Discourse Analysis of Welfare Reform

I was one of the discussion leaders this week in APLNG 581.  My discussion centered on Fairclough’s (2000) application of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to the discourse of welfare reform under Tony Blair and his New Labor party circa 1997.

Because this article was quite dense — both conceptually and empirically — my summary drew attention to three areas of focus.

  1. First is the issue of genre.  Who has control and how is it framed (unilateral vs. shared)?
  2. Second is the issue of discourse.  Who is present and who is absent?  Of those present, who is speaking and who is silenced?
  3. Third is the issue of style?  How are the positions among participants related.  


Download Article Summary (877k .pdf) 

Citation: Fairclough, N. 2000. “Discourse, social theory, and social research: The discourse of welfare reform.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, 4: 163-195.

This, That, And It

One of this week’s APLNG 581 Discourse Analysis readings deals with the use of demonstratives (this, that, and it) in the context of spontaneous oral discourse between native English speakers.

The article’s main argument is that traditional explanations for choice of demonstrative (this, that, it) as a function of the proximity/distance of a referent from the speaker do not adequately explain the distribution of demonstrative tokens in natural conversations. An alternative dynamic explanation is proposed which accounts for choice of demonstrative as a function of a speaker’s personal stance towards their listeners, and the referents being discussed. According to the model, demonstratives provide an index of the degree of focus a speaker is asking of listener and in so doing disclose assumptions speakers have of their listeners.

Download Article Summary (19k .pdf)

Citation: Strauss, S. 2002. “This, that, and it in spoken American English: A demonstrative system of gradient focus.” Language Sciences, 24: 131-152.