What is Discourse Analysis?
Discourse analysis is the study of how written and spoken language is used in different social contexts (different social situations). It is interpreting the message a speaker wants to convey through analyzing their word and movement choices. Speakers can influence how people see them by the choices they make.
To analyze discourse, we look at language features. They are any “language device” that a speaker uses to help them communicate their message. Language features can be both verbal (spoken) and non-verbal.
The Language Features We Will Be Focusing On
“Syntax” looks at the sentence structures and sentence patterns the speaker uses. For example, do they use mostly simple or complex sentences? If they use things like negative or tag questions, try to analyze why.
“Lexicon” looks at the kind of vocabulary being used. Is it casual, or academic, or from a specialized field? For example, “alliteration” is a writing term that describes when a series of words in a sentence all begin with the same sound, so it is a specialized word. “Homie” is a street slang word that means “friend,” so it is casual.
“Speech flow” looks at the flow of a speaker’s words. Pay attention to pauses, gaps in speech, and stops. Are they being used for dramatic effect? To give the audience time to react? Because the speaker doesn’t have enough information or doesn’t know what to say? Try to understand why these pauses, gaps, and stops exist.
Body Language/Hand Gestures
Body language and hand gestures can be used to help the speaker look more natural, to engage the audience or draw its attention, to emphasize what the speaker is saying, to direct attention to certain points, or just to help the speaker relax. As you watch, try to determine what the speaker’s goal is when they move and gesture.
Tone of Speech
“Tone of speech” has to do with things such as the speaker’s rate of speech (speed), how softly or loudly they talk, or how gently or forcefully they say their words. Pay attention to how the speaker’s rate of speech changes, if certain words and phrases are being stressed, and if the speaker’s emotions are easy to hear in their voice.
“Presence” looks at how the speaker presents themselves to the audience. Pay attention to their overall eye contact, movement, posture, and body language. What kind of impression are they creating?
“Audience interaction” looks at how the speaker talks to, or with, their audience. Pay attention to how they are engaging and reacting with their audience. If multiple speakers are having a conversation, how is turn taking decided (how does the conversation flow)? For example, do they interrupt each other, or perhaps wait for a pause?