HOME

TheInfoList




Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a
conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner tho ...

conversation
to any form of
communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to b ...

communication
. Discourse is a major topic in social theory, with work spanning fields such as
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
,
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
,
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
, and
discourse analysis Discourse analysis (DA), or discourse studies, is an approach to the analysis of written, vocal, or sign language use, or any significant semiotic Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the study of sign processes (semiosis), which are any ...
. Following pioneering work by
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
, these fields view discourse as a system of thought, knowledge, or communication that constructs our experience of the world. Since control of discourse amounts to control of how the world is perceived, social theory often studies discourse as a window into
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
. Within
theoretical linguistics Theoretical linguistics is a term in linguistics which, like the related term general linguistics, can be understood in different ways. Both can be taken as a reference to theory of language Theory of language is a topic from philosophy of languag ...
, discourse is understood more narrowly as linguistic information exchange and was one of the major motivations for the framework of
dynamic semanticsDynamic semantics is a framework in logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λ ...
, in which expressions'
denotation The denotation of a word is its central sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human bod ...
s are equated with their ability to update a discourse context.


Social theory

In the general
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classic ...

humanities
and
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s, discourse describes a formal way of thinking that can be expressed through language. Discourse is a social boundary that defines what statements can be said about a topic. Many definitions of discourse are largely derived from the work of French philosopher
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
. In
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
, ''discourse'' is defined as "any practice (found in a wide range of forms) by which individuals imbue reality with meaning".
Political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as ...
sees discourse as closely linked to politics and policy making. Likewise, different theories among various disciplines understand discourse as linked to
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
and
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, insofar as the control of ''discourses'' is understood as a hold on reality itself (e.g. if a state controls the media, they control the "truth"). In essence, ''discourse'' is inescapable, since any use of language will have an effect on individual perspectives. In other words, the chosen discourse provides the vocabulary, expressions, and, perhaps, even the
style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable. It is a sub-cla ...
needed to communicate. For example, two notably distinct discourses can be used about various
guerrilla
guerrilla
movements, describing them either as " freedom fighters" or "
terrorists Terrorism, in its broadest sense, is the use of intentional violence to achieve political aims. The term is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the ...

terrorists
". In
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
, discourses are embedded in different rhetorical genres and meta-genres that constrain and enable them—language talking about language. This is exemplified in the APA's ''
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' (DSM; latest edition: DSM-5 The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition'' (DSM-5), is the 2013 update to the ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of ...
'', which tells of the terms that have to be used in speaking about mental health, thereby mediating meanings and dictating practices of professionals in psychology and psychiatry.


Modernism

Modern theorists were focused on achieving progress and believed in the existence of natural and social laws which could be used universally to develop knowledge and thus a better understanding of society.Larrain, Jorge. 1994. ''Ideology and Cultural Identity: Modernity and the Third World Presence''. Cambridge:
Polity Press Polity is an academic publisher in the social sciences and humanities Humanities are academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge that is Education, taught and researched at the college or un ...
. . Retrieved vi
Google Books
Such theorists would be preoccupied with obtaining the "truth" and "reality", seeking to develop theories which contained certainty and predictability. Modernist theorists therefore viewed discourse as being relative to talking or way of talking and understood discourse to be functional.Strega, Susan. 2005. "The View from the Poststructural Margins: Epistemology and Methodology Reconsidered." Pp. 199–235 in ''Research as Resistance'', edited by L. Brown, & S. Strega. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press. Discourse and language transformations are ascribed to progress or the need to develop new or more "accurate" words to describe new discoveries, understandings, or areas of interest. In modern times, language and discourse are dissociated from power and ideology and instead conceptualized as "natural" products of common sense usage or progress.
Modernism Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
further gave rise to the liberal discourses of rights, equality, freedom, and justice; however, this rhetoric masked substantive inequality and failed to account for differences, according to Regnier.


Structuralism (Saussure & Lacan)

Structuralist theorists, such as
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Fed ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
and
Jacques Lacan Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (, , ; 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, ...

Jacques Lacan
, argue that all human actions and social formations are related to
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
and can be understood as systems of related elements. This means that the "individual elements of a system only have significance when considered in relation to the structure as a whole, and that structures are to be understood as self-contained, self-regulated, and self-transforming entities". In other words, it is the structure itself that determines the significance, meaning and function of the individual elements of a system. Structuralism has made an important contribution to our understanding of language and social systems. Saussure's theory of language highlights the decisive role of meaning and signification in structuring human life more generally.


Poststructuralism (Foucault)

Following the perceived limitations of the modern era, emerged
postmodern Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse defined by an attitude of skepticism Skepticism (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known a ...
theory. Postmodern theorists rejected modernist claims that there was one theoretical approach that explained all aspects of society. Rather, postmodernist theorists were interested in examining the variety of experiences of individuals and groups and emphasized differences over similarities and common experiences. In contrast to modern theory, postmodern theory is more fluid, allowing for individual differences as it rejects the notion of social laws. Such theorists shifted away from truth-seeking, and instead sought answers for how truths are produced and sustained. Postmodernists contended that truth and knowledge are plural, contextual, and historically-produced through discourses. Postmodern researchers therefore embarked on analyzing discourses such as texts, language, policies, and practices.


Foucault

In the works of the philosopher
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
, a ''discourse'' is “an entity of sequences, of signs, in that they are enouncements (''énoncés'').” The enouncement (''l’énoncé'', “the statement”) is a linguistic construct that allows the writer and the speaker to assign meaning to words and to communicate repeatable semantic relations to, between, and among the statements, objects, or subjects of the discourse. There exist internal relations among the signs (semiotic sequences) that are between and among the statements, objects, or subjects of the discourse. The term ''discursive formation'' identifies and describes written and spoken statements with semantic relations that produce discourses. As a researcher, Foucault applied the discursive formation to analyses of large bodies of knowledge, e.g
political economy Political economy is the study of production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ( ...
and
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecul ...

natural history
. In ''
The Archaeology of Knowledge ''The Archaeology of Knowledge'' (''L’archéologie du savoir,'' 1969) by Michel Foucault is a treatise about the methodology and historiography of the systems of thought (''epistemes'') and of knowledge (''discursive formations'') which follow ...
'' (1969), a treatise about the
methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers
r other users R, or r, is the eighteenth letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet The ISO basic Latin alphabet is a Latin-script alphabet A Latin-script alphabet (Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet) is an alphabet that ...
make". It compris ...
and
historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians hav ...

historiography
of systems of thought (“epistemes”) and of knowledge (“discursive formations”),
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
developed the concepts of discourse. The sociologist Iara Lessa summarizes Foucault's definition of discourse as "systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs, and practices that systematically construct the subjects and the worlds of which they speak." Foucault traces the role of discourse in the
legitimation Legitimation or legitimisation is the act of providing legitimacy. Legitimation in the social sciences Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany ...
of society’s
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
to construct contemporary truths, to maintain said truths, and to determine what relations of power exist among the constructed truths; therefore discourse is a communications medium through which power relations produce men and women who can speak. The inter-relation between power and knowledge renders every human relationship into a power negotiation, because power is always present and so produces and constrains the truth. Power is exercised through rules of exclusion (discourses) that determine what subjects people can discuss; when, where, and how a person may speak; and determines which persons are allowed speak. That knowledge is both the ''creator'' of power and the ''creation'' of power, Foucault coined the term ''
power-knowledge In sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of Empirical method, empir ...
'' to show that an object becomes a "node within a network" of meanings. In ''The Archaeology of Knowledge'', Foucault’s example is a book's function as a
node In general, a node is a localized swelling (a "knot A knot is an intentional complication in Rope, cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splic ...
within a network meanings. The book does not exist as an individual object, but exists as part of a structure of knowledge that is "a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences." In the critique of power–knowledge, Foucault identified
Neo-liberalism Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is a terminology used to describe the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with economic liberalism and free-market capitalism. It is generally associated with policies of economic liberalizat ...
as a discourse of political economy which is conceptually related to
governmentality Governmentality is a concept first developed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault in the later years of his life, roughly between 1977 and his death in 1984, particularly in his lectures at the Collège de France during this time. The concept ...
, the organized practices (mentalities, rationalities, techniques) with which people are governed.Foucault, Michel. ''The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979'' (2008) New York: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 0000.
InterdiscourseInterdiscourse is the implicit or explicit relations that a discourse has to other discourses. Interdiscursivity is the aspect of a discourse that relates it to other discourses. Norman Fairclough prefers the concept "orders of discourse". Interdiscu ...
studies the external semantic relations among discourses, because a discourse exists in relation to other discourses, e.g. books of history; thus do academic researchers debate and determine “What is a discourse?” and “What is not a discourse?” in accordance with the denotations and connotations (meanings) used in their academic disciplines.


Discourse analysis

In
discourse analysis Discourse analysis (DA), or discourse studies, is an approach to the analysis of written, vocal, or sign language use, or any significant semiotic Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the study of sign processes (semiosis), which are any ...
, ''discourse'' is a conceptual generalization of
conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner tho ...

conversation
within each
modality Modality may refer to: Humanities * Modality (theology), the organization and structure of the church, as distinct from sodality or parachurch organizations * Modality (music), in music, the subject concerning certain diatonic scales * Modalities ...
and
context Context may refer to: * Context (language use) In semiotics, linguistics, sociology and anthropology, context refers to those objects or entities which surround a ''focal event'', in these disciplines typically a communication, communicative event ...
of communication. In this sense, the term is studied in
corpus linguistics Corpus linguistics is the study of language as a language is expressed in its text corpus (plural ''corpora''), its body of "real world" text. Corpus linguistics proposes that reliable language analysis is more feasible with corpora collected in ...
, the study of language expressed in ''
corpora Corpus is Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Rep ...
'' (samples) of "real world" text. Moreover, because a discourse is a body of text meant to communicate specific data, information, and knowledge, there exist internal relations in the content of a given discourse, as well as external relations among discourses. As such, a discourse does not exist ''per se'' (in itself), but is related to other discourses, by way of inter-discursive practices. In Francois Rastier's approach to semantics, ''discourse'' is understood as meaning the totality of codified language (i.e., vocabulary) used in a given field of intellectual enquiry and of social practice, such as legal discourse, medical discourse, religious discourse, etc. In this sense, along with that of Foucault's in the previous section, the analysis of a ''discourse'' examines and determines the connections among
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
and
structure and agency In the social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant l ...
.


Formal semantics and pragmatics

In formal semantics and
pragmatics In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
, discourse is often viewed as the process of refining the information in a common ground. In some theories of semantics such as discourse representation theory, sentences'
denotation The denotation of a word is its central sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human bod ...
s themselves are equated with functions which update a common ground.


High discourse

Some scholars have developed an ontological theory of a hierarchic system of (multiple) discourses in a broader sense with lower and higher ranked discourses. The fraction of hierarchy is by virtue of this system classificationed as the respective discourses depth in intent (depth in theory) (i.e some claims of art to be able to be everything whilst a visit to the supermarket lean on a finite set of possible actions (both in theory and science (supermarket science)) and is - practically - solved). The main discourses - as outlined by f.e Lars Vilks - to be classified as high discourse is the natural sciences; art; and teology. Other scholars have proposed comedy and some sports (such as football) to be included in this the highest ranks of intent. As for comedy even here many questions if everything can be comedy (one can outline a dichotomy between art and comedy in that art is everything vs. everything has the possibility to become comedy). It is here further noted that some scholars (such as Pilgrim) propose DADaism to be distinct from main category art as it's deemed anti-art and never where intended to be classified as art. (Is it not merely a distinction between art and anti-art (without a historic perspective); a typyfication of art and 'not art'; or perhaps (lack of) a classification as something other than art).


See also


References


Further reading

* * *— (1980). "Two Lectures," in ''Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews'', edited by C. Gordon. New York;
Pantheon Books Pantheon Books is an American book publishing imprint with editorial independence Editorial independence is the freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily ...
. * * * * * Howard, Harry. (2017).
Discourse 2
" ''Brain and Language'', ''
Tulane University Tulane University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two d ...
''. owerPoint slides * *


External links


DiscourseNet
an international association for discourse studies.
Beyond open access: open discourse, the next great equalizer
'' Retrovirology'' 2006, 3:55
Discourse (Lun) in the Chinese tradition
{{formal semantics Discourse analysis Semantics Sociolinguistics Anthropology Concepts in social philosophy Debating