Discourse Analysis in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice (I)

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Introduction Unflagging research interest in discourse encouraged us to devote a special issue to the topic and invite leading Russian and foreign experts to exchange their ideas and provide answers to existing questions or put new ones. Due to the positive response, our idea will be implemented in two issues of the journal, that will give us the opportunity to present the reader the ideas of scholars from different universities and countries of the world. The two editions will cover theoretical aspects of discourse analysis, and include practical examples of the application of a wide variety of methodological approaches and tools. Discourse analysis is, by now, a consolidated research paradigm, one that interests a broad spectrum of disciplines across the social sciences. Among other fields, it is currently found in critical theory, economics, history, sociology, philosophy and social psychology besides, of course, linguistics. What is meant by ‘discourse analysis’ is clearly a relevant question, especially since the notion of discourse is itself distinguished by imprecision, its meaning varying according to the specific context in which it is found. An interesting account of the development of the term from its common or garden sense to its use within linguistics can be found in Mills (1997). She explains that, within linguistics, discourse has been seen by some as exemplifying language in use, as opposed to language as systematic structure (Brown and Yule 1983). This opinion is shared by those Russian linguists who define discourse as ‘text, immersed in life’ (Arutyunovа 1998), or text in a situation of communication (Karasik 2002). The size of the language sample is important for others (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975), while a more contemporary note is sounded in the views of certain unspecified ‘mainstream linguists’, who believe that discourse is defined by the context of occurrence of certain utterances (thus, the discourse of religion, the discourse of advertising, etc.). These contexts of production of texts will determine the internal constituents of the specific texts produced (Mills 1997: 9). In fact, as Jørgensen and Phillips (2002: 1) suggest, the term as currently used within linguistics generally indicates the structuring of language according to the different patterns found in people’s utterances, across the many different domains of social life. It is generally accepted that discourse is determined by context, which generates text and determines its structure. Context needs to be understood in its broadest sense and includes actual situational context (or external context), e.g. situational communication conditions, psychological context (or internal context) - psychological factors influencing the process of communication and prior context. As Kecskes notes, “prior context is based on our prior experience, so it develops through the regularity of recurrent and similar situations, which we tend to identify with given contexts” (Kecskes 2014: 215). He points out that through the interplay of prior context and actual situational context, individual and social factors of communication are intertwined (ibid.: 133). Van Dijk distinguishes between micro-contexts, which may represent to face-to-face communicative situations (parliamentary speech or debate) and macro-contexts (parliament as an institution or democracy as a system) (Van Dijk 2009: 250). Culture is also a context of communication. In intercultural interaction it is the most important extralinguistic factor, which impacts communicative behavior of a community and shapes communicative ethno style (Larina 2015). Within discourse studies a prominent position is currently occupied by schools of so-called ‘critical discourse analysis’ (e.g. Wodak 2001, Fairclough 2001, Van Dijk 2003, etc.), which involve the concept of power in their picture of the operations of language. Fairclough’s (2001: 14) definition of discourse as “language as social practice determined by social structures” emphasises the interconnectedness of language and society, and for critical discourse analysts generally, it is axiomatic that language and society are mutually constitutive (Verdoolaege 2008: 43, Resta 1998: 6). To take an example, familiar from the work of Michel Foucault (1963), the lexicogrammatical elements used by a doctor in an interview with a patient are determined by specific features of the context, and constitute a discourse whose semantics relate to the following domains: symptoms, the body, diagnosis, prognosis, therapy, treatment, cure, medicines/drugs, etc. As Fairclough (2001: 2) points out in his discussion of the doctor-patient context, power relations are also an implicit part of the interaction: the doctor occupies the role of ‘expert’, able to affect the patient’s life because of his special knowledge. These power relations indicate the presence of a hierarchical social structure that transmits the effects of choices at a political level throughout all strata of society. To sum up, it is plain that discourse analysis can never be a single approach, but should rather be seen as a series of interdisciplinary approaches, which can be used to explore many different social domains, in many different types of studies. We will expect a critical discourse analyst to involve the notion of social power in their exploration of the specific discourse under examination, while this may be absent from studies that are more interested in exploring features of language at a textual, grammatical or semantic level. This issue is divided into two sections, the first being a series of papers, by prominent Russian and Western scholars, that contain theoretical considerations relating to the current state of the art; the second contains some papers that apply a variety of theoretical notions to the specific field of political discourse analysis. Theoretical Aspects of Discourse Analysis The first paper is by the well-known American linguist Istvan Kecskes, whose book Intercultural pragmatics (2014) we earlier presented to our readers in the review by Svetlana Kurteš (2015). In the article he has written for our special issue, he explores the pragmatics of dialogical interaction, developing a model for the analysis of such discourse based on understanding the roles and local knowledges of both speaker and hearer. Prof Kecskes has already introduced his Dynamic Model of Meaning to our readers, which explains how actual communicative meaning is created, emphasizing the interplay between prior context encoded in the words used in the utterance and the actual situational context in which the interaction takes place (Кечкеш 2014). In his article for this issue he develops his idea. The aim of this paper is to direct attention to how a dialogue approach can lead to better understanding of actions of interlocutors in communication. Instances of dialogical communication may see speaker and hearer engaged in processes of deduction, repair and adjustment to what they perceive as important for the other. The writer explores these notions, exemplifying their operation across a variety of spoken data, suggesting that a pragmatic, dialogical model may aid us to appreciate important nuances in verbal communication. The paper also explores intercultural aspects of the semantic/ pragmatic dimension, arguing that in non-native speaker interaction it is imperative that there is a close correspondence between utterance and intention, or the lack of shared knowledge between speaker and hearer may rule out the possibility of communication. A key concept, in Kecskes’ view, is Giora’s notion of ‘graded salience’ (Giora 2003), which refers to the information that the hearer assumes to be central for the speaker when s/he produces the utterance. Misunderstandings may arise because of the private and cultural specific nature of salience, particularly for L2 speakers, who have less background knowledge in common. Because of the complexity of the cognitive processes involved in verbal communication, the author argues, approaches based on the analysis of the utterance alone necessarily provide an incomplete picture. Some of the historical phases in the development of discourse analysis are revisited by Laura Alba-Juez, the author of significant contributions to discourse analysis and pragmatics (Alba-Juez 2009, Alba-Juez, Mackenzie 2016) who is already familiar to the readers of our journal (Alba-Juez 2014). She explains its origins in Text Linguistics, an analytical paradigm current in the 1970s and 80s, and cites De Beaugrande and Dressler’s (1981) work, which defined text as a communicative event that must satisfy seven criteria, the first two of which (cohesion and coherence) may be defined as text-internal, and the remaining five (intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality) as text-external. While the former still constitute valid objects for research in other traditions within linguistics, it is the necessity to account for the role of the latter in linguistic description that is relevant in the emergence of discourse analysis as the multi-faceted, cross-disciplinary tool we recognise today. The term ‘discourse’, she writes, includes both ‘text’ and ‘context’, the latter encompassing social, cultural and emotional aspects. Thus, a separation begins to appear, between studies of ‘text’ (which focus on aspects such as cohesion and coherence, for example) and those of ‘discourse’, which becomes a broader term, within whose parameters are included social, cultural and historical factors, as well as features of the specific interactive context. The main aim of the paper is to disambiguate the two terms ‘Discourse Analysis’ and ‘Pragmatics’, which can almost seem to be conflated, especially in descriptions from the European Continental school. They speak of pragmatics, for example, as “the scientific study of all aspects of linguistic behaviour” (Bublitz and Norrick (2011: 4). Proponents of the Anglo-American school, by contrast, are more likely to see pragmatics as one of the core components of a linguistic theory, along with phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. The writer’s conclusion places pragmatics within the developing tradition of discourse analysis, as an indispensable part of the analyst’s toolkit. Discourse-analysis is one of the most rapidly developing fields of research in Russian communicative linguistics (Budaev, Chudinov 2006, Bobyreva 2007, Demyankov 2005, Dubrovskaya 2010, Karasik 2002, Kashkin 2010, Lutovinova 2009, Makarov 2003, Olyanich 2004, Savitsky 2013). However, there is no common understanding of discourse, nor is there any single classification of types of discourse. At our request, one of the leading Russian linguists in the field, Vladimir Karasik, contributed an article for this special issue, in which he summarized the existing approaches to the classification of types of discourse and systematized them on the basis of five dimensions - the content of communication, its typical participants, tone, channel and communicative actions. On this basis, he suggests five main approaches to discourse: Topic Approach, Subject Approach, Tonality Approach, Regime Approach and Action Approach. These approaches are determined by the functions of speech, and the models of the communicative situation developed in linguistics and other fields of human knowledge (Bakhtin, Habermas, Lotman and Halliday), and once again illustrate the multidimensional nature of discourse. The author argues that they complement each other and make it possible to synthesize the results achieved in Text Linguistics, Pragmatics, Social Linguistics, and Discourse Studies. Natalya Klushina’s article poses another problem, indicating the interdisciplinary nature of discourse-analysis and its links with other fields, in this case with Stylistics, which, from its original functional orientation, took a communicative turn in the late twentieth century. The author notes that the emergence of communicative stylistics in the Russian humanities provoked “competition” between the two communication disciplines - traditional stylistics and Western discourse-analysis, which share a common subject of study (text), the general vector of its study (which is communicative), but have different methods of analysis and different terminology systems. These tend to be an eclectic mixture, not adequately delimited, and this blurs the boundaries of these disciplines (see [Vorontsova 2015, Khazagerov 2014 and others). According to the author, this is the main problem of the coexistence of media stylistics and discursology in one scientific field, that of Russian and - increasingly - of Slavic linguistics too. The article notes the absence of the strict understanding of style, and discourse, as well as a distinct classification of discourses, except for a generally accepted division of discourses into institutional and non-institutional (Karasik 2002). The author emphasizes the importance of the notion of discourse for stylistics, and concludes that integration of methods might contribute to a better understanding of a modern media text and give a new impetus to the development of Russian and Slavonic stylistics in a communicative perspective. E.A. Krasina also pays attention to the integrative ability of discourse, emphasizing that the notion of discourse promotes the integration of humanities research in linguistics and other fields of knowledge. The author considers discourse as a component of social and cultural interaction, which is a complex unity of linguistic form, meaning and action, i.e., communicative event or act. The goal of her paper is to outline the conditions of interaction and correlation of discourse, speech act and utterance as linguistic constructions, as well as to reveal some of their similarities and differences and illustrate the importance of the constructive role of the utterance as a minimal unit of speech production. Vadim Dementyev’s contribution is an exploration of the study of speech genres within the discourse analysis paradigm. Different speech genres are classified, and speech genres are discussed in different types of discourse. The article is of special interest for our bilingual issue because it shows how the tradition of Russian text analysis, culminating with Bakhtin’s work on speech genres, may be seen in terms of a comparison with Austin’s well-known work on speech act theory. Dementyev discusses points of contact between the notions ‘genre’ and ‘speech act’. Though there are similarities, the author notes that extended spoken genres such as the lecture, discussion or conversation may not be readily assimilated to the notion of speech act. The genres are then classified under a series of headings, according to the kind of discourse in which they appear, for example: environmental, political, medical, religious, etc. As in Kecskes’ paper, there is an emphasis on the dialogical dimension of speech. The author finds that the main task of the current trends in discourse-analysis is to find ‘an adequate model of real dialogical speech communication’, and for this he proposes Speech Genre Theory as a possible solution. Political Discourse Analysis The second part of the issue contains a series of chapters that deal with themes of political discourse analysis. Douglas Mark Ponton, who is also already familiar to our readers (Ponton 2014), attempts to outline an integrated model for the analysis of political discourse. The chapter looks back across some of the high points in the development of political discourse analysis, in order to assess the current state of the field. It also has a future focus, as it attempts to integrate insights from some emerging fields, such as multimodality, with more consolidated approaches. The author quotes Fairclough and Fairclough (2012), in support of his claim that persuasion is the most pervasive function of all political discourse, and claims that there is general agreement that the processes involved encompass both textual and non-textual features. Atkinson’s Our Masters’ Voices (1984) is cited as a key work that describes non-verbal aspects of persuasive rhetoric such as the speaker’s voice quality, intonation, posture, body language, eye movements, and so on. As influential as this work was, however, these features have tended to be omitted from many subsequent accounts of persuasion in political rhetoric, which have concentrated on features of argumentation operating at a strictly textual level. The overall aim of the chapter is to suggest pathways towards the ambitious goal of developing a usable, integrated model for analysing political discourse. Instead of analysing a single feature such as metaphor, parliamentary insults, evaluative language or humour - all of which have been the subject of considerable research in the field - the model attempts to combine descriptions of textual and non-verbal/ multimodal features of political discourse, in order to provide a practical tool for analytical purposes, and a coherent account of possible pragmatic effects. The model is exemplified in an analysis of Bill Clinton’s address to the American people on the Lewinsky scandal. Three subsequent articles are timely, in the light of recent political events, since they analyse speeches of the candidates for the US presidency in the election campaign of 2016. Justin Quam and Marianna Ryshina-Pankova explore the language of newly elected US president Donald Trump, comparing it with that of the beaten Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton, and her fellow Democrat, Bernie Sanders. The chapter, in fact, may help account for the success of Trump’s electoral/rhetorical strategy. Throughout the 2016 campaign, as is well-known, presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked surprise by his ability to maintain his popularity in the face of an apparently unending sequence of gaffes, damaging revelations and statements that were likely to cause offence. Despite alienating important figures in his own party, Trump’s electoral chances were bolstered by his ability to appeal to a large segment of voters unreached by his rival candidate. The chapter uses the framework of Engagement, developed by Martin and White within the paradigm of Systemic Functional Linguistics (White, 2003; Martin and White, 2005), to explore the patterns of alignment of the three candidates with their audiences. The chapter, in this respect, follows work on a similar topic, by Miller (e.g. 2004). Analysis of the speeches of Trump, Clinton, and Sanders reveals different patterns of interaction with voters in terms of the use of expansive and contractive dialogic strategies. Trump’s speeches feature, in fact, a constrained dialogical space in which alternative opinions to the speaker’s are not recognised. Clinton and Sanders, by contrast, frequently engage with other views, in patterns of ‘dialogical expansion’. These patterns depend, to a degree, on shared assumptions between audience and speaker, as signalled by Trump’s use of vague phrases such as “You look at what’s going on”. The authors conclude that Trump’s rhetorical style is simpler and more forceful than his opponents, which may not guarantee him electoral success (in fact, with hindsight it may have played a role), but certainly mark him out from the other two as a non-professional politician. Yana Volkova and Nadezhda Panchenko develop the topic of destructiveness in communication, interest in which is caused by the growing manifestation of aggression in different types of discourse. The authors clarify the concept of destructiveness with respect to the political discourse and relate it to the concept of aggressiveness. The study is based on the theory of discourse analysis and destructive theory (van Dijk, Fromm, Ponton, Hacker, Weiss, Wodak, Karasik, Makarov, Fromm, Sheigal etc.). The results of the analysis of verbal and non-verbal means of destructiveness revealed in the speeches of candidate for the US presidency have enabled the authors to conclude that the offensive behaviour of politicians is not a result of their spontaneous emotional outburst, but rather an elaborate destructive strategy used in order to fight for power, to lower the opponent’s status and deteriorate his/her public image. Anna Gornostayeva also focuses on the recent US election, drawing attention to another strategy used by the two main candidates for the US presidency and other prominent American political and public figures. She mentions that irony in the sphere of political discourse has a long tradition, dating back to Cicero and beyond. Beginning with the far from simple task of defining irony, she calls it a speech genre which is based on language manipulation, presupposing the use of a word, expression or saying in a sense, different from literal. She provides a classification of different types of irony, showing that it is capable of serving various pragmatic functions, among which are exaggeration, understatement and correction. In the author’s account, Trump’s notorious threat to have Hillary locked up if he won the election was an instance of ‘ironic exaggeration’. In the political context, an ability to use irony is regarded as a fundamental weapon in the speaker’s persuasive armoury, reducing distance between the politician and the general public. A talent for irony may be a significant aspect of a politician’s charisma, though it may also serve a defensive purpose, warding off damage to the politician’s face, or defusing moments of tension. It would appear that even a relatively sober political personality such as Hillary Clinton is obliged to use irony from time to time; while, for more expansive characters such as her husband or Donald Trump, irony is one of their most significant rhetorical tools, enabling them to attack opponents, defend themselves, and curry favour with the public at large. Our current discussion of discourse analysis, theoretical approaches to it and current research pathways is not yet finished, however. We will continue it in the next issue, which will also be devoted to the study of discourse analysis, because of the positive response solicited by our call, and the great interest shown in the topic by our authors, for whose support we are sincerely grateful.

About the authors

Douglas Mark Ponton

University of Catania

Email: dmponton@hotmail.co.uk
1 Viva Cava Gucciardo Pirato, 97015 Catania, Italy

Tatiana V Larina

RUDN University

Email: tatiana.larina.@pfur.ru
6 Miklukho-Maklaya str., 117198 Moscow, Russia


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