Structures in Written Texts
Discourse structure is the method that explains how texts are put together.
Lists/ instructions -
- Logical progression through stages, use of imperative verbs to instruct and guide. Eg, recipies, instructions, guides
- Problem-solution - identifies a problem. Eg, product advertisements
- Analysis - Breaks down key ideas into consistuent parts, evaluates an explores. Eg, academic articles, newspaper editorials
- Narrative - details a series of events, can be chronological or non chronological. Eg, novels, witness acocunts
Discourse structure is dependent on genre - how texts present information in order to create identities for particular individuals or institutions and the ideologies that are often inherent in these.
Structures in Spoken Discourse
One-speaker discourse: oral narratives
Labov's narrative catergories:
When a speaker talks for an extended period, we can say that he or she is narrating. The sociolinguist Labov put forward a six part structure for oral narrative. The narrative catergories (six key categories developed by Labov which appear in a narrative):
- Abstract (A) - the indication that a narrative is about to start and the speaker wants listener's attention
- Orientation (O) - the 'who' 'where' 'what' and 'why.' It sets the scene and provides further contexual info for the listener.
- Complicating action (CA) - the main body in narrative detail
- Resolution (R) - the final events to give the narrative closure
- Evaluation (EV) - additions to the basic story, to highlight attitudes or to command the listener's attention at important moments
- Coda (C) - a sign the narrative is complete. This may include a return to the initial time frame before the narrative.
- Narrative may not contain them all, and an EV may occur at any time.
(additions to the basic story, to highlight attitudes or to command the listener's attention at important moments)
Possible to divide into two types:
- External evaluation: an evaluative comment outside the narrative sequence
eg: 'this is an incredible story' 'now I'm getting to the good part'
- Internal evaluation: an evaluative comment occuring at the same time as events in the narrative sequence. These can be divided into:
- Intensifying evaluation: contributing to vividness via gestures, repetitions or dramatic sounds ('Fred ran into a wall, ouch!')
- Explicative evaluation - providing reasons for narrative events ('Fred annoyed his mum, because he was very noisy')
The analysis of conversation
Conversational analysis (CA) provides a method for lookin at multi-speaker discourse. This is largely based on the concept of the conversational turn and the basic consequence of that turn, the adjacency pair (two utterances by different speakers that have a natural/logical link), which forms an exchange structure (series of turns between speakers).
Conversations are rather straightfoward, and often speakers will insert information at various points to create a larger exchange structure. This can be in the form of a triadic structure known as initation-response-feedback (IRF) (a triadic structure in speech that allows the first speaker to feed back on the response of a second speaker). Or, an insertion sequence can be used (an additional sequence in the body of an exchange structure)
Turn taking is also a major factor - knowing when to take turns is crucial and natural in coversation. There are often points when a speaker will know they are expected to speak. Other transition relevance points (a point at which it is natural for another speaker to take turn) can occur as a consequence of natural pauses or a complete break on speech. The decision as to what gets spoken about is topic management (the control of the convo in terms of speaking/topic) and is often a result of powerful participants (hold some degree of status in a convo).
Features of discourse
- Back-channelling - A feature of speaker support: non-verbal utterances to show attention or agreement (eg, mmm, yeah, ok)
- Discourse marker - signal a shift in convo and topic areas. Can announce a counter argument (ok, right then, so, but)
- Fillers - non-verbal sounds that can act as pauses in speech, naturall or for thinking time. May signal speaker uncertainty (err, um)
- Hedging - Avoid directness or minimise a potential face-threatening act. Undertaken using a range of epistemic modal forms (kind of, sort of, and modals like could, might)
- False starts + repairs - False starts are when a speaker begins to speak, pauses and recommences. A repair returns to correct a previously stated phrase or sentence (he..sorry she broke the vase)
- Skip connectors - a return to a previous topic of conversations, essentially a type of discourse marker (anyway, coming back to our original discussion)
- Fixed expressions - a conventional and routine expression in colloquial communiaction, sometimes metaphorical (as a matter of fact, bascially, at the end of the day)
- Vauge expressions - similar to hedging, deliberatey non-committal expressions in informal contexts (anything, something, thing)
Features of discourse
- Ellipsis - omission of words for economical purposes, as appropriate to informal contexts or to avoid awkward repetition (just seen jack, tonight, 8pm)
- Tag questions - consist of an auxiliary, negating particle and pronoun and can be a sign of speaker support, uncertainty or a request for clarification 'you did well, didn't you?)
- Deixis - Pointing words in a perceptual, temporal or spatial dimension (I, you, today, there, now, me, they, here, there, this, that)
- Non-fluency features - non verbal occurences (pauses, hesitations and repetitions that occur in spontaneous speech)