Estudios del Discurso
U.T.R.V.T – Prof. José Legrand - 2008
What’s language ?
Discourse vs. Text
Sentence vs. Utterance
The creation of texture
Coherence and cohesion
“Language is a purely human and
non-instinctive method of
communicating ideas, emotions
and desires by means of
voluntarily produced symbols.”
– Sapir (1921) Language. Harcourt
Edward Sapir. Photograph by
Florence M. Hendershot,
“A language is a system of
arbitrary vocal symbols by means
of which a social group co-
– Bloch and Trager. Outline of
Linguistics Analysis. Linguistic
Society of America/ Waverly
“Language is the institution
whereby humans communicate
and interact with each other by
means of habitually used oral-
auditory arbitrary symbols.”
– Hall. (1968)An Essay on
Language. Chilton Books.
“From now on I will consider a
language to be a set of
sentences, each finite in length
and constructed out of a finite set
– Chomsky. Syntactic Structures.
The Hague: Mouton.
Linguistics approaches language
through meaning, discourse,
semiotics (or social signification),
as well as through existing
narrative and grammatical
Theoretical linguistics is mostly
concerned with developing models
of linguistic knowledge. Main
morphology, and semantics.
Applied linguistics : an
interdisciplinary field of study. It
identifies, investigates, and offers
solutions to language-related real
Major branches : conversation
pedagogy, sociolinguistics, sec
acquisition, pragmatics, forensi
c linguistics, and translation.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS
BETWEEN DISCOURSE AND
A continuous stretch of language
larger than a sentence, often
constituting a coherent unit, such
as a sermon, argument or
(Crystal 1992: 25)
A stretch of language interpreted
formally, without context.√
(Cook 1989: 158)
A piece of naturally occurring
spoken, written, or signed
discourse identified for purposes
of analysis. It is often a language
unit with a definable
communicative function, such as a
conversation or a poster.√
Stretches of language to be perceived
to be meaningful, unified and
•Text: any written record
of a communicative event .
The event may itself
involve oral language or
written language .
•Discourse : it refers to
the interpretation of the
communicative event in
DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT SENTENCES MEAN,
AND WHAT PEOPLE MEAN BY UTTERING THOSE
study of sentence/linguistic meaning =
study of utterance/speaker meaning =
Sentences have invariant/context-independent
properties—an invariant meaning in virtue of the
meaning of the words.
Utterances are fairly concrete things: they happen;
they’re spoken; they’re heard; they’re out there in the
world. The meaning of an utterance is context-
dependent, in that it depends on the context in which
it is used and the intentions behind its use.
– Thematic structure
– Information structure
Ellipsis and substitution
• REFERENCE • INFERENCE
An act by which a It’s the listener’s use of
speaker uses a word ,
or words, to enable a additional knowledge
listener to identify to make sense of what
someone or is not explicit in an
something. (Yule, George utterance. (Yule, George –
– 1996:17) 1996:17)
• PROPER NOUNS ( Mr. Burns)
• NOUN PHRASES (The singer /
a nice place)
• PRONOUNS (he, them, its,
PRONOUNS (this, those)
• Using reference is tied to all members of a
community who share the same language
• There is a pragmatic connection between
proper names and objects.
Ex: Pass me the Shakespeare, will you?
(meaning the book whose author is the famous English play writer)
It’s the study of the choices of
language persons make in social
interaction and of the effects of
these choices on others (Crystal,
• The co-text is the linguistic environment in
which the referring expression is
• The context then is the physical
Cohesion is the grammatical and lexical relationship
within a text or sentence.
Cohesion can be defined as the links that hold a text
together and give it meaning.
There are two main types of cohesion:
grammatical: it refers to the structural content
lexical: it refers to the language content of the
A cohesive text is created in many different
ways. In Cohesion in English, M.A.K.
Halliday and Hasan identify five general
categories of cohesive devices that create
coherence in texts:
The president is undergoing a serious crisis.
She is not giving any conferences. Her whole
cabinet is split. This has put the country
Gorbachev could have become a
cautios modernizer in the
Chinese fashion, promoting
economic reform and sponsoring
new technology while holding
firm against political change.
This did not happen.
A: Would you like these
B: No, as a matter of fact, I’d
like the other seats.
SUBSTITUTION AND ELLIPSIS
Soccer as a sport can be very
dangerous. What’s more, fans can be
rather aggressive when the team is
not playing well.
Tea is a blend mostly accepted in
Japan. First, it is ground to a dust.
Then it is usually cooked to high
I’m awfully bored. However, I will do the
effort and smile.
Chinese tea is becoming popular. This is
because it is believed to have health-
Other examples of substitution
These apples are rotten. These ones are rotten,
A. She always studies at night.
B. So do I.
A: Are you going to the movies?
B: I think so.
Other examples of ellipsis
ELLIPSIS OF SUBJECT + FINITE
A: Marcel isn't here.
B: Never is at this time. Far too early for him.
ELLIPSIS OF SUBJECT + FINITE + PREDICATOR
A: How many are you talking about?
B: About half a dozen.
ELLIPSIS OF RESIDUE
A: Has the jury reached a verdict?
B: We have, your Honor.
It’s based on a
tendency of items to
co-occur in certain
The newspaper is the best way
to be updated. The newspaper
is concise and popular.
You could try by reversing the car up
the slope. The incline isn’t so steep.
We were in town today shopping for
furniture. We saw a lovely table.
daffodil: n. A very common bell-shaped
yellow flower of early spring.
At its six-month check-up, the brakes had to be
repaired. In general, however, the car was in
A drug, “angel dust”, is believed to
produce violent reactions in animals and
people. The tranquiliser was used
yesterday to sedate wild bears. Drugging
and releasing the animals is a procedure
followed in inhabited areas. No research
has been done into the effects of giving
other animals repeated doses of
IT’S THE RELATIONSHIP THAT EXISTS
BETWEEN WORDS AND THINGS.(LYONS.
IT’S SOMETHING A PERSON USES TO REFER TO
SOMETHING. (STRAWSON’S POINT OF VIEW)
i. Theme ( different approaches
to a definiton of theme)
ii. Theme and rheme
• Theme and Rheme
iv. Types of themes in functional
linguistics • Given and New
vi. Given and new information
vii. The ethnography of
• Conversational Analysis
ix. Sociolinguistics and the
sociology of discourse
x. Conversational analysis
xi. Turn - taking system
xii. Conversational structure
It’s the starting point of the clause message. It
sets up the local context for each clause.
A formal grammatical category, the left-most
constituent of the sentence.
“it’s the discourse process by which a referent
comes to be developed as the central subject of
the discourse.” (Perfetti and Goldman)
A formal grammatical category which refers
to the initial element in the clause around which
the sentence is organized.
The linear organization of the text.
It’s a discoursal process.
For Clements it’s a dimension of prose
structure. It includes rethorical devices
(lexical selection, alliteration, etc.)
THEMES - Points of departure
The president is not willing to give up her position.
What will be the economic consequences for the country?
Fetch me the glass of water, please.
For functional linguistics we can
consider three types of themes:
TOPICAL (they have to do with the information
conveyed in the discourse)
INTERPERSONAL (it reveals something of the
attitude of the speaker)
TEXTUAL (it links a clause to the rest of the
(Halliday) Language has certain
functions in society.
Accidentally, when Jason reached number 41 he stopped
Interpersonal Textual Topical
John kissed Mary.
Everything that follows the starting point. It’s
what the speaker states about the starting
point of the utterance.
GIVEN AND NEW INFORMATION
• IT’S RELATED TO • IT’S INFORMATION THAT IS
INFORMATION THAT HAS INTRODUCED FOR THE
ALREADY BEEN FIRST TIME.
INTRODUCED OR IS • IT APPEARS BY THE END OF
PRESSUPOSED. THE SENTENCE OR
• IT COMES FIRST IN THE UTTERANCE.
ORDER OF THE SENTENCE. • IT CARRIES TONIC
• IT OCCURS THROUGH PROMINENCE.
PRONOUNS WHEN IT IS IN
THE THEME TAKES
PROMINENCE. THE NEW ELEMENT HAS
THEME IS WHAT I
ABOUT. IT’S WHAT I’M ASKING YOU TO
•The victorious footballers stepped off the plane.
a. Cheering fans immediately swamped them.
b. They were immediately swamped by the cheering fans.
c. They were immediately buffeted by the wind.
d. The wind immediately buffeted them.
e. All the journalists were immediately smiled at by them.
f. They immediately smiled at all the journalists.
What would be the most common choice between the previous
U.T.R.V.T – Prof. José Legrand - 2008
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