Discourse Phonology


  • Definition of Discourse

Any coherent succession of sentences, spoken or (in most usage) written. Thus this entry in the dictionary is an example of discourse; likewise a novel; likewise a speech by a politician or a lecture to students; likewise an interview or any other series of speech events in which successive sentences or utterances hang together. Often equivalent to *text.Already the term ‘discourse’ is seen to be being used extremely diversely, both within linguistics (and its subdisciplines) and within other areas of the social sciences and humanities, particularly sociology (historical reasons for this are dealt with by Hodge, 1984). So while it will always be possible to find the term being used in other ways, a basic definition can be given as follows.  ‘Discourse,’ as a mass noun only, and in its rather strict linguistic sense, refers to connected speech or writing occurring at suprasentential levels (at levels greater than the single sentence).  The methods of formal linguistics could be used to understand how sentences are connected, and not simply the formal structure which exists within the sentence itself.  However, most discourse analysts these days prefer to work with naturally occurring data (actual talk, actual texts) and to pursue the local-contextual features and social functions of them rather than their purely ‘linguistic’ properties.  In this sense, a focus on discourse entails a shift in linguistics away from competence and the langue and towards performance and paroles. 
  •  Important People and Readings
  • 1. Ruth Margaret Brend            From Phonology to Discourse 2. Elizabeth MillsSenoufo Phonology, Discourse to Syllable 


  • Links
  • 1. Dr. Richard Cauldwell-His research interests center on the prosodic and syntactic description of spontaneous speech, and exploiting the features of spontaneous speech for teaching pronunciation and listening.
Last Updated 06/11/08