let us consider examples of research in different discourse-analytical paradigms that may be useful and applicable in Internet and media research.

A classic topic for discourse analysis has been the study of domestic and public racism. Authoritative studies of the phenomenon are presented in the linguistic ( Van Dijk, 2015 ), socio-psychological and sociological paradigms ( Wetherell and Potter, 1992 ), as well as in the paradigm of critical discourse analysis ( Wodak and Martin, 2015 ).

The approach of T. van Dyck (one of the founders of linguistic discourse analysis, author of social cognitive theory and editor-in-chief of Discourse and Society magazine), goes beyond purely linguistic analysis, but focuses on the linguistic structural units of different types of discourse of racism ( Van Dijk, 2015) The researcher draws attention to the social practices (“social subsystem”) and ideologies (“cognitive subsystem”) that produce and reproduce the discourses of racism. Here, the elements of discourse can be a communicative event, oral or written text, non-verbal expressions and visual images. The explanatory scheme is based on theory in- and out-groups, as well as ideas about the functioning of prejudice: the discourse of racism emphasizes the positive and neutralizes the negative characteristics of in-groups and, on the contrary, emphasizes the negative and levels the positive characteristics of out-groups. To trace this connection, the researcher analyzes the different types (conversation, news reports, study guides), social contexts and structural elements of discourse (vocabulary, syntax, metaphors, non-verbal signs and symbols, sounds, ways of interaction) that produce and reproduce everyday and public racism.

In general, the tradition of linguistic discourse analysis offers work both with large data arrays, analysis of statistical patterns of manifestation of various discourse elements (for example, topic modeling methodologists use programming languages ​​or ready-made software packages for this), and with small fragments of texts that become especially significant to explain the phenomenon being studied. Here, the discourse analysis is in contact with the approaches of conversion analysis (more about the general principles and differences of discourse analysis and conversion analysis can be found in Hammersley, 2003 , Korbut, 2015 ).

An example of the analysis of significant fragments of speech can be the study of the discourse of morality and the negotiations of parents and children about the time that media should spend in the broad sense (computer games, social networks, television) ( Koniski, 2017 ). The author illustrates the selected types of moral and negotiation discourses with selected fragments of interactions (these are transcripts of video with symbols that reflect the analysis procedure).

The fragment below corresponds to the notion of the need to prioritize activities with the least amount of time spent by the media (p. 5-7). The researcher analyzes not only the meaning of the conversation, but also temporary and intonational pauses, accents, and contexts of replicas.

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