Discourse

Pre-requisite:     Introduction to Grammar

Module Description

This module builds on Introduction to Grammar and applies analytical techniques to units of language larger than clauses. The analytical approach is basically structural and taken from the work of Longacre and Levinsohn. Students chart texts, describe typical features of different types of prominence and cohesion, analyze discourse segmented into hierarchical units, and indicate evidence for foregrounding and backgrounding (or mainline and supportive information). The techniques are applied to the student’s own and other (mostly African) languages. The major emphasis is on narrative discourses, but later in the course procedural and hortatory or expository texts are also studied.

Learning objectives

The students will work on their own language (and other African languages). At the end of the module the students will:

  • Recognize and illustrate the difference between foreground and background information within narratives
  • Identify the different participants and discover their tracking system including pronouns and demonstratives
  • List and give examples of the different ways of combining clauses in narratives 
  • Explain highlighting, demonstrating the functions of ideophones, interjections and reported speech

The students will be able to:

  • Present texts in charted form
  • Segment a text into all its discourse units (paragraphs, episodes, conclusion etc.) according to linguistic features
  • Describe the use of tense/aspect/mood in relationship to foreground and background information in narratives
  • Identify and describe the use of connectives in different genres
  • Describe the use of development markers within a text
  • Have a write-up of all the findings they made

The students will appreciate

  • The usefulness of discourse analysis for doing translation

Module Outline

Unit 1    Introduction

  •  Differences between discourse and grammatical analysis
  • Written and oral language
  • Charting of texts 

Unit 2    Important concepts in discourse

Event-line and the distinction of foreground/background information

  •  Participants/Participant tracking
  • Setting/staging
  • Paragraphs and episodes
  • Plot structure
  • The marking of peaks

Unit 3 Functional relations in discourse

  • Connectors and development markers
  • Direct, indirect, semi-direct speech
  • Topic and Focus
  • Clause chaining, switch-reference 
  • Interjections, Idiophones

Unit 4    Non-narrative genres

  •  Procedural – fore/backgrounding, structuring of the text
  • Hortatory – fore/backgrounding, structuring of the text
  • Expository- fore/backgrounding, structuring of the text