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

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1. Introduction This issue of Russian Journal of Linguistics continues the focus on Discourse Analysis which we began with the first special issue devoted to the topic (2016, 4). The aim of our publication is to stimulate discussion and the exchange of ideas on these rich subjects, in order to benefit the international community of discourse analysts. In the first volume, we presented some theoretical perspectives on Discourse Analysis, including recent research in discourse pragmatics, stylistics and speech genres, with work illustrative of current trends in both Russian and Western discourse analytical traditions. They have, once again, demonstrated that there is, as yet, no universal theory of discourse. However, the incremental growth of interest in research on discourse is an irreversible process, because, as A. Kibrik rightly pointed out, discourse is “the only real linguistic object of language”. One cannot disagree with the reasoning of the scientist: “People talk to each other in discourses, rather than sentences, much less morphemes or phonemes ... Therefore, the natural evolution of linguistics as a science should start with discourse studies, and only on this basis should it explore the smaller units, obtained as the results of analytical procedures” (Kibrik 2009). In this second issue, we present chapters in both languages, on a variety of topics of interest, some of which have a more theoretical focus, while others could be thought of more in terms of the application of DA methodologies to data from a variety of social contexts, and of the role of language units of different levels in the construction of a particular type of discourse. The first part of the issue presents research in discourse semantics and pragmatics; we then have chapters on discursive practices and on political discourse. 2. DISCOURSE SEMANTICS AND PRAGMATICS Problems in discourse semantics and pragmatics are the focus of many scientists who work in Russia and worldwide (Baranov, Plungian, Rakhilina 1993, Ponomarenko 2004, Sinelnikova 2013, Chernjavskaja 2012; Alba-Juez and Mackenzie 2016, Kecskes 2014, Leech 2014, Wierzbicka 1991/2003 and many others), who deal with issues of nomination and the functioning of different language units, reflecting the processes involved in speaker-hearer interaction. The volume starts with the article by J.R. Martin, one of the best-known scholars working in Systemic Functional Linguistics, the functional approach to language developed by M.A.K. Halliday that has been influential in many fields of language research, including Critical Discourse Analysis. Among his many significant contributions to linguistic theory (Martin 2007, 2013; Martin and Rose 2003, 2008 etc.) is the Appraisal Framework (Martin and White 2005), a taxonomy of semantic and interpersonal resources that has proved invaluable in many types of Discourse Analysis. His chapter deals with new avenues in Appraisal theory. In SFL, and in Appraisal, meaning is seen in terms of a network of options open to the speaker/writer, with a marked focus on the interpersonal dimension. Meaning is formalized in terms of networks of options, and especially realised in interactive contexts - thus words do not 'have' meaning; rather, they 'do' it. At the heart of this chapter then, is what Martin terms a 'relational perspective on meaning'. Martin explores a lot of the background to the creation of the Appraisal Framework, in pages that will interest a wider audience than users of the framework alone. His chapter explains the processes of synthesis involved in arriving at 'core' elements of his semantic taxonomy, using the multiple entries for each item in Roget's Thesaurus. For the Systemic Functional linguist, he says, the ‘dream’ relates to the notion of lexis as 'delicate grammar'. However, when we seek to apply these systems beyond the semantic feature of the individual word, to larger bodies of text, we start to move beyond ‘the grammarian’s dream, to the discourse analyst’s nightmare!’ One of the problems relates to the availability of large enough corpora, able to provide data to confirm or refute the analyst’s intuitions about the semantic feature s/he is interested in. In this context, he discusses work by Bednarek (2008). Martin proposes a typological/topological distinction, and illustrates how a topological approach to the lexical study of individual semantic areas may represent a fruitful pathway for this research. Another significant focus for discursive and semantic research is metaphor. Metaphor is an important means of categorization of reality, and one of the significant discursive units which has been studied by many scientists, in various aspects and types of discourse (Arutyunova 1990, Budaev and Chudinov 2006, Chudinov 2001, Lakoff and Johnsen 2003, Musolff 2016 and many others). Andrew Goatly analyzes it alongside certain grammatical resources, in an ecological context. Goatly argues in his paper Metaphor and grammar in the poetic representation of nature, that, because of the seriousness of the threat to the climate, Critical Discourse Studies with an ecological focus should take precedence over all other kinds of critical discourse work. In terms of grammar, he uses Systemic Functional Linguistic analysis of many examples, from a variety of cultural contexts, to support his view that our language tends to reflect a Newtonian worldview rather than one based on current ecological principles. Metaphors tend to reflect an anthropocentric vision, though this is increasingly challenged by current environmental science. These ideas are explored in a comparative analysis, of an ecological scientific text, ‘the state of the world’, produced by the Worldwatch Institute, and some nature poetry by various authors, including Edward Thomas, William Wordsworth and Alice Oswald. While Nature in the first text is seen generally as a passive resource, acted upon by human agents, in the latter group of texts it assumes an active role, with its own voice. This is reflected both in the grammatical forms and in the metaphors used to represent it. Goatly argues that poetry and science share elements of a vision, of intrinsic union between the human and natural worlds, which we would do well to heed in the current precarious climate. The analysis of metapragmatic components of Judicial discourse is represented by Tatyana Dubrovskaya’s chapter, the Metapragmatics of administering justice in Russian and English judicial discourse, which compares courtroom discourse in England and Russia, demonstrating that judicial meta-utterances have parallel functions in Russian and English, though minor differences are discovered, for which cultural differences are responsible. The paper proposes a three-fold classification of metapragmatic courtroom speech, beginning with speech whose purpose is to ‘regulate’ the courtroom context - here, the judge explains procedures, regulates turn-taking, introduces new elements, and so on. The second is ‘constructing the reality of the crime’, in which judges also figure prominently. The third is ‘framing the law’, i.e. specifying details of law as this becomes necessary; again, this is usually the task of the judge. All three categories show differences between Russian and English patterns in realising these metapragamatic functions. English judges frequently use mitigation strategies and forms of indirectness in relating to witnesses, while Russians tend to be more direct, for example using the imperative form. This is explained in terms of differing norms of politeness between the two nations. The chapter thus accounts for the role of metapragmatic discourse in the judicial context, showing how it is used both to sustain the court as a social institution and how it contributes to the judge’s own identity construction as a figure of power. Ekaterina Khrisonopulo’s chapter, Discourse motivations of mental construal and the expression of stance in speech: a case study of English, deals with the topic of speaker stance and the subjective/objective dimension. Speakers can either express their degree of certainty through a subjective formula (“I am sure that”) or by an impersonal one (“It is certain that”). What she calls the ‘S-subject’ (for ‘Setting’) is the more objectifying resource, while the ‘P-subject’ (for ‘participant’) is typically realised by the use of a pronoun. The author draws on both Russian and Western sources (Leontiev, Kubryakova, Berman, Langacker etc.) to ground her work in current research, and presents an analysis of a corpus of about 350 examples taken from English-language fiction. What emerges is the claim that the choice between subjective and objective representation patterns depends on cognitive factors, including the distinction between event schemas and mental experiences. The chapter is a thorough exploration of the nuances in literary expressiveness that can be achieved by the use of these resources, as well as their representing a strategic resource for authors in characterisation and plot development. 3. DISCURSIVE PRACTICES The second section of the issue is devoted to some discursive practices in different types of discourse. Lucia Abbamonte and Flavia Cavaliere present a chapter entitled: Shopping as ‘best practice’ - analyzing Walmart’s debated sustainability policies. Like Goatly’s paper, it has an ecological focus, underlining the current importance of this research trend within linguistics. The American retail giant, Walmart, advances claims to ‘sustainability’ in a number of promotional videos highlighting the company’s positive attitudes to fundamental issues like Energy, Waste, Products and Responsible Sourcing. The chapter uses an integrated Critical Discourse Analysis approach exploring nuances in this marketing and branding strategy. The authors’ conclusion is that the Walmart videos use multimodal resources to craft a range of attractive images associating them with green values and social issues like poverty. The gist of these videos is that shopping itself becomes an ecological activity; as long, naturally, as one shops at Walmart. The authors do not directly suggest that Walmart is being duplicitous; indeed, they highlight positive aspects of the company’s business practise. However, they do indicate that it is vital in such cases to measure promotional rhetoric against actual social practices. Larissa Galchuk studies the problem of verbalization of socially important concepts in modern business English. In her article with an evaluative title, The twenty percent solution: the concept of social capital through the new words in English business discourse at the turn of the 21st century, she examines the neologisms in this context through extra- and intralinguistic motivators of their emergence in the language. Having analysed the formal and semantic structure of these lexical units, and their functions in business discourse, the author argues that the majority of them possess metaphorical potential, while their intensive use in modern business communication results in a violation of its traditional norms. Thus, English business discourse tends to experience the loss of its conventionality in favour of the increased efficiency of every single communicative act. The author concludes that the role of emotional, rhetorical, phatic and representational language functions tends to increase in business communication where traditionally, the field has been dominated by the cognitive language function with its focus on reality conceptualization, specifically through coining new words to fill the language gap. The idea of violation of conventional norms, leading to blurring of styles and genres, finds its continuation in the article by Svetlana Ivanova entitled Commencement speech as a hybrid polydiscursive practice, where she examines the phenomenon of polydiscursiveness. She defines the specificity of the realization of polydiscursive practices as a feature of modern communication within commencement speech (commencement address / graduation speech), which, in compliance with modern trends, is delivered by outstanding media personalities (politicians, athletes, actors, etc.). The findings of the study show that institutional character is not the only feature of a commencement speech. Besides institutional discourse, commencement speech represents didactic discourse, personal discourse, memoire discourse, and is closely related to ironic discourse. The results of the study, which is illustrated by a lot of significant examples, enable the author to conclude that the harmonious combination of polydiscursive practices contributes to commencement speech hybridization, which in turn increases the degree of persuasiveness in commencement speeches. 4. POLITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS In this issue, we also continue the focus on Political Discourse Analysis that constituted a whole section of our first number, thanks to the unabated interest it has generated amongst our contributors. In a fascinating window on modern Iran, Azizullah Mirzaei, Zohreh R. Eslami and Fatemeh Safari present a chapter entitled Exploring rhetorical-discursive practices of Rouhani’s presidential campaign and victory of his prudence-and-hope key: a discourse of persuasion. Their approach is broadly critical, drawing on Fairclough (2010), and focuses on three dimensions of his discourse: phonological, lexical and syntactical. They explore his use of tropes, and find that, like many western politicians, his discourse is rich in three-part lists, parallelism, alliteration and metaphor, all of which have a persuasive intention. The authors’ research project involved the recording and transcription of many hours of television and radio debates, in the weeks leading up to the 2013 election. Among the most telling instances of persuasive rhetoric, they identify his use of cultural allusion, to a well-known Iranian poem, by Akhavan-e-Sales, that a ‘Spring’ is waiting, behind the long winter of Ahmadinejad’s government. Their study thus crosses cultural borders, and shows that the same techniques of discursive persuasion are practised in Iran that we find in Washington or Westminster today. The political theme continues with El-Zawawy, Amr M., whose chapter is called Towards a new linguistic model for detecting political lies. The author addresses the delicate question of politicians and truth-telling, referring to an interesting website, ‘Politifact’, which collects statements that are graded according to their degree of truthfulness, with the last dimension, ‘ridiculously untrue’ classified as ‘pants on fire’. The focus is the discourse of the two opposing US presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who were both repeatedly accused of uttering falsehoods. Use of the Politifact site enables the author to avoid a potentially difficult methodological issue; namely, on what basis to classify political statements as ‘lies’, given that neither speaker would admit to something like an ‘intent to deceive the hearer’, which might be one of Searle’s ‘felicity conditions’ for this particular speech act. An attempt is made, using the Praat spectogram, to connect voice patterns with the act of telling a political lie, using data from both Trump and Clinton. The author proposes a ‘New Model’ for classifying lies in political discourse, which is a modified version of the model that appeared in Burgoon et al. (2012). For the analysis of Media Discourse, Vladimir Ozyumenko has written a chapter, Media discourse in an atmosphere of information warfare: from manipulation to aggression, which highlights changes in modern media functions. Defining distinctions between persuasion, manipulation and aggression, the author argues that, in the atmosphere of information warfare, the function of information aggression is gaining momentum, and can be viewed within the framework of manipulative discourse, as manipulative persuasion. The author considers media aggression as a binary process, related both to the referent (affective aggression) and to the audience (cognitive aggression). The study, conducted through critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 2001, Van Dijk 2006, 2009; Wodak 2007; Weiss, Wodak 2007) and the multimodal approach (Ivanova 2010, Ponton 2016), reveals various strategies and means of linguistic manipulation and media aggression. It also shows that the main aim of linguistic manipulation, accentuated by verbal and non-verbal aggression, is to deliberately mislead the audience imposing on it the desired idea of ideological subordination. 5. CONCLUSION Discourse analysis is a relatively new scientific paradigm for the study of language, and all of its components at a level higher than that of the individual sentence - the level of discourse. To attempt to define it in a few words would be an impossible task. An uninitiated reader of our two issues might well find themselves in the same position as the blind men in Saxe’s famous poem about the elephant. The answer to the question: What is Discourse Analysis? depends entirely on what part of it one approaches for the first time; what specific tool one picks up and attempts to use on discourse. As the papers collected in these two volumes amply demonstrate, Discourse Analysis is a rich and diverse field of research, capable of uncovering important insights, across a broad range of academic disciplines. Within its bounds, it encompasses many heterogeneous approaches to discourse, many analytical tools and methodologies. It comprises many schools of thought that have evolved over time, some of which have disappeared but left crucial traces for their successors to inherit and incorporate in their own approaches. Increasingly, as has been pointed out above, Discourse Analysis is a multidisciplinary scientific field; it is not confined to Linguistics but has been adopted by other disciplines, mainly within the Humanities, and adapted to suit their own purposes. Our theoretical articles reviewed the current state of the art, explained the relation of Discourse Analysis to other research traditions, both Russian and international and traced pathways for future research in Pragmatics, Semantics, Stylistics and Genre Theory, among other fields. On the theoretical side, the challenge is to develop notions able to account for the various components of a communicative situation which contribute to the formation of meaning, in the broadest possible sense of this general term, and to create a comprehensive classification of discourse types. Discourse analysis is in constant evolution, and continues to expand in the range and scope of its research activities. On the applied front, the various theoretical perspectives and analytical methodologies are used on actual text, to reach a range of conclusions, which may be, as we have seen, broadly explicative/descriptive or critical in kind. We have seen it applied to texts from fields as diverse as Media and Business Studies, Law, Ecology and Politics, in studies which shed light on many different topics. Commencing our joint project, we did not expect to get comprehensive answers to all the questions raised. Nevertheless, we believe that readers of these two issues on Discourse Analysis will be able to find grist for their own analytical mills, and we sincerely hope that the process of dialogue and interchange between between analysts working in Russia and worldwide, which these volumes symbolise, will continue to bear fruit in future. Many sincere thanks to our authors, who have contributed so much, from the wealth of their own knowledge and research experience within Discourse Analysis.

About the authors

Douglas M Ponton

University of Catania

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

Tatiana V Larina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Email: tatiana.larina@rudn.university
6 Miklukho-Maklaya str., 117198 Moscow, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2017 Понтон Д.М., Ларина Т.В.

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