What do we mean by discourse analysis?

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Jonathan Robie
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What do we mean by discourse analysis?

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 31st, 2016, 9:09 am

Is there a clear definition of what discourse analysis is - and is not - in biblical Greek? A recent thread (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =52&t=3710) says that we should introduce discourse analysis into basic grammar. How do I clearly identify which topics are discourse analysis, as opposed to basic grammar, or any other kind of analysis? Is any one particular methodology or vocabulary for discourse analysis widely accepted as standard?

Is the Wikipedia introduction accurate? If so, what are the boundaries around discourse analysis? When is analysis discourse analysis, and when is analysis not discourse analysis?
Discourse analysis (DA), or discourse studies, is a general term for a number of approaches to analyze written, vocal, or sign language use, or any significant semiotic event.

The objects of discourse analysis—discourse, writing, conversation, communicative event—are variously defined in terms of coherent sequences of sentences, propositions, speech, or turns-at-talk. Contrary to much of traditional linguistics, discourse analysts not only study language use 'beyond the sentence boundary', but also prefer to analyze 'naturally occurring' language use, and not invented examples. Text linguistics is a closely related field. The essential difference between discourse analysis and text linguistics is that discourse analysis aims at revealing socio-psychological characteristics of a person/persons rather than text structure.

Discourse analysis has been taken up in a variety of social science disciplines, including linguistics, education, sociology, anthropology, social work, cognitive psychology, social psychology, area studies, cultural studies, international relations, human geography, communication studies, and translation studies, each of which is subject to its own assumptions, dimensions of analysis, and methodologies.
Topics of discourse analysis include:
  • The various levels or dimensions of discourse, such as sounds (intonation, etc.), gestures, syntax, the lexicon, style, rhetoric, meanings, speech acts, moves, strategies, turns, and other aspects of interaction
  • Genres of discourse (various types of discourse in politics, the media, education, science, business, etc.)
  • The relations between discourse and the emergence of syntactic structure
  • The relations between text (discourse) and context
  • The relations between discourse and power
  • The relations between discourse and interaction
  • The relations between discourse and cognition and memory
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Kirk Lowery
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Re: What do we mean by discourse analysis?

Post by Kirk Lowery » May 31st, 2016, 9:46 am

This is a question of linguistic theory, that is, what do you believe can be true of groups of clauses? Syntax traditionally covers just one sentence. The moment you involve a second clause -- even a dependent one -- you are into text linguistics. (I prefer the European term, rather than "discourse" analysis in common usage in the US. "Discourse" in its older English usage can mean an extended amount of text, but it can also mean dialogue or conversation. In fact, that is its most common meaning today.) It can include the behavior of single words/particles when those elements organize clauses in some way.

Then, of course, is the application to a particular language. Not all languages implement all features of text; and many implement the same concept/function differently, e.g., the marking of episode boundaries in narratives.

For further reading and bibliography, may I immodestly offer:

Lowery, Kirk E. "The Theoretical Foundations of Hebrew Discourse Grammar," in Walter R. Bodine, ed., Discourse Analysis of Biblical Literature. What it is and what it offers. Semeia Studies. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995, 103-130.

The other essays in that volume are excellent and instructive.

Hope this helps, although it does not directly answer your question of how to define discourse analysis in biblical Greek.
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Kirk E. Lowery

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