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Title: Describing Discourse: a practical guide to discourse analysis.
Author: Nicola Woods
This book written by Nicola Woods is a practical guideline for all researchers involved in investigating any types of discourses in terms of Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics, Systemic Functional Linguistics, etc. This book accommodates a wealth of devices and strategies in five discourses to scrutinize any texts and talks from different angles and to evaluate how these tools in political or other discourses are disposed tactically for certain reasons and specific addressees. It concentrates particularly on five professional fields including the discourses of advertising, politics, law, medicine and education and it equips researchers with different lenses with which they can sift through any sorts of texts in terms of grammatical, lexical and rhetorical devices and tropes in order to unmask hierarchically and ideologically infused creeds and notions as well as power connections in any texts and talks.
The book is constructed into five chapters plus an introduction and a conclusion. In his introduction, Woods illuminates the significance of language as a social practice, the way people construct and negotiate meaning in social practice of language, dynamic and shifting system of communication in context, necessities to investigate various discourses as well as the discursiveness of political, advertisement, etc. Furthermore, he introduces some theoretical approaches to language use and analysis such as Austin and Searl’s speech act theory, Grice’s maxims of conversation, Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory, conversation analysis, Fairclough, van Dijk and Wodak’s critical discourse analysis, etc. To this end, it aims to critically manifest the featured devices’ practicality and adeptness through analysis, and then by virtue of analysis to disclose how language is pre-planned and manipulated by orators, the press, advertisers, etc. in order to convey seamlessly intended messages to the definite addressees.
The first chapter begins with the analysis of the discourse of advertisement, as the most planned form of discourse. The author provides a definition of the advertising as ‘the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it’ and proceeds with the elaboration of its embedded features as persuasive and seductive, and with the way it constructs messages by creating specific plays on sound, that is, the characteristic sound patterns the advertisers tend to employ such as sound symbolism, alliteration, oxymoron, rhyme, etc. He endeavors to demystify and consider the way it exploits linguistic devices in order to keep in minds the accessibility and desirability of a product. He also provides various examples of advertising ads, leaflets and campaigns. In these examples, informative and persuasive strategies are woven together, as advertisements seek to fulfill the function of providing information as well as urging consumers to buy, or at least keep trying to buy.
Chapter two engages with the discourse of politics. It insinuates that researchers must be vigilant when they look at the discourse of politics to seek evidence of stage management and pre-planned features, particularly in the form of rehearsed rhetorical devices – often called ‘claptrap rhythm’ since they are carefully designed to indicate the right moment for the audience to burst into rapturous applause. This chapter describes the ways in which politicians employ rhetorical and manipulative linguistic tools to steer people toward particular ideologies and orientations of political reality. Official standard languages and ritualistic use of formal titles tend to be dominant in all political contexts. The vocabulary of politics is chosen selectively and carefully which is a crucial aspect of the configuration of political discourse (Ali & Kazemian, 2015; Kazemian & Hashemi, 2014a, 2014b).
In chapter three, the author deals with the discourse of law, as the impenetrable and forbidding language of contracts and deeds, and he has observed a sharp differentiation between the language of legalese, the spoken language of police interviews and courtroom interactions which are widely regarded as coercive and manipulative. He struggles to demonstrate the implications of the intricacies of the discourse, its highly conventional and institutionalized essence, its fully explicitness and at the same time its deliberately vagueness, as well as its contradictory purposes together with the utilization of archaic, arcane and ritualistic forms resulting in encrypted code of legal language. He tries to display semantically manipulative meanings of words and expressions for particular impact in the discourse and to indicate power differential and hierarchical relations between those inside and those outside the legal profession, etc. as well in which the discourse reflects and maintains asymmetrical power associations. The vocabulary of written legal discourse is characterized by its antiquated, esoteric and arcane vocabulary and the prevalence of jargon as well (Woods, 2006).
Chapter four copes with the discourse of medicine and investigates the gap between the professional voice of doctors and the personal speech of patients. The author is in a bid to pinpoint many aspects of language that have the potential to perplex, depersonalize, devastate patients and even to lead to a sense of dehumanization in patients by dint of metaphorization and labeling and naming of objective facts. To this end, medical practitioners apply technical jargon, ritualized language and archaisms including obfuscating abbreviations, euphemism, and employment of vague and ambiguous expressions as well. In the language choices of the medical profession, it is maintained that medical practitioners alienate patients in many respects by the use of technical terms.
In the last chapter (the discourse of education), the author inspects both written and spoken interactions and casts a critical lens on conventions for academic writing. It is found that the discourse conventions of learning and teaching are deeply embedded in cultural consciousness. Therefore, people have particular expectations of what teachers and students should do (and not do) as well as what they may say (and not say). The language of education focuses on three key linguistic areas where educational authorities exert significant control over what is deemed to be appropriate in the context of the classroom. These are language, dialect and style. Furthermore, educational guidelines prescribe that Standard Language should be added to the linguistic repertoire of students rather than replacing students’ own dialects. The analysis detects that it is teachers who have control over the content of what students write. It is also pointed out that in classrooms, speaking turns tend to be distributed unevenly in accordance with the hierarchical power relationships, as in courtrooms and consultations, which hold between participants. In the question-and-answer routines of classroom interaction, three structures viz. initiation, response and follow-up are realized.
The conclusion and comprehensive bibliography. The author introduces a large number of devices and strategies for advertisement and political discourses and clearly delineates their interconnectivity or disparity in every discourse.