Discourse Analysis

Language allows us to say things, be things, and do things. The article “An Introduction to Discourse Analysis” by James Paul Gee is unusual yet compelling. Discourse analysis is a field of scholarly practice concerned with how language forms, constitutes and constructs identities, reality, and social relationships.

Gee gives an example of the game Yu-gi-oh and states the directions in which the reader can identify each word, but it still makes no sense if you do not know the game. To learn it, you have to play the game, maybe read some texts that help you understand the cards, but mostly just playing the game—thus arguing that language gets meaning from practice. Language is used to perform social action; and how power is reproduced, construed, perpetuated, and legitimated in society through practice.

I never thought of language gained through practice until now. As a first-year teacher, also being very young, I was scrutinized for the way I spoke. Maybe I was still in college mode, student mode, just being a 25-year-old girl who didn’t realize she was now an “adult.” One day the assigned CIT called my classroom to inform me a cellphone was stolen in my classroom, it was an allegation, not knowing how to respond and simply being in a middle of a lesson, I responded saying “ok.” It wasn’t an assured ok, more like a confused, ok? The CIT was furious, she assumed I was being rude, and there started a conflict, the last thing I wanted as a first-year teacher. This was the first of many instances where I was judged based on my language. I was even told once by my school principal that I need to start speaking more professionally. To think about it, I now study the way teachers talk and practice how I should be talking. Hence the example the author provided of Yu-gi-oh, language being acquired through practice. And the concept of winning and losing, if I do not succeed at speaking professionally, I lose a social good, but if I succeed, I win. 

There are two forms of discourse analysis: descriptive and critical. 

  • Descriptive: to describe how language works in order to understand it.
  • Critical: to deeply explain but also speak to and intervene in social, controversial, and political issues. 

Gee mentions the shortcomings for both methods, stating that descriptive is an “evasion of social and political responsibility” and critical is unscientific because it is “too driven by passion” (9). In the end, Gee claims that Critical Discourse analysis, however, should be more critical because language itself is political.

Tatyana Bondarouk and Huub Ruel’s article “Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple” breaks down Critical Discourse Analysis. Is it me, or was the first article way easier to digest than this one? 

First, I want to get into the concept of hermeneutics, which views interpretations as eternal or open, which is supported by the idea of language. Language users strategically assign meanings to words, sentences, paragraphs, or larger structures to discourse, and understanding language is always an interpretation. The interpreter’s job then is to link how these semantic representations are related to models of individual language users and general world knowledge shared by communities. I guess in a way, that’s what we try to teach our students? Right? Interpret text and find meaning. 

Everything in this article kind of went over my head, I don’t think discourse analysis in any way is difficult to understand. However, the way this article is written is complex; I think that’s the right word. The concluding paragraph of this article helped me understand it a bit more; these are the steps I recognized we have to follow to do discourse analysis:

  1. Created meanings (held by individuals or groups)
  2.  The researcher interprets (understands) by exploring the interplay between texts, discourse, and context. 
  3. The researcher uses context knowledge to link social events that mutually support the research. 
  4. How the research found results must be recognizable by interplay, individuals, and other texts, discourse, and the interpretive and explanatory nature of the analysis. 
  5. Finalizing analysis: good interpretation, and scientific discussions about findings and results.

After reading this particular article, I can’t have for tonight’s discussion to clarify my interpretation of this text. In a way, are we using discourse analysis in this class? We are always interpreting, so hey, maybe we are!

Works Cited:

Bondarouk, Tatyana and Ruel, Huub, “Discourse Analysis: Making Complex Methodology Simple” (2004). ECIS 2004 Proceedings. 1. http://aisel.aisnet.org/ecis2004/1

A Start to Discourse Analysis

The opening chapter to James Paul Gee’s offered mostly the context for discourse analysis and some basic terminologies. To not quickly before going into all of that, allow me to myself contextualize this research method as I have done so for the past few blogs. I was pretty new to discourse analysis leading up to the readings this week, and I can’t well say I’ve got much down about it. But it does interest me. The structure of language and the meaning of a phrase or a sentence beyond its utterance are both things which I have studies personally so I felt that this method may prove of value to me.

That said, let’s discuss a bit what was in Gee’s reading. As a final aside I must say I really do enjoy hypothesis. There wasn’t the ability to annotate specific phrases this time but I did create some page notes along with the reading and imagine I’ll be using it moving forward to further assist me in keeping things in mind. But I digress. Gee sets up the crux of his approach by introducing the three “particles” of language so to speak, saying, doing, and being. Saying is informing, doing is the action, and being is one’s identity. He then goes into what I imagine is both a suitably amusing example of this breakdown as well as apt. He describes some ways in which the swapping out of various particles of a sentence can drastically alter its real-world meaning. The one that stuck out for me was the way in which a doctor indicating that you “look tired” might be coming from a friend or a medical professional, in which cases the connotation differs.

Now, I must go back into personal asides here because to not do so would be a betrayal of my own writing this as a blog. In my other classes I have found that such hobbies and personal nexuses that I would not have thought would appear in academic contexts, have indeed been appearing. Here, for instance, Gee evokes Yu-Gi-Oh! and it did in fact bring me back to the early 2000’s for the duration. I found his discussing the finer points of trap cards and special summonings to be amusing since I have some recollection of those things (I played the game heavily in middle school). But I did understand and appreciate his point. I further appreciated the idea which he mentioned of how one could look up a word in a dictionary (“word” here interchangeable with a set of rules or even a recipe in a book) but just the definition alone will not serve to give you the real-life application of that word etc. There is more to the word than just its definition.

Gee likens Yu-Gi-Oh! to a “game” in the context of having rules which people choose to follow or not (understandably, as it is a game), but also segues this example into a broader scope by way of introducing the idea of “practices.” These practices are more generally the “games” we play in society – he cites things from business meetings to casual conversation – but that still have winners and losers and are the things by which language actually derives its meaning.

A few pages later, Gee offers a basic definition of discourse analysis: “Discourse analysis is the study of language-in-use.” Pretty simple! But of course its simplicity belies its depth of being I am sure. He opens up the branches of content vs. structural discourse analysis, being either the analysis mainly of the themes or issues discussed in the language used vs. the grammar and shaping of the use of the language relatively. He then gives another example of the way in which the “same” sentence can be utilized to different effect by portraying a sentiment on the good old hornworm either in a casual or an academic way. The point here is to show how the saying-doing-being of two sentences concerned essentially with the same thing can alter perception on the sentiment as well as who is uttering it and for what purpose.

Lastly I’ll note what I believe one of Gee’s main jumping-off points with discourse analysis is. Earlier in the section he mentioned politics. He was quick to identify that in the space of discourse analysis, politics were not the kind of politics that we would generally associate with the word. He identifies politics to be the idea that with language, everything is political. Language, in Gee’s mind, and in his research methodology, is power; and with that power there is the constant “threat” of denying someone in a real-world way. He later brings up that theory and practices are really one and the same, because there is no practice without theory. It seems that that stands apart, say, from grounded theory, but that’s just a random thought I had whilst reading through this. The point is, that because discourse analysis is based on the notion that language carries all the practices and theories inherently in its saying-doing-being, that as he puts it, “language has meaning only in and through social practices…”

So how did I feel about this? I am unsure, of both this method as well as my actual feelings about it. I do sometimes wonder about the “staying power” of the context of language. That is to say, I wrestle with the idea that we make our own context for language. If we make our own context, then it is not for anyone to really instill in their words a “doing” or a “being,” as those things immediately lose themselves in the context of Gee’s discourse analysis as soon as they are brought into the world. They would instead be the “doing” and “being” of the person reading or experiencing them in whatever way. But like I said, this is something I have been thinking about actively for some years, and am not entirely set on it. I read some postmodern literature, and this is a postmodern thought, but one which I have never been entirely comfortable with. At the very least, I will eagerly approach our discussion about this method as it may well help me understand how I feel about anyone’s personal power in using language, as well as language’s “personal” power as well.

Using Language

First off, I would like to acknowledge what is going on right now.  I hope you all are staying safe and taking all precautions necessary during this unprecedented time.  I miss seeing you guys, and I know we will make this work online for the time being. With that said, lets jump into this weeks reading:

This weeks reading goes over the idea language and how we interact with it in multiple different settings.  Language is our medium for communication, but it can be quite dynamic by nature. It is not only a mode of communication, rather it is a part of the way we are and the way we act.  In the article, it is mentioned how we use it to open meetings and inform others of issues. Look at how the current COVID-19 situation is unfolding and the use of language and rhetoric is being used.   We are living in a type of hysteria at the moment, and I would venture to say that the language that has been used in the reporting on this pandemic has certainly had a tangible effect. Just in this recent situation alone, you can see the tangible power of language.  Depending on the coverage and message it is they want to get across. Hysteria is born out of the creative and calculated use of language, and that is what we are seeing happen around us right now.

The nostalgia factor in this article was really nice as we got to read about the nuance of language in one of my favorite childhood TV shows/card games Yu-Gi-Oh.  The article highlights how the text on the cards that are used for the card game, there is a nuance to it that would be difficult to understand if you do not play the game or are not familiar with the TV show.  While, in a vacuum, the words are the same words we use in countless other situations, it can be difficult to understand what they mean in this instance without the context of knowing what the show is about and how the game works.  The driver of the specific meaning of the language in instances like this is directly correlated with understanding the game behind it. This, I thought, was a great example of how language can be used in a manner in which the words are the same, but understanding the underlying context drives how we process it.  I really liked this example as an illustration of this point. Language is versatile and can be used to relay a number of emotions and feelings. Writing can be a difficult exercise in terms of conveying these emotions and inflection, but that is where we can get creative with how we use language to illustrate our feelings and opinions.  

Questions:

  1. What are some useful tips for using language in our writing to be clear with our points coupled with the desired emotion.  
  2. How can we teach these ideas in a clear fashion for students to learn to be effective in using language in multiple situations? 
  3. Looking at the coronavirus coverage, we see how language can be used to mobilize and create urgency.  What are we seeing? Would you describe the rhetoric as responsible? 

Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis is a qualitative approach to the analysis of the written language and linguistics. There are various objects of discourse analysis: writing, conversation, and communicative events. Besides exploring traditional linguistics, discourse analysis studies beyond the sentence and analyze language naturally.

Throughout the years, discourse analysis has been studied in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, such as linguistics, education, sociology, anthropology, social work, cognitive psychology, social psychology, human geography, environmental science, communication studies and much more.

In the seventies, Michel Foucault became one of the main theorists behind discourse analysis. He explains how the term ‘discourse’ itself no longer refers to traditional linguistic aspects, but patterns of knowledge that manifest into disciplinary structures that becomes the connection of knowledge and power. Throughout the years or his studies and research, Foucault’s work has increased its impact especially on discourse analysis within the social sciences.

Discourse analysis is a way for you as the researcher to develop your own findings when studying a language. By using the discourse method you’re expanding your research by taking the extra step and ‘thinking outside the box’. Nives Miciaccio mentions in her blog post about the different advantages she sees while using discourse analysis and I found them extremely helpful:

“Here are some of the advantages I see:

  1. It enhances the understanding of certain cultural practices in the community.
  2. Gives the explanation behind some of the social behaviors in the community.
  3. Reveals the unspoken and unacknowledged aspects of human behavior.
  4. Promotes positive individual and social change by demystifying the function of language.
  5. Facilitated the spread of multilingualism across the world.
  6. Enhanced improvements in human resource management by acting as a qualitative method of data collection and analysis.
  7. Improved the communication process between individuals by critically examining the difference between text and talk.
  8. Discourse analysis is content-specific, therefore, important in explaining the dynamism observed in society.”

By utilizing these advantages, you’ll be able to conduct the research you need when using discourse analysis. 

Discourse Analysis

Basic Overview of Reading

I would like to first start off by defining Discourse Analysis: “In discourse analysis, the context of a conversation is taken into account as well as what’s being said. This context may encompass a social and cultural framework, including the location of a speaker at the time of the discourse, as well as nonverbal cues such as body language, and, in the case of textual communication, it may also include images and symbols (hyperlink: https://www.thoughtco.com/discourse-analysis-or-da-1690462).” 

This article is basically addressing how to collect, analyze and in a sense evaluate how data that infers statements, speeches, news, reports, announcements, expressions, and etc. Any and all related to the information and understandings, assumptions, perceptions, attitudes, opinions, or awareness of the employees about IS.

Turning Theory into Practice! My Attempt to Conduct Discourse Analysis…

Bringing it back to practicality and applying this information to my own research question. The population of people my research question is based around are minors (3rd grade students). Discourse analysis is a research method for studying written or spoken language in relation to its social context (hyperlink: https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/discourse-analysis/). Within this article, it gives a basic breakdown of how to conduct discourse analysis. And here, I implement my favorite phrase: “Being practical! Turning theory into practice.”.

Step 1: Define the research question and select the content of analysis

“What is the effectiveness of implementing the digital writing program, T.A.W.P, into a 3rd Grade classroom?”

I am looking into how a digital writing eLearning tool can aid with 3rd Grade students writing. There are many educational programs designed for reading and phoenix. In contrast, there are many programs that teach the motor skills of how to write, but I lack to see any approach writing in interpersonal humanistic form; as in the Writing Process. 

Step 2: Gather information and theory on the context

Currently, I am still obtaining my articles of material to give me deeper insight on how to answer my question and ways to approach my instructional material

Step 3: Analyze the content for themes and patterns

This process will be done in alignment with the designated school where the field study will be done.

Step 4: Review your results and draw conclusions

When I draw conclusions, I plan to apply these results from the field study to make necessary changes to the e Learning content, while also developing new learning content.  

Bonus Track!

I am very fortunate to meet the most interesting intellectuals throughout my everyday life! My dear friend and future colleague, Tony Ellis, broke down to me the underlying variables and all that fun stuff into my research question. He is a fellow graduate student who attends Montclair State University and will graduate this upcoming May with his M.A. in Physiology. Just as I. Tony is really into research and wishes to continue his studies as a researcher! Here is a short discussion we had about my research question:

Ted Talk with Tony!

Other Sources

https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/discourse-analysis/

https://www.thoughtco.com/discourse-analysis-or-da-1690462)