Simply put, discourse is language in context. Linguists taking their cue from Ferdinand de Saussure’s seminal work have privileged the analysis of simplified or idealized linguistic expressions that are uncoupled from a specific communicative context. Discourse – that is, concrete instances of language use – was deemed too complex to be approached from the “structuralist” perspective pioneered by de Saussure. Discourse analysis refers to a wide range of methods in the humanities and social sciences that oppose this structuralist paradigm and aim to integrate context as a key focus for the study of language. Context should be understood broadly: in the analysis of oral discourse, it refers to the communicative situation in which language is embedded (who is speaking, to whom, and within what kind of practice); more generally, context involves the social practices and institutions, as well as the culturally transmitted values and views, that are referenced by the speaker or writer. Discourse analysis thus denotes the study of how meaning emerges as language users position themselves within (but also, potentially, distance themselves from) cultural assumptions and expectations that are informed by the communicative context. Identity, both personal and collective, is a typical focus of discourse analysis, and so is the political relevance of language use. Narrative analysis as the OPPORTUNITIES project practices it can be understood as a particular instance of discourse analysis applied to narrative texts or utterances.
⇢ see also Frames of migration, Narrative, Narrative analysis, Narrative technique
References and further reading:
De Saussure, Ferdinand. 2010. Cours de linguistique générale. Paris: Payot.
Georgakopoulou, Alexandra, and Goutsos, Dionysis. 2004. Discourse Analysis: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Tannen, Deborah; Hamilton, Heidi E. and Schiffrin, Debora. 2018. The Handbook of Discourse Analysis: Second Edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Work Package: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7