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Discourse is a term used in semantics as in discourse analysis, but it also refers to a social conception of discourse, often linked with the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jürgen Habermas' The Theory of Communicative Action. Even though each thinker had personal and incompatible conceptions of discourse, they remain two important figures in this field; Habermas trying to find the transcendent rules upon which speakers could agree on a groundworks consensus, while Foucault was developing a battle-type of discourse which opposed the classic marxist definition of ideology as part of the superstructure). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse [Mar 2006]

In the social sciences [...]

In the Social Sciences a discourse is considered to be an instutionalized way of thinking, a social boundary defining what can be said about a specific topic. Discourses are seen to affect our views on all things; in other words, it is not possible to escape discourse. For example, two distinctly different discourses can be used about various guerrilla movements describing them either as "freedom fighters" or "terrorists". In other words, the chosen discourse delivers the vocabulary, expressions and perhaps also the style needed to communicate.

Discourse is closely linked to different theories of power and state, at least as long as defining discourses is seen to mean defining reality itself.

The social conception of discourse is often linked with the work of the French social philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse [Aug 2004]

Critical discourse analysis

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of texts, which views "language as a form of social practice" (Fairclough 1989: 20) and attempts "to unpack the ideological underpinnings of discourse that have become so naturalized over time that we begin to treat them as common, acceptable and natural features of discourse" (Teo 2000).

Norman Fairclough's books, Language and Power (1989) and Critical Discourse Analysis (1995), articulate a three-dimensional framework for studying discourse, "where the aim is to map three separate forms of analysis onto one another: analysis of (spoken or written) language texts, analysis of discourse practice (processes of text production, distribution and consumption) and analysis of discursive events as instances of sociocultural practice" (1995: 2).

Critical discourse analysis is founded on the unequal access to linguistic and social resources, resources that are controlled institutionally. The patterns of access to discourse and communicative events is one essential element for CDA. In terms of method, CDA can generally be described as hyper-linguistic or supra-linguistic, in that practitioners who use CDA consider the larger discourse context or the meaning that lies beyond the grammatical structure. This includes consideration of the political, and even the economic, context of language usage and production.

In addition to linguistic theory, the approach draws from social theory — and contributions from Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu — in order to examine ideologies and power relations involved in discourse. Fairclough notes "that language connects with the social through being the primary domain of ideology, and through being both a site of, and a stake in, struggles for power" (1989: 15).

Notable researchers include Norman Fairclough, Paul Chilton, Teun van Dijk, Christina Shaffner, Ruth Wodak, Peter Teo, Roger Fowler, Gunther Kress, Mary Talbot, and Robert Hodge. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_discourse_analysis [Apr 2005]

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