25.4053, Review: Discourse Analysis; Socioling; Text/Corpus Ling: Flowerdew, Wei (eds.) (2013)

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Subject: 25.4053, Review: Discourse Analysis; Socioling; Text/Corpus Ling: Flowerdew, Wei (eds.) (2013)

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Date: Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:28:55
From: Michael Kranert [m.kranert.11 at ucl.ac.uk]
Subject: Discourse in Context: Contemporary Applied Linguistics Volume 3

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-5232.html

EDITOR: John  Flowerdew
TITLE: Discourse in Context: Contemporary Applied Linguistics Volume 3
SERIES TITLE: Contemporary Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Michael Kranert, University College London

Review's Editors: Malgorzata Cavar and Sara Couture


‘Discourse in Context’ is not just a new collection of papers on language use
in different institutional contexts, but is, as the editor John Flowerdew
rightly claims (p. 2), the first collection specifically on the
discourse-context relation covering a broad variety of approaches to
discourse.  The 15 chapters of this volume demonstrate the diversity of
approaches to both types of discourse -- ‘little “d” discourse’ as language
use in context and ‘big “D” discourses’ (Gee 2005) as systems of knowledge and
belief. Each individual contribution represents an analytical approach to
D/discourse such as conversation analysis or critical discourse analysis
applied to a specific context, and all contributions discuss the text-context
relation on the basis of their approach to context.

In chapter 1, John Flowerdew introduces the reader to the problems of the
discourse-context relation and presents a concise overview of approaches to
it, introducing the most important lines of thought from Gricean Pragmatics
(e.g. Grice 1989, Sperber and Wilson 2001) to Systemic Functional Linguistics
(e.g. Halliday and Hasan 1985), outlining criticisms of them and referring to
the relevant literature.

In the second chapter, 'Considering context when analysing representations of
gender and sexuality: A case study', Paul Baker undertakes a close reading of
a DAILY MAIL article to demonstrate the features of sexual identity discourse
in the British media. He chose an article from 16 October 2009, entitled ‘Why
there was nothing “natural” about Stephen Gately’s death’, since this article
instigated ‘the highest number of complaints to the Press Complaints
Commission (over 25,000) ever recorded’ (p. 30).  His close reading from a
feminist poststructuralist perspective employs elements of Fairclough’s
Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 1989) and Wodak’s Discourse Historical
Approach (e.g. Reisigl and Wodak 2009) and uses a broad range of secondary
data such as other DAILY MAIL articles and online comments to analyse the
reception of the article in question. He also introduces the reader to the
corpus linguistic concept of discourse prosody (Stubbs 2001), in order to
verify his interpretation of certain linguistic features. Both the secondary
sources and the corpora are analysed as contexts of the DAILY MAIL article and
used to explain the language use of its author.

The third chapter is also based on a corpus-assisted approach to discourse.
Monika Bednarek’s  '''Who are you and why are you following us?'' Wh-questions
and communicative context in television dialogue’ presents an analysis of
Wh-questions in 27 contemporary US television series. Bednarek argues for the
importance of the genre ‘television dialogue’, because with a global audience,
US television series have a significant influence on speakers of English as a
second language.  This genre is particularly interesting because of its
particular text-context relation, i.e. the necessary ‘overhearer design’
(Bubel 2008) of scripted TV dialogue as a result of lines being addressed to
characters and to the audience at the same time. The dialogue is therefore
designed to tell a story for the audience as overhearers who can listen to the
dialogue, but can not take part in the interaction. This results in specific
linguistic structures Bednarek analyses, such as wh-questions that do not
appear in the same way in natural dialogue. Bednarek’s concordance and n-gram
analysis lead her to develop interesting hypotheses for further research on
this genre such as ‘why-, how- and what-questions function to create
involvement between characters whereas who- and where-questions are used for
plot development’ (p. 66).

In chapter 4, ’Discourse and discord in court: The role of context in the
construction of witness examination in British criminal trial talk’, Janet
Cotterill asks how the context of the British trial-by-jury system and its
ancient archaic rules and protocols influence the way barristers question
witnesses. The analysis pictures the courtroom as a context with asymmetrical
power relations between the professionals (who ask the questions), the
witnesses (who have to answer), and the jury as sanctioned overhearers who
have to judge the case without being able to play an active role in the
communication. In a selection of official trial transcripts, the witness
examination by lawyers is analysed using a hybrid methodology of Critical
Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 1989) and corpus linguistics, demonstrating,
how the barristers’ questions to witnesses are designed as a ‘display
exercise’ (p. 87) for the jury, telling the story from the prosecuting or
defending perspective.

Britt-Louise Gunnarson approaches ‘Business discourse in the globalized
economy’ (chapter 5) by employing a combination of sociolinguistic,
sociological and text linguistic methods. She construes context as a
multilevel model of contextual influences on language, capturing the social
context in a technical-economic, socio-cultural and a legal political
framework.  The business discourse itself is contextualised on the local,
national and supranational level. In her paper, the author presents an
analysis of staff policy documents uncovering the narrative structures of the
genre as well as the different voices represented in the career stories told
in these policy documents.

Michael Handford’s Chapter 6, ‘Context in spoken professional discourse:
Language and practice in an international bridge design meeting’, focuses on
the ‘professional meeting’ genre, using a corpus-assisted analysis. The
context is captured with ethnographic methods which enable the author - who
witnessed the event personally and interviewed participants - to verify his
textual insights into the discourse. The detailed analysis of the material and
a comparison to other corpora of professional discourse show considerable
differences between business meetings in general and this engineering meeting
in particular. A further, broader analysis however will be necessary to
demonstrate, if these results can be generalised.

Chapter 7, ‘Ethnicities without guarantees: An empirically situated approach’,
puts ethnographic methods also employed in chapter 6 centre stage. In their
project ‘Urban Classroom Culture and Interaction’, Roxy Harris and Ben Rampton
have undertaken a large data collection following 5 girls and 4 boys aged
13-14 in a London secondary school for two years, using participant
observation, interviews, and producing 180 hours of radio microphone recording
and playback interviews on the recorded data. The authors offer a detailed
analysis of one episode involving an ethnically mixed group of girls. In this
episode, ethnicity is part of the exchange. Contextualising the data in the
transcript with ethnographic data, Harris and Rampton demonstrate that
ethnicity in this example is ‘a resource that the girls exploited quite
skilfully in pursuit of their really pressing interests’, i.e. prospective
boy-girl relations (p. 153). 

In ‘Constructing contexts through grammar: Cognitive models and
conceptualization in British newspaper reports of political protests’,
Christopher Hart analyses the media coverage of the UK student protests
against rising tuition fees in 2010. He successfully translates the
socio-cognitive approach to critical discourse analysis (van Dijk 2008) into a
cognitive linguistic approach based on Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar
(Langacker 2008). This approach allows him to capture the construal of
demonstrator and police violence in the student protests in online press
reports. Unveiling the grammatical patterns used, Hart can demonstrate
convincingly, that the Guardian was the only newspaper in the sample that drew
attention to police violence, while the other newspaper articles construe the
hegemonic picture of legitimate police action using strategies of structural
configuration and identification.

Chapters 9 and 10 of the edited volume under review aim to change our idea of
the text context relation.  Rick Iedema and Katherine Carroll present a method
of reflexive ethnographic intervention into health care communication. In
their study ‘Intervening in health care communication using discourse
analysis’, they define context as ‘that which is entirely excluded from
people’s attention’ (p. 186) and use video feedback in order to produce an
environment in which practitioners can distance themselves from their
naturalized practices such as infection control or ward rounds. This allows
professionals and analysts together to learn about physical habits or
communicative processes that are normally invisible to both. To demonstrate
how this learning takes place, the authors recorded and analysed the
conversations in video feedback sessions. Iedema’s and Carroll’s paper widens
the discussion from the material at hand to discourse theory in general and
the necessity to reflexive practice here, for example to question ‘the
existing boundaries between discourse analysis and social practice’ in order
to understand discourse as ‘a dynamic at the heart of complexity’ (p. 200).

In Chapter 10, ‘Locating the power of place in space: A geosemiotic approach
to context’, Jackie Jia Lou focuses on an advertising campaign to legitimize
gentrification of Chinatown in Washington DC in order to demonstrate the
semiotic potential of advertising boards because of their location in certain
neighbourhoods or in proximity to certain corporations. She fruitfully
combines classical discourse analytical tools such as systemic functional
linguistics with a new approach to context. This approach, based on Scollon
and Scollon (2003), combines an analysis of the interaction order and the
visual semiotics with the semiotics of a place and allows to capture, how the
text of the advertising boards is semiotically linked to its specific
location, for example outside the metro station in Chinatown.

Anna Maurannen’s chapter ‘Lingua franca discourse in academic contexts: Shaped
by complexity’ takes readers into what will be for many a familiar
environment: academia, in the form of a multilingual environment with English
as the lingua franca (ELF).  Analysing data from the ELFA Corpus (English as a
Lingua Franca on Academic Settings), which consists of spoken, dialogical,
authentic, non-EFL-learning events such as academic seminars and conference
discussions, Maurannen shows that collaboration is salient in ELF, as all
speakers are aware that a non-native language is being used and that therefore
problems can occur. Her study also shows that, in this context, academic
hierarchy overrides language expertise when linguistic corrections are made;
it is not necessarily the English native speakers but rather the senior
academics who provide help in the use of English.

In Chapter 12, ‘A multimodal approach to discourse, context and culture’, Kay
L. O’Halloran, Sabine Tan and Marissa K.L. E return to a multimodal
understanding of discourse that was already featured in chapters 9 and 10.
Here, discourse is understood as multimodal semiosis, and as embedded in
multimodal context.  The focus is therefore on the context which is not
external to discourse. The authors aim to capture the embeddedness of online
business news in the multimodal context of the internet. Employing ‘Multimodal
Analysis Video Software’ developed by Kay O’Halloran, the authors provide the
reader with a detailed impression of this useful tool, considering the
restrictions of a research article. Analysing videographic representations of
different actors in business news such as Certified Expert, Newsmaker and
Presenter, the authors demonstrate how events and social actors are
re-contextualised depending on the news networks distinctive communicative

Chapters 13 and 14 focus on language learning in different contexts. In
‘Intervening in contexts of schooling’, David Rose and J.R. Martin review the
effects of the genre-based literacy pedagogy they developed as a practical
application of the Sydney school of Systemic Functional Linguistics. The
authors summarize succinctly the Sydney school research into school genres
such as stories, reports or critical responses, and interpret Bernstein’s
theory of pedagogic contexts (Bernstein 1996) on this background. They argue
that teachers themselves do not reflect the structures and intentions of
genres used in school. Pupils therefore only acquire this knowledge
implicitly, rather than through conscious engagement with the language of high
quality examples. This creates and perpetuates inequalities in education,
since the pupils’ lack of knowledge is wrongly individualized when failure is
attributed to innate abilities.  Therefore, they suggest a program of
genre-based literacy that teaches pupils to deconstruct genres in reading high
level curriculum texts. In a multi staged programmes, the learners will then
be guided to practice these genres in joint and individual writing and
rewriting of texts. A broad analysis of data from 100 randomly selected
classes shows the incredible impact of this teaching method on all low-,
middle- and high-achieving students in different school years compared to
students without read-to-learn instruction. The article provides impressive
examples of students’ work to illustrate the success of the method and
persuade the reader.

Hansun Zhang Waring’s ‘Turn-allocation and context: Broadening participation
in the second language classroom’ employs Conversation Analysis to understand
turn-taking in English as a second language class. She argues for a theory of
context that distinguishes sequential context (in other words: co-text), and
institutional context. In the sequential context, one action shapes the
understanding of the next and constrains possible following actions. The
institutional context is normally internalized and recognized as relevant by
the participants. Although her discussion on the theoretical understanding of
context in Conversation Analysis and its application to classroom discourse is
enlightening, the results of her analysis are not surprising to experienced
teachers: teachers broaden learner participation in a plenary situation by
either bypassing the first respondent or selecting an alternative category of

In the final article of the volume, ‘Political discourse analysis -
Distinguishing frontstage and backstage contexts. A discourse-historical
approach’, Ruth Wodak presents some results from her fieldwork on ‘Doing
Politics’ in the European Parliament, also published in Wodak (2011). Her
analysis in this paper focuses on three short episodes from a working day of
an MEP (Member of the European Parliament) she calls Hans. Her close reading
of the transcripts shows the different registers Hans has to manage
‘frontstage’ (i.e. aimed at the public) and ‘backstage’(i.e. in internal
negotiations of policies). Her discussion of the results also shows the
importance of ethnographic data for the interpretation of discursive events,
which has already been pointed out for other contexts in Chapters 6 (‘spoken
professional discourse’) and 7 (‘ethnicity in urban classroom culture’).
Politicians form a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991) like other
professionals, and only with the support of ethnographic methods can an
external analyst interpret and understand their linguistic strategies. 


The volume under review aims to ‘bring [...] together researchers from
different approaches, but all with the commitment to the study of language in
context’. By choosing a broad variety of approaches, the editor John Flowerdew
invites the reader to ‘compare and contrast these different approaches and the
application of their particular models of content’ (p. 1). 

Many students and early career researcher share the challenge in trying to
find a methodologically broad overview of their field that is a good read and
at the same time gives a detailed insight into the analysis of linguistic
material. Introductions are often either written from only one theoretical
point of view, are theory-heavy, or do not present a variety of primary
material. In this respect, ‘Discourse in Context’ is a very welcome and
thought-provoking read, hopefully not only to established researchers
interested in the newest currents in the field, but also to beginners at the
postgraduate level or even motivated readers at undergraduate level. Thus, it
is truly regrettable that such an interesting collection of papers carries
such a heavy price tag of $190, because it will exclude precisely this
audience from gaining access to a publication they would profit from most.  

All chapters are well-written and introduce their approach to language in
context in the clearest possible way. The contributions follow a similar
textual pattern, giving the reader a transparent insight into their methods
and goals, and allowing the comparative reading the editor intended. While
keeping their theoretical introductions succinct in favour of detailed
analyses of their primary materials, the overview over the academic literature
in the field is comprehensive and useful. Almost all authors use helpful
graphic representations for presenting their results; however, the gray scale
reproductions are not always well printed and are sometimes difficult to read;
Chapters 10 and 12 are a particular example of this.

Although not all findings of the research ‘Discourse in Context’ are
surprising as pointed out in the summary earlier, all papers deliver a
hands-on introduction into the methods of textual analysis and
contextualisation, and allow the reader to evaluate the merits of them. The
connections between the different chapters, however, could have been made
clearer by structuring the volume into sections, each with their own
introductions. For example, the structure could have focussed on research
methods: Chapters 2-4, 6 and 11, for example, use corpus linguistic
methodology in different ways, while Chapters 10 and 12 focus on
multimodality. Alternatively, or even in combination with a methodological
structure, papers with similar fields such as language learning (Chapters 11,
13 and 14), or professional discourses (Chapters 5, 6, 9 and 15) could have
been placed in themed sections. Separate introductions to such sections, which
would  put the different approaches into context, would have made a volume
that succeeds in combining breadth and clarity an even better read.


Bernstein, Basil B. 1996. “Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory,
research, critique” (London: Taylor & Francis), Critical perspectives on
literacy and education

Bubel, Claudia M. 2008. ‘Film audiences as overhearers’, “Journal of
pragmatics”, 40.1: 55-71

Fairclough, Norman. 1989. “Language and power” (Harlow: Longman), Language in
social life series

Gee, James P. 2005. “An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method,
2nd edn” (New York, Abingdon: Routledge)

Grice, H. P. 1989. “Logic and Conversation.” In Studies in the way of words,
22–40. Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press.

Langacker, Ronald W. 2008. “Cognitive grammar: A basic introduction” (Oxford:
Oxford University Press)

Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. 1991. “Situated learning: Legitimate
peripheral participation /  Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger” (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press), Learning in doing social, cognitive, and computational

Halliday, Michael A. K., and Ruqaiya Hasan. 1985. Language, context, and text:
Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. Language education.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reisigl, Martin, and Ruth Wodak. 2009. ‘The discourse-historical approach’, in
“Methods of critical discourse analysis”, ed. by Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer,
2nd edn (Los Angeles [u.a.]: SAGE), pp. 87–121

Scollon, Ronald, and Suzanne B. K. Scollon. 2003. “Discourses in place:
Language in the material world” (London: Routledge)

Sperber, Dan, and Deirdre Wilson. 2001. Relevance: Communication and
cognition. 2nd ed. Oxford, Cambridge MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Stubbs, Michael. 2001. “Words and phrases: Corpus studies of lexical semantics
/  Michael Stubbs” (Oxford ;  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers)

van Dijk, Teun A. 2008. “Discourse and context: A sociocognitive approach”
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Wodak, Ruth. 2011. “The discourse of politics in action: Politics as usual”
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan)


Michael Kranert works in the field of political linguistics, applying
linguistic research methods such as Systemic Functional Linguistics and
Critical Metaphor Analysis to political discourses.  His Ph.D. project at UCL
London aims to undertake a comparison of the discourses of New Labour and the
German SPD at the turn of the twenty-first century, explaining linguistic and
discursive differences with reference to differences in the political cultures
of Germany and the UK.

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