Alif Fakkar posted an update 8 months, 1 week ago
Book Review #1
Title: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis – Theory and Method (Third Edition)
Author: James Paul Gee
“Discourse analysis considers how language, both spoken and written, enacts social and cultural perspectives and identities. An Introduction to Discourse Analysis examines the field and presents James Paul Gee’s unique integrated approach, which incorporates both a theory of language-in-use and a method of research.”
The third version of James Paul Gee’s book discussing Discourse Analysis, this book includes examples of oral and written language such as group discussions among children, adults, students, and teachers, as well as conversations, interviews, academic texts, and policy documents.
James Paul Gee is a professor Literacy Studies at Arizona State University, and he has written many books under the topic of linguistics such as How to do Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics and Literacies, and Situated Language and Learning.
This book was meant for three audiences, students and researches from other areas, people who are interested in language, culture, and institutions, and his fellow discourse analysis peers. True to its name, you don’t have to be very experienced in discourse analysis to read this book, but some experience or interest in linguistics is expected for you to make sense of this book.
The first chapter of this book introduces language as a use of communication, its use in certain practices, and its connection with “politics”, or rather, societal rules. The second part of the first chapter, “Language and Practices” uses the long-running Japanese-translated-to-English card game franchise Yu-Gi-Oh! as an example of language being connected to “practice”. If that is any indication, it would appears that this book does not shy away from using highly recognizable pop-culture as an example.
I’d like to further explain the content “Language and Practices”, and below you’ll see a description text of a card used in the YGO series.
“When this card is Normal Summoned, Flip Summoned, or Special Summoned successfully, select and activate 1 of the following effects: Select 1 equipped Equip Spell Card and destroy it. Select 1 equipped Equip Spell Card and equip it to this card.”
As James wrote, even if you recognize and understand the meaning of each word contained in the text above, you wouldn’t understand the meaning of the text if you are not familiar with the source material. And even if you went to search all the terms you are unfamiliar with, the description you would find on a YGO-focused website wouldn’t make sense to you either. The only way you can understand the full meaning of the text above, is to partake in the “practice” that is YGO card games. The book argues that the meaning for all languages came from the practice it is used in.
The next part in this chapter is “Language and Politics”. The quotation marks around politics in the paragraph above will tell you that this part doesn’t really talk about real politics, but rather what James call a “social good”. Social Good is just like what is says, something good you want to achieve in the eyes of society. In the context of YGO that could mean being a good player and to be acknowledge by other players. For students and parents, it could mean being a “good student” in the eyes of the teacher.
When we use language, our social good is at stake. When you say or write something, how other people respond to you are consequential to your social good. If you are accepted, you gain a social good, and if you don’t, then you lose a social good.
The next chapter discusses “building tasks”, seven things in discourse which we use to “build” a reality in the world. If you were to talk with someone in a friendly, casual manner, you are attempting to build a reality where you and your partner are friends.
The seven building tasks that James wrote are:
– Sign Systems and Knowledge
The third chapter discusses the tools to analyze the workings of the building tasks. In this chapter, you will read James’ definition of concepts such as Social Language, Discourses, Conversation, and Intertextuality, Which will be further explained in the following chapters.
The next 4 chapters discusses increasingly complicated topics such as Form-Function Correlations, Situated Meanings, Figured Worlds, and Context.
The seventh chapter discusses Discourse Analysis, the title of the book, and the last 3 chapters are examples of discourse analysis.
It is certainly a very detailed book. Filled with just the information you need when you are studying Discourse Analysis. And James’ casual (for a lack of better word) of explain various concepts in discourse is certainly very interesting to read and is quite easy to follow.
Each chapter is divided in points which broke the concepts written in the title into smaller, more manageable pieces. And the book has no lack of believable examples, each based on situations that you might see on the real world, to illustrate his points.
The examples of discourse analysis in the last 3 chapters also brought the reader a view of what they will encounter when studying Discourse Analysis. It is littered with transcript of the interaction that is the focus of that chapter, and the various concepts of discourse introduced and explained in detail in the previous chapter that you will need to consider when you begin your own analysis of discourse.
The book has some minor flaws, however, and you could consider it to be subjective. The issue is how the book manages its page. Now, I’ve come to expect high-level academic books like this to use indentation in the place of paragraph spacing like this review (which could effect readability) and I’ve come to understand that. In fact, this book does not have any problems regarding readability, because it uses indentation AND paragraph spacing along with its page margins making it easy to read, the problem I’m talking about is the inclusion of references at the end of each chapter, which makes it easy to lost your position when taking huge leaps in pages like I did in this review. Although you could argue that the writing your references on each chapter instead of throwing them all in the last pages makes it easier for you to look up the sources used in this book.