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Maria Piva

on 3 July 2013

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Discourse can be described in 3 ways:
Language beyond the level of the sentence
Language behaviours linked to a social practice
A system of thought

Firstly, discourse can be described as 
language beyond the level of the sentence
. By this we mean that it is a type of language that extends past features such as sounds (phonetics), structures (syntax) and the parts that make up words (morphology)

Teachers can use discourse analysis not only as a research method for investigating their own teaching practices but also as a tool for studying interactions among language learners. Learners can benefit from using discourse analysis to explore what language is and how it is used to achieve communicative goals in different contexts. Thus discourse analysis can help to create a second language learning environment that more accurately reflects how language is used and encourages learners toward their goal of proficiency in another language.

The second description of discourse concerns 
language behaviours linked to a social practice
; this suggests that a discourse is a type of language. For example, the most popular discourse you may have heard of is the discourse of law, whereby legal documents are written in as much depth as possible to avoid any vagueness and ambiguity. This style of writing is unique to the legal profession, meaning it is a specific kind of discourse.

Discourse Analysis (DA)
is a modern discipline of the social sciences that covers a wide variety of different sociolonguistics approaches. It aims to study and analyse the use of discourse.

Analysis of discourse looks not only at the basic level of what is said, but takes into consideration the surrounding social and historical contexts
Critical Discourse Analysis is a form of discourse analysis that studies the relationship between discourse and ideology (a set of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that constitute a perspective on the world). It focuses on critiquing social injustice, and has strong links to the study of language and power.
Linguistic analysis in CDA:
A lot can be inferred from the lexical and grammatical choices made by the author of a text. These linguistic choices are not ideologically random, and have purposefully been used to portray a particular idea.
Common linguistic devices studied by critical discourse analysts:
Finally, discourse is described as being 
a system of thought
. This is by far the most scientific description of the three, as it disagrees with the notion that knowledge and truth are either universal or objective. Conversely, it suggests that the ideas about knowledge and truth emerge from particular social and historical situations. Discourses appear to produce 'natural' knowledge, but they're actually shaped by powerful institutions (such as capitalism and heterosexuality).
Active or Passive voice
Pre- modifiers
Indirect quotes

Summary of Analysis

Micro analysis:
Regular use of indirect quotations from vague sources such as 'a witness' or 'a security source'.Tend to use collective nouns, rather than naming the individuals responsible.Two instances of active verbs 'kills' and 'shoot', rather than the sentences being put in the passive. This could be to emphasize who was responsible.Evidence of pre and post modification, for example 'shot dead' and 'Lebanese soldiers' for emphasis.

Meso analysis:
The article is taken from the guardian which has a centre-left political alignment.

Macro analysis
: Conflict in the Middle East is a prominent topic in world news at the moment, and a report where two nations are uniting against Assad, rather than fighting each other , would be of social relevance at this time.
The use of an active verb gives a clear picture of who performed a particular action, and to whom, for example: "Police attack protestors".

The use of a passive verb states what has been done, and to whom, but does not blame anyone in particular for the action, for example:
"Protestors attacked"

Alternatively, nominalization can be used, where the noun form of the verb is used to create even more ambiguity, for example:
"Attack on protestors"
The ways in which people are named can also perpetuate ideologies.

For example, the newspaper headline
"five Asian youths involved in armed robbery"
creates a very different picture than
"five young men involved in armed robbery"

Similarly, the way people are described in texts, or after giving quotes can present two different pictures, for example:
"Dr Sarah Jones" 
creates a different picture than 
"Single mother of two, Sarah Jones"
Pre-modified nouns can present varying views of a topic.

For example,
"gay marriage"
"same-sex marriage"
implies that this is essentially different from hetero-sexual marriage.
This is particularly common, when the results of a poll are being used, for example
"poll shows 70% oppose gay marriage"
, however there may be no evidence of reported speech saying this.
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