Introduction to Discourse Studies

The term “discourse” is understood in various ways in the social sciences and humanities. In this module we approach discourse in two principal ways. On the one hand, we regard discourse as structured use of language consisting of more than one sentence. The analysis of discourse in this sense involves investigation of the ways in which words, phrases and sentences hang together and make sense in contexts of use. At this level linguistic theories and methods of linguistic description are of special relevance. On the other hand, discourse is often thought of as language use as social practice that is based on, and influences, cognition. Thus, for example, we speak of media discourse, nationalist discourse, discourses on the economy, legal discourse, and the like. Here we ask questions about the linguistic characteristics of these different discourses. In addition we relate the texts that instantiate these discourse to the context of their production, distribution and reception, as well as to their wider social context.


The module aims to familiarise students with the range of theories in Discourse Studies. It also aims to provide practical analytical skills and methodologies for analysing spoken, written and visual texts of different genres. Acquiring sufficient technical knowledge of linguistic description is regarded as an important practical goal. Hands-on practical work with texts will be an important element of the course.