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Discourse analysis



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  • 1. Damascus University Department of English MAL 2010 Discourse Topic and theRepresentation of Discourse Content Presented by Muhammad Al- Moqdad Supervised by: Dr. M. Mouzahem
  • 2. Introduction• Uses of the term topic: – Sentential topic – Discourse topic• Characteristics of topic: – Topic information – Presupposition pools – Sentential topic and the presupposition pool• Relevance and speaking topically1/1/2012 2
  • 3. Discourse fragments and the notion ‘topic’• The data studied in discourse analysis is a fragment of discourse, and the discourse analyst has always to decide where the fragment begins and ends => in order to decide what constitutes a satisfactory unit for analysis1/1/2012 3
  • 4. Ways for identifying the boundaries• Explicit ways: • Implicit ways: – Formulaic expressions – The analyst is forced Once upon an time . . . to depend on intuitive And the lived happily notions about where ever after. one part of conversation ends and• These markers help another begins. the analyst decide • Speaker-change: it where the beginning does not necessarily of a coherent terminate a coherent fragment of discourse fragment of occurs. conversation1/1/2012 4
  • 5. Intuitive notion of topic• By appealing to the intuitive notion of topic the analyst can decide which point of speaker-change among the many could be treated as the end of one chunk of the conversation.• The chunk of conversation in discourse then can be treated as a unit of some kind because it is on a particular topic.1/1/2012 5
  • 6. Intuitive notion of topic• The notion of topic is intuitively a satisfactory way of describing the unifying principle which makes one stretch of discourse ‘about’ sth & the next stretch ‘about’ sth else.• Yet, what is the basis for the identification of topic? – Topic is the most frequently used, unexplained, term in the analysis of discourse1/1/2012 6
  • 7. Uses of the term topic: Sententialtopic• Grammarians’ topic• Hockett: distinction between topic and comment: sentential topic may coincide with the grammatical subjectEx. John / ran away• Dahl & Sgall et al: transformational generative grammar: topicalisation• Givon: in the development of a language, sentential subjects are derived from grammatical topics.1/1/2012 7
  • 8. We are concerned with what is being talked about!• This type of topic is unlikely to identifiable as one part of a sentence.• Morgan: it is not sentences that have topics, but speakers1/1/2012 8
  • 9. Uses of the term topic: discourse topic• Keenan & Schieffelin• It is not expressible in a simple NP.• Discourse topic is a proposition about which some claim is made or elicited => represents in any fragment of conversational discourse the topic of the whole fragment• Their experiments treated topic as equivalent to title1/1/2012 9
  • 10. Topic as Title• For any text, there is a single correct expression which is the ‘topic’.• But it should not be too difficult to imagine several different titles for a passage, each of which could equally facilitate comprehension.• So, in any text there is a number of different way of expressing the topic => represent different judgement of what is being written or talked about in a text.1/1/2012 10
  • 11. It is not as simple as this!• The difficulty of determining a single phrase or sentence as the topic of a piece of one There is no such thing as the printed text is increased when fragments of correct expression of the topic for any conversational discourse are considered. fragment of discourse.• In Thereconversation, what is being talked any will be always a set of possible about will be judged differently at different expressions of the topic. points and the participants themselves may Tyler: the topic can only be one possible not have identical views of what each is paraphrase of a sequence of utterances talking about.1/1/2012 11
  • 12. Reasons why Discourse analysts study this notion ‘Topic’• It is the central organising principle for a lot of discourse• It enables the analyst to explain why several sentences or utterances should be considered together as a set of some kind, separate from another set.• It provides a means of distinguishing fragments of discourse which are felt to be good, coherent.1/1/2012 12
  • 13. Characterisation of the topic: Topic framework• The analyst can determine what aspect of the context are explicitly reflected in the text as the formal record of the utterance• Activated features of context: aspects which are directly reflected in the text which need to be called upon to interpret the text• They constitute the contextual framework within which the topic is constituted1/1/2012 13
  • 14. Topic framework• Aspects of the speakers assumptions about his hearer’s knowledge must be considered in relation to the elements which the speaker does make explicit in his contribution.• Any consideration of topic involves asking why the speaker what he said in a particular discourse situation. Coulthard, Sacks: there is a constant analysis in conversation of what is said in terms of why that now and to me.1/1/2012 14
  • 15. Topic framework• Certain elements which constrain the topic can be determined before the discourse begins; they are part of the context of a speech event.• In relation to contextual features to a particular speech event, however, we are particularly interested in only those activated features of context pertaining to the fragment of discourse being studied.1/1/2012 15
  • 16. Topic framework• The topic framework consists of elements derivable from the physical context and from the discourse domain of any discourse fragment.• These elements are a means of making explicit some of the assumptions a speaker can make about his hearer’s knowledge – we are talking about the total knowledge which the speaker believes he shares with his/her hearer.1/1/2012 16
  • 17. Presupposition pools• Venneman proposes: for a discourse, there is a presupposition pool which contains information constituted from general knowledge, from the situative context of the discourse, and from the completed part of the discourse itself.• Within the presupposition pool for any discourse, there is a set of discourse subjects and each discourse is, in a sense, about its discourse subjects.1/1/2012 17
  • 18. Presupposition pools• The number of the discourse subjects in a presupposition pool shared by participants in a discourse, particularly participants who know each other well, is potentially large.• Selecting the discourse subjects must have to do with their relevance to the particular discourse fragment under consideration.• This relevance must be those to which reference is made in the text of the discourse.1/1/2012 18
  • 19. Sentential topic & the presupposition pool• Presupposition pool shared by participants restricts the analyst investigation to describing the relationship between pairs of sentences.1/1/2012 19
  • 20. Relevance and speaking topically• Topic framework represents the area of overlap in the knowledge which has been activated and is shared by the participants at a particular point in a discourse.• Once these have been identified, the analyst has some basis for making judgements of the relevance with regard to conversational contributions.1/1/2012 20
  • 21. Relevance and speaking topically• This technical term is derived from the conversational maxim proposed by Grice 1975:• They have to do with: relevance of conversational contributions.• But they are relevant to what?! – Make your contribution relevant in terms of the existing topic framework.1/1/2012 21
  • 22. Relevance and speaking topically• We can capture this by the expression ‘speaking topically’• It is an obvious feature of casual conversation in which each participant contributes equally and there is no fixed direction for the conversation to go.• Speaking on a topic: the participants are concentrating their talk on one particular entity, individual or issue.1/1/2012 22
  • 23. Relevance and speaking topically• In practice any conversational fragment will exhibit patterns of talk in which both speaking topically and speaking on topic are present.• Both forms are based on the existing topic framework, but the distinction derives from what each individual speaker treats as the salient element in the existing topic framework.1/1/2012 23
  • 24. Conclusion:• We have tried to list the connexions existing across contributions in this discourse fragment to emphasise the ways in which speakers make what they’re talking about fit into the framework which represents what we (as discourse participants) are talking about in conversational discourse.• For the analyst, these connexions can signal the coherence relations which make each contribution relevant to the discourse as a whole.1/1/2012 24
  • 25. Thanks for1/1/2012 25