Discourse as an Interdisciplinary Concept

Course information


Discourse as an Interdisciplinary Concept


Barát Erzsébet

Course code








Course description

Short description

The interdisciplinary concept of discourse plays a significant role in contemporary social science, social linguistics and cultural studies. Its prominence is evident in the growing number of studies that use the various concepts and methods of discourse analysis to define and explore problems in their respective fields. The aim of this lecture is partly to investigate the reasons for the explosion of this interest and partly to explore the consequences that the difference between language and discourse should involve for the actual analysis of “data”. The ultimate objective is to make students see that meaning is articulated in and through discourses that are emergent as the effect of particular relations of power. The focus of our discourse studies is on the three effects of discourse, that is, thematization, membership, and authority. We shall investigate the ways the ‘abstract’ concepts of discourse are meant to be applied to ‘empirical’ research questions, demonstrating the relative gains and losses of the proliferating ‘discourses of discourse’, ranging from the conflation of discourse with talk between two face-to-face interactants to seeing discourse as the only constitutive force of the entire social and cultural world.



Week 1: Introduction: The concept of ‘discourse’ versus ’language’


Week 2: The difference between description and interpretation


  • Fran Tonkiss: Analysing Discourse. In: Clive Seale (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. Sage, 1998. 245-260.


Week 3: Language-in-Action


  • Gee, James Paul: Chapter 2. Discourses and Social Languages; In: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. Routledge, 1999, 11-39.


Week 4: Situated Meaning

  • Gee, James Paul: Chapter 3. Situated Meanings and Cultural Models. IN: Ibid., 40-57.


Week 5-7: Language ideology and power



  • Fairclough, Norman: (2001) Introduction. In Language and Power. 2nd Edition. Harlow: Pearson Education. pp. 1-5. & (1989) 1st edition Chapter 10.
  • Thompson, Denise: Chapter 2. Ideology: Justifying Domination. Radical Feminism Today. Sage, 2001, 22-35.
  • Kress, Günter. (1985) “Ideological structures in discourse”. In Van Dijk, Teun (ed.) Handbook of Discourse Analysis: Dimensions of Discourse. London: Academic Press.


Week 8-12: Discourse and Identity


  • Challenging the logic “if (male/female) sex, then (masculine/feminine) gender, therefore heterosexuality”: Ochs, Elinor: “Indexing Gender” in Rethinking Context. by A. Duranti & C. Goodwin (eds.), CUP, 1992:335-58.
  • Discursive accomplishment of identity: Bucholtz Mary and Hall, Kira: Language and Identity. In: Alessandro Duranti (ed.) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Blackwell, 2004, 368-388.
  • Multiple dimensions of identity: Cameron, Deborah and Don Kulick: Chapter 3, What has gender got to do with? In Language and Sexuality. CUP, 2003, 44-73.  
  • Linguistic and cultural aspects of identity in education: Ingrid, Piller & Takashi, Kimie: A passion for English: Desire and the language market. In Bilingual Minds. Ann Pavlenko (ed) Multilingual matters. 2006:59-83.
  • The logic of normative categorization: Gal, Susan and Gail Kligman: Chapter 3. Dilemmas of Public and Private. The Politics of Gender After Socialism. Princeton University Press, 2000: 37-62.






Requirements to get the grade

Closed book written exam of two components. An essay question to be discussed in 250-300 words and the analysis of a short (one-paragraph-long) sample text guided by Instructor’s question.


Reading list

See the weekly topics above.

Suggested reading list

M Jorgensen and L. Phillips: Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method. Sage (2002)

J. P. Gee: An Introduction to Discourse Analysis – Theory and Method. 2nd ed. Routledge (2004)