Essay "Discourse analysis. The notion of speech event." by Nataliya Lugovaya. 2011

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1.     Discourse analysis. The history of the question.

1.1.         What is discourse analysis?

1.2.         Discourse analysis: three areas of definition.

1.3.         The contemporary studies of discourse.

1.4.         Discourse as language.

Main inferences of the first part.

2.     The notion speech event.

2.1.         The notion speech event in linguistics.

2.2.         A diachronic approach to the study of complex speech events.

2.3.         A synchronic approach to the study of complex speech events.

2.4.         Speech acts.

Main inferences of the second part.





Discourse analysis is a rapidly growing and evolving field. Current research in this field now flows from numerous academic disciplines that are very different from one another. Included, of course, are the disciplines in which models for understanding, and methods for analyzing, discourse first developed, such as linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy. But also included are disciplines that have applied - and thus often extended - such models and methods to problems within their own academic domains, such as communication, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and artificial intelligence [Schiffrin, 2001].

Given this disciplinary diversity, it is no surprise that the terms "discourse" and "discourse analysis" have different meanings to scholars in different fields.

In linguistics, analysts often define discourse in one of two ways: as structure or as process (van Dijk, 1997). Structural definitions focus on what constitutes a unit of discourse: "language above the sentence or above the clause" (Stubbs, 1983). To linguists interested in the structure of language, discourse analysis is the search for units of language that demonstrate a relationship, that occur in predictable patterns, and have rules that govern the occurrence of these elements.

In other branches of linguistics, discourse is defined as any aspect of language use and the study of language use (Fasold, 1990) or as a process of using language to accomplish a purpose or action. These linguists are interested in the way language functions to accomplish goals or activities in people's lives; hence, discourse is the analysis of language as it is connected to meanings, activities, and systems outside of itself [Schiffrin, 1994]. Within this perspective, the structures or forms of language cannot be separated from the way people use language in their daily lives to accomplish a purpose or function (Brown and Yule, 1988).

So abundant are definitions of discourse that many linguistics books on the subject now open with a survey of definitions. In their collection of classic papers in discourse analysis, for example, Jaworski and Coupland include ten definitions from a wide range of sources. They all, however, fall into the three main categories noted above: (1) anything beyond the sentence, (2) language use, and (3) a broader range of social practice that includes nonlinguistic and nonspecific instances of language [Jaworski and Coupland, 1999].

The definitional issues associated with discourse and discourse analysis are by no means unique. It must seem to those slightly familiar with the term discourse that terms are used interchangeably. Its companion term, discourse analysis, seems to be used especially frequently, even randomly, so that it is difficult to know exactly what is meant by the term. One reason is that a number of different academic disciplines use the term to describe the methods and models they develop to understand language and human behavior. "Included are not just disciplines in which models for understanding, and methods for analyzing, discourse first developed (i.e., linguistics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy), but also disciplines that have applied (and thus often extended) such models and methods to problems within their own particular academic domains, e.g., communication, social psychology, and artifical intelligence.

What is meant by discourse can be a complicated and lengthy explanation. As van Dijk notes, discourse is a concept and a term that stands for complex phenomena and thus requires entire chapters, if not volumes, to define and describe. Within this study, however, discourse is language as it is actually uttered by people engaged in social interaction to accomplish a goal (van Dijk, 1997). The use of the concept is that developed in linguistics where a central goal of most discourse approaches is to discover and demonstrate how participants in a conversation make sense of what is going on (how they both create meaning and understand others' meanings) within the social and cultural context of face-to-face interaction [Roy, 2000].

The notion speech event is closely related with the notion of discourse, because the notion of discourse refers to a continuous stretch of language larger than a sentence constituting a speech event. Although discourse is often regarded as a spontaneous realisation of language where no linguistic structuring can or should be discovered, it seems essential to adopt a broader perspective view of it as a dynamic process of expression and comprehension governing the performance of people within linguistic interaction.

There exists a variety of rules, conventions and linguistic regularities which determine the features and functions of speech events. Among them are pragmatic and psychological parameters, the purpose and function of discourse, its communicative characteristics, etc.

Discourse analysis distinguishes between different functional varieties of speech events, such as monologues and dialogues, oratory, narrative, and so on. All these varieties or genres appear to be in relation to each other particularly as regards the choice of linguistic units, as well as rules and conventions governing their use in speech. The contrasts of the informative and the imaginative, formal and informal, spoken and written media in communication make us think of the mutual dependencies between discourse functions as an important parameter in establishing their essential features. In other words, the contrast of linguistic regularities in each case gives us a clue to a better understanding of their properties. For example, spoken discourse is probably best described by contrasting it with what is known as written discourse and vice versa. Hence an attempt to regard discoursal peculiarities as sufficiently systematic features which have a direct bearing on the functioning of discrete lexical units [Gvishiani, 1997].

The notion speech should not be understood literally as perceptible speech, but, rather, as potential speech, as it were. Thus, speech event in the relevant sense here and in the following is not limited to actual speech or utterance situations; instead, it should be understood as ranging over events of language activity, irrespective of whether it is externalized or merely internal. In other and simpler words: speech in the notion speech event refers to not only the act of speaking but also to the linguistic act of thinking (and hence attitude predicates like think, believe, wish, feel, etc., introduce a (secondary) speech event) [Sigurðsson, 2004].

Thus, the goal of this work is to examine the problems concerning the notions discourse and speech event.

1.        Discourse analysis. The history of the question.

1.1.         What is discourse analysis?

Discourse analysis is a method of seeking in any connected discrete linear material, whether language or language-like, which contains more than one elementary sentence, some global structure characterizing the whole discourse (the linear material), or large sections of it. The structure is a pattern of occurrence (i.e. a recurrence) of segments of the discourse relative to each other; such relative occurrence of parts is the only type of structure that can be investigated by inspection of the discourse without bringing into account other types of data, such as relations of meanings throughout the discourse. It turns out that the segments of a discourse which occur in a regular way relative to each other arc not whole sentences but morpheme sequences such as words, parts of words, and phrases, or the equivalent in mathematics and other non-language material. More exactly, such a segment is a whole constituent or a sequence of constituents; where a constituent, for language, is a segment of a sentence resulting from any grammatical analysis of the sentence. These segments do not themselves occur so often and so regularly as to constitute a pattern. Therefore we group certain of them into classes, which do recur regularly. Discourse analysis, then, finds the recurrence relative to each other of classes of morpheme sequences, given a segmentation into morpheme sequences by a suitable grammar, and having the intention that the classes set up are such that their regularity of occurrence will correspond lo some relevant semantic interpretation for the discourse.   The problem is to set up separately for each discourse such classes as have the greatest relevant regularity of occurrence relative to each other within it; and if possible to find a general way of solving this problem for any discourse [Harris, 1963].


1.2.         Discourse analysis: three areas of definition

Dictionary definitions of 'discourse' historically describe the term's everyday meaning as 'an extended public treatment or discussion of a subject in speech or writing'. Nowadays, they will also include a second meaning which originates in the discipline of discourse analysis and which equates discourse with 'naturally occurring language use' and 'meaningful language use in context'. One way to throw light on the term 'discourse' is to stress how the appeal of the concept has been connected to the development of a specific agenda for language inquiry. Three areas of definition can broadly be identified.

1. Viewed from within a linguistic project, the analysis of discourse emerged with reference to specific language phenomena which are characteristic of running text and ongoing interaction, as well as locating an important area of meaning in what is functionally relative to situation, purpose and user. It is worth reminding that some instances of early discourse research prioritised more the conversational domain of spoken exchanges, while other early developments focused more on the properties of written texts. Anglo-American work in particular interacted more directly with speech act theory and conversation analysis and was quick to integrate their key concepts and taxonomies. At the same time, early examples such as Brown and Yule (1983) were still very much bracketed by more traditional linguistic concerns such as the detection of a hierarchical that which had been described earlier for the grammatical constituents of the sentence. In early continental European developments which often identified themselves as 'text linguistics', the study of trans-sentential phenomena (e.g., aspects of cross-reference, the occurrence of argumentative and rhetorical structures, properties of language which lend a text cohesion, etc.) along with the study of the cognitive processing of textual units helped push the linguistic project beyond the confines of the isolated sentence. Early example includes Van Dijk and Kintsch (1983).

2. From within a sociolinguistic project, the analysis of 'discourse' is connected with a qualitative research agenda on the role of language use in social life. Its context of emergence has been die formulation of an integrated sociolinguistic project in the 1960 and 1970s, especially the more qualitative 'interactional sociolinguistic' traditions which developed out of the work of
J. Gumperz and D. Hymes. Not surprisingly central insights on the nature of interaction and situated language use drew substantially on theoretical conversations with speech-act theory, conversation analysis, ethnomethodology and Goffinan's analysis of the inter action order (Gumperz and Hymes, 1972). While for some, speech-act theory's performative view on the linguistic utterance (cf. 'how to do things with words') counted as the primary point of departure for a generalised social actional view on language use (e.g., Fairclough, 1989), others also invoke ethnomethodology and conversation analysis as ground-breaking perspectives developed within sociology which connect interactional language use with the in-course production of a situational and social context (e.g., Duranti and Goodwin, 1992). Hymes' (1972) formulation of the SPEAKING-project can be interpreted as the formulation of a discourse perspective within sociolinguistics. The speech event is its primary unit of analysis, like many other linguistic anthropologists,   Hymes does  not  use   the term 'discourse' to define this project (except in its variant as a countable noun to refer to particular ways of interacting and communicating which are associated with a particular domain, setting or topic).

3. Finally, as it also surfaced in a social theoretical context, 'discourse' has become a metaphor for understanding processes of socio-cultural representation. This area of definition signals how the concept of discourse has been implicated in some of the theoretical and epistemological challenges posed to the human and social sciences by post-structuralist theory. In Foucault's version of this (Foucualt, 1972), discourse is connected to the production of truth and is centrally located in a field of productive power relationships which enable social life in its various forms and manifestations. It is particularly in this area that a discourse analytic perspective has spilled over into various disciplines (law, social work, history, etc.), where it has given rise to a linguistic turn which stresses that truth is relative to what is articulated in discourse, while highlighting the social and institutional conditions that enable its expression. The discourse perspective is central to understanding certain aspects of the crisis of legitimacy in the human and social sciences. For discourse theorists such as Laclau and Mouffe (1985), discourse has subsequently become an epistemology for reading a society's state of hegemonic relationships vis-à-vis particular ideological formations. Discourse theory is a form of political discourse analysis but it does not come with specific empirical imperatives which seek to do justice to the complexities characteristic of situated verbal material - textual and/or interactional. Finally, a constructivist perspective in which language use, often in combination with other practices, is seen as constitutive of social reality is intrinsic to many traditions of discourse analysis [The Linguistics Encyclopedia, 2010].


1.3. The contemporary studies of discourse

Discourse analysis has crystallised within studies in two directions. One can note, one hand, a continuation of a more linguistic use of the term in which discourse is viewed as the layer of meaning which is tied to situations of language use and located beyond the structural and semantic affordances of a language system. The focus here is often on large collections of verbal material of a particular situation or activity type and describing its specific lexical, grammatical, etc, properties, using quantitative methods. At the same time, recent decades have witnessed the formulation of a broad project of discourse studies which holistically views language use, often in combination with other forms of semiotic behaviour, from the angle of 'social practices' in context. Much discourse research thus simultaneously attends to textual, processual and social-actional dimensions of communicative behaviour, as well as its functioning at the level of ideological and socio-cultural reproduction and transformation. Critical discourse analysis (e.g., Wodak, 1996) has been a prime example of this second direction and must be accredited for seeking to link up the explanatory ambitions of social theory with societal critique and emancipatory goals for discourse research. Critical discourse analysis has been agenda-setting for a discussion of the connections between situated language use, power and ideology and has acted as a broker for much social theoretical that this development has occurred alongside (and throughout the 1990s there has been growing interaction) with comparable programmes which originated in other traditions (e.g., Briggs, 1996 in linguistic anthropology, Rampton 2006 in interactional sociolinguistics). Not surprisingly then, when the term 'discourse' is used in its countable form with a particular qualification which evokes the reality-creating capacities of forms of language use (e.g., 'capitalist discourses', 'sexist discourses', 'medical discourse', 'discourses of education', etc.), this sometimes counts as a reference to the identification of typical patterns of interaction and/or language use, and sometimes as a reference to a meaning universe associated with a particular social locus of language use. In many cases, however, the reference has been to both and the underlying assumption is indeed that the full range of phenomena that can be addressed under the heading of discourse is imbued with value. Specific fields of application have given rise to specialist off-shoots such as forensic discourse analysis (Coulthard and Johnson, 2007), professional discourse studies (e.g., Sarangi and Roberts, 1999), discourse stylistics (e.g., Carter and Simpson 1989) and multimodal discourse analysis (e.g., Kress and Van Leeuwen 2001). Discourse perspectives have been articulated for specific language-related interests. For instance, Hatim and Mason (1990) have done this for translation studies, while Barton (2007) has articulated a (critical) discourse perspective for literacy studies. Discourse analysis can thus be summed up as entailing a particular perspective on language use and social life and the themes of identities-in-discourse and identities-as-outcomes-of-discourse are undeniably among the most commonly addressed in research across fields of application. Instances of discourse analysis will in many cases the study of language use or semiotics. For instance, whereas discursive psychology (Edwards and Potter, 1992) has concentrated on themes from cognitive psychology such as everyday explanations, memory and attitude by bringing together a conversation analytic perspective with social psychological constructivism, multimodal discourse analysis (e.g., O'Halloran, 2004) have drawn substantially on a systemic-functional perspective on meaning making for the development of a discourse analysis which is not restricted  by  an   exclusive interest   in   verbal modes of communication [The Linguistics Encyclopedia, 2010].


1.4. Discourse as language

Although language can be both spoken or written, verbal interaction forms the basis of the analysis and interpretations in this study. Transcribing speech into written form has not been an easy task. Research by Chafe (1980) demonstrated that language is produced as units produced in chunks often defined by intonation or the completeness of a thought or idea, not as syntactically whole structures like sentences. For example, speakers often begin talking with words such as 'and' or 'but'. Speakers hesitate, repeat, stop talking, and start againall of which cannot conform to the idea of a sentence. Often, chunks of speech are also not grammatically whole or wellformed, so to label these units as "sentences" does not suffice. Hence, as Schiffrin (1994) argues, discourse is best portrayed as "utterances," larger than other units of language, but also "the smaller unit of which discourse is comprised".

Moreover, utterances are related, such as questions and answers, or they have a function, such as beginning a story. Studies that focus on how utterances are related or how utterances function are considered language use, and many studies examine how different language torn- munities have different ways of performing similar functions (Gumperz, 1982). Then utterances can include either the idea of a single utterance or the idea of a larger group of utterances that together perform a function, such as greetings or telling a story. In many studies of language, analysis often separates into an analysis of structure or an analysis of function (language use) but, as Schiffrin (1994) thoroughly demonstrates, discourse analysis can be both.

When discourse analysis focuses on structure, the task is one of identifying and analyzing utterances, discovering regularities or patterns in these utterances, and making judgments about grammaticalness or wellformedness. When discourse analysis focuses on function, then the task is identifying and analyzing utterances as actions performed by people for certain purposes, interpreting social and cultural meanings, and justifying interpretations of the analysis. To combine these tasks is what makes discourse so vast, and to use any part of the tasks is why so many studies label themselves discourse analysis (Schiffrin, 1994).

Another reason that defining discourse as such an undertaking is that language typically includes a relationship to context. Context is tremendously broad and defined in different ways, for example, mutual knowledge, social situations, speaker-hearer identities, and cultural constructs. Within discourse analysis, context can be part of the immediate, local nature of a face-to-face interaction, as well as the larger, global nature of the social and cultural situation of a society.

Schiffrin (1994) defines discourse as "utterances," which combines and includes the distinctions above. From this perspective, Utterances are structural units of language production ("language above the sentence") and functional units a collection of inherently contextualized units of language use [Roy, 2000].


Main inferences of the first part

1.     Discourse analysis is a method of seeking in any connected discrete linear material, whether language or language-like, which contains more than one elementary sentence, some global structure characterizing the whole discourse, or large sections of it.

2.     There are three areas of definition discourse analysis: one viewed from within a linguistic project; one from within a sociolinguistic project; one surfaced in a social theoretical context.

3.     Contemporary directions of studies of discourse: one can note a continuation of a more linguistic use of the term in which discourse is viewed as the layer of meaning; another one attends to textual, processual and social-actional dimensions of communicative behaviour.

4.     Modern studies of discourse analysis: forensic discourse analysis, professional discourse studies, discourse stylistics, multimodal discourse analysis, critical discourse perspective, discursive psychology etc.

5.     Language is produced as units produced in chunks often defined by intonation or the completeness of a thought or idea, not as syntactically whole structures like sentences; discourse is best portrayed as "utterances," larger than other units of language, but also "the smaller unit of which discourse is comprised".

6.     Discourse analysis can focus on structure and on function of the language.

7.     Within discourse analysis, context can be part of the immediate, local nature of a face-to-face interaction, as well as the larger, global nature of the social and cultural situation of a society.


2. The notion speech event

2.1. The notion speech event in linguistics

In sociolinguistics it is argued that forms of communication in a society depend on the level and type of its cultural development. Study of the forms of communication is possible through the study of language.  Names of communicative and speech events are presented in the lexis of a language. Lexical units form a system and within the lexical system of a language we can define a group of names of speech events. The study of the meanings of these lexical units reflected in dictionaries and texts helps to reconstruct a system of complex speech events in a certain culture.

Speech event is a type of communicative event in which speech is the main component. We regard meeting, conference, summit, wedding, funerals, elections, party, primaries, exam, etc. as belonging to a group of complex speech events. We use this term to oppose such events as greeting or small talk with evidently less complex structure.

The term speech event has been introduced by D. Hymes for the needs of the ethnography of communication (Hymes, 1972; Gumperz, 1982). In the ethnography of communication an approach for analysis and interpretation of typical forms of speech communication in different cultures has been worked out (Coulthard, 1985).

The notion event is used in different fields of linguistics and has been discussed a lot in linguistic philosophy, cognitive psychology, cognitive linguistics, semantics, the theory of speech genres and the theory of communication (Goffman 1974; Bakhtin 1979; Arutunova 1988; Goldin 1997; Iriskhanova 1997; McCarthy 2001).

D. Hymes (1972) distinguishes between elementary and complex speech events. V.Ye. Goldin (1997) develops the ideas of  D. Hymes and defines complex speech events as communicative events characterized by a complex structure and which are planned, controlled, of particular social importance, with a significant speech component.

System of names of speech events in a language is heterogeneous. We divide the names of complex speech events (and therefore events denoted by them) into groups according to a particular communicative sphere they belong to. Complex speech events belong to the sphere of politics (summit, visit, coronation, etc.), business (negotiations, board meeting, presentation, job interview, etc.), law (trial, cross-examination, etc.), education (exam, seminar, lecture, etc.), mass media (interview, chat-show, etc.), etc.

Applying the approach of ethnolinguistics (Tolstoj, 1995) to the study of complex speech events, we may find the following components of a speech event structure: communicative roles of participants, speech component in the form of different speech genres, actions (movements of participants e.g. people stand up to the sounds of a national anthem or greeting the judge) and symbolic objects associated with the event (e.g. a wedding dress, a certificate, a flag, etc.). The similar approach to the study was offered in the ethnography of communication.

Complex speech events are heterogeneous not only due to their different social encounters but due to the significance of a speech component in them. Thus, a briefing and debates demonstrate a domineering role of the speech component, while a reception and a party are characterized also by a number of rituals.

         Despite the fact that in different cultures and languages we may find equivalent events and their names, they are not identical. For instance, English meeting, lesson and session are not merely Russian sobranie, urok and sessia. Frameworks of the events are different. These differences are caused by historical, cultural and language reasons. In this respect the names of complex speech events can be called cultural terms [Dubrovskaya, 2006].


2.2. A diachronic approach to the study of complex speech events

Having used the terminology and notions of the ethnography of communication we have created a corpus of the names of complex speech events in Russian and English and examples of their use in speech. The research has shown that on the one hand, the system of the names of speech events is open. It means that new elements are added freely to the system.  On the other hand, it is limited due to the limited number of forms of communication in society. We may conclude that the system under study is stable but flexible.

We discuss the issue of cultural identity in terms of speech events because the limited number of types of speech events in each culture helps to maintain cultural identity and distinguishes one culture from another.

Structure of speech events can be represented as a framework with such components as time and space location, aim of the event, results, participants and their communicative roles, actions, elementary speech events, etc. (Iriskhanova, 1997). This approach clarifies interrelations of the meaning of a complex speech event and its functions. It also proves the great role of a cultural component in its structure.

The above discussed features of complex speech events help to see their connection with the social and political framework of society. The appearance of some new political institutions or change in their system adds new forms to the structure of communication and new vocabulary to the language. A diachronic approach can be used to prove it.

The Russian language of Soviet epoch is characterized by a number of names of specific complex speech events sovietisms, reflecting typical for totalitarianism forms of communication: partsobranie (a communist party meeting), prorabotka (a meeting with strong criticism of the party members), tovarischeskij sud (comrades court a trial at the working place), etc. In modern Russian these names have changed their role in communication. means now a meeting of any political party, while the other two are not used. It means that the forms of communication denoted by these names have changed and the identity of Russia in this sphere has been transformed.

The place of a complex speech event in the structure of communication in a certain historic period is connected with actual realization of the names of events in speech. For instance, pioneer meetings in 1990-s were replaced by scouts meetings (as a way to preserve the old type of event in a new form).

In modern Russian there is a considerable list of names of different types of meetings (while in English, for instance, there are more names of different parties). It shows that language reflects the communication structured differently in different cultures.

Nevertheless, similarity of social institutions in Russia and other countries causes universal features in modern patterns of communication. In Russian most names of complex speech events are borrowings and international words [Dubrovskaya, 2006].


2.3.         A synchronic approach to the study of complex speech events

The frequency of occurrence in speech of the name of this or that complex speech event depends on its importance in society at the moment. For example, during an election campaign a lot of names of events of this sphere move from passive to active vocabulary of mass media. It is interesting, that the whole approach to the organization of the campaign differs greatly from that in Soviet times. Nowadays borrowings from English are used without any comments for the audience: e.g. primaries is used in Russian as , another name of a speech event exit poll is also widely used in press and on television ( ). Although the explanations of these terms are possible, English words better express the meaning of the events. The latter is the example of borrowing both the name and the structure of the event. The former term was used to describe events in the USA. Some changes still demonstrate Russian identity. Russian parliament is called duma (a historic name is used), thus members of the state (also regional or city) duma have meetings of the duma with the speaker (another borrowing) as a chairperson.

Politics is one of the spheres that undergo most changes in the speech event perspective. Others are business and mass media. Some events and their names have been borrowed recently and transformed these communicative spheres greatly. For instance lexical units training, presentation, job interview are widely used now. Youth subculture is another sphere of borrowing new vocabulary and forms of communication. It helps Russia to integrate into the worlds culture.

Russian identity depends very much on the state politics. We can name at least two trends in national policy that help to preserve and develop this identity.

The first one is support of ethnic cultural organizations (there are ethnic assemblies, concerts in which representatives of different ethnic groups participate, festivals, Weeks and Days of some culture in a particular region, etc.).

The second trend is introducing new holidays. Some of them are international (e.g. Earth Day, etc.). Others are national holidays, bank days. The changes that take place are connected with the dates, names and meanings of holidays. We include the names of holidays into the study because they are represented by a great number of complex speech events and we have introduced a term hypercomplex speech event to name those forms of communication which are dispersed in time and space but still have the boundaries and have speech communication as the major component (cf. election campaign, Christmas celebrations, etc.). For example, now there is no such a holiday as The Great October Socialist Revolution Day (November, 7); the Day of Soviet Army was first transformed into the Day of Russian Army and now February, 23 is the Day of Defender of Motherland and it has become a day off and in a way it can be compared to the Fathers Day. These transformations reflected in the language contain information about social changes [Dubrovskaya, 2006].


2.4. Speech acts

In this section we discuss the notion of speech act which has developed from the work of linguistic philosophers.

Speech act theory originates in Austin's (1962) observation that while sentences can often be used to report states of affairs, the utterance of some sentences, such as I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow and I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth must, in specified circumstances, be treated as the performance of an act.

Such utterances Austin described as performatives' and the specified circumstances required for their success he outlined as a set of 'felicity conditions'. More precisely, utterances such as I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow and I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth are examples of explicit performatives which are not just a specialised group of ritual sentence forms, but are a subset of the utterances in the language which can be used to perform acts.

Another subset are utterances which can be described as implicit performatives, as in examples Out!; Sixpence; Ill be there at 5 oclock; Trespasses will be prosecuted.

None of these examples contains a performative verb, but Out! can be used by a cricket umpire to perform an act of dismissal, Sixpence by a card-player to make a bet, Ill be there at 5 oclock by anyone to make a promise and Trespasses will be prosecuted by a landowner to issue a warning. By extension, it became possible to suggest that in uttering any sentence, a speaker could be seen to have performed some act, or, to be precise, an illocutionary act. Conventionally associated with each illocutionary act is the force of the utterance which can be expressed as a performative such as 'promise' or 'warn'. Austin also pointed out that, in uttering a sentence, a speaker also performs a perlocutionary act which can be described in terms of the effect which the illocutionary act, on the particular occasion of use, has on the hearer.

This is an extremely brief summary of the basic elements in what has been developed since Austin, by Searle and many others, as Speech Act theory. Searle (1975) also introduces a distinction between direct and indirect speech acts which depends on a recognition of the intended perlocutionary effect of an utterance on a particular occasion. Indirect speech acts are 'cases in which one illocutionary act is performed indirectly by way of performing another'. Thus, example Can you speak a little louder? can be seen as, at one level, a question about the hearer's ability, but, at another level, a request for action.

A sentence such as Can you speak a little louder, though interrogative in form, is conventionally used, as Searle points out, to make a request.

The principle interest of Speech Act theory, for the discourse analyst is that it provides an account of how some apparently formally unconnected utterances go together in conversational discourse to form a coherent sequence. There are, however, a number of general problems with the application of Speech Act theory in the analysis of conversational discourse. An important practical drawback is expressed by Levinson (1980) in the following terms: 'If one looks even cursorily at a transcribed record of a conversation, it becomes immediately clear that we do not know how to assign speech acts in a non-arbitrary way.' The problem with identifying speech acts should not necessarily lead the analyst to abandon their investigation. Rather, it should lead the analyst to recognise that the way speech acts are conventionally classified into discrete act-types such as 'request', 'promise', 'warn', etc. may lead to an inappropriate view of what speakers do with utterances. From the speaker's point of view several sentences (or syntactic chunks) strung together may constitute a single act. Thus, a fairly extended utterance may be interpreted as a warning or as an apology. On the other hand, one utterance may perform several simultaneous acts. Consider the following utterance of a husband to his wife: Hey, Michele, youve passed the exam. He may be 'doing' several things at once. He may be simultaneously 'asserting', 'congratulating', 'apologising' (for his doubts), etc. As it is presently formulated, Speech Act theory does not offer the discourse analyst a way of determining how a particular set of linguistic elements, uttered in a particular conversational context, comes to receive a particular interpreted meaning [Brown and Yule, 1988].


Main inferences of the second part 

1.     Lexical units form a system and within the lexical system of a language we can define a group of names of speech events. Speech event is a type of communicative event in which speech is the main component.

2.     The notion event is used in different fields of linguistics and has been discussed a lot in linguistic philosophy, cognitive psychology, cognitive linguistics, semantics, the theory of speech genres and the theory of communication.

3.     We can distinguishe between elementary and complex speech events.

4.     The system of the names of speech events is open: new elements are added freely to the system, but it is limited due to the limited number of forms of communication in society.

5.     Structure of speech events can be represented as a framework with such components as time and space location, aim of the event, results, participants and their communicative roles, actions, elementary speech events, etc.

6.     The frequency of occurrence in speech of the name of this or that complex speech event depends on its importance in society at the moment.

7.     Speech act theory originates in Austin's observation that while sentences can often be used to report states of affairs, the utterance of some sentences must, in specified circumstances, be treated as the performance of an act. Such utterances Austin described as performatives' and the specified circumstances required for their success he outlined as a set of 'felicity conditions'.



In the present work we have considered and analysed the main concepts and questions concerning the problems of notions discourse analysis and speech event. We have arrived at the following conclusion.

The identification and analysis of discourses is now a preoccupation across the humanities and social sciences. Commenting on his own use of the word discourse, Foucault writes: I believe I have in fact added to its meanings: treating it sometimes as the general domain of statements, sometimes as an individualizable group of statements, and sometimes as a regulated practice that accounts for a number of statements (Foucault, 1984). So, the analysis of discourse is the analysis of the domain of statements that is, of texts, and of utterances as constituent elements of texts. But that does not mean a concern with detailed analysis of texts the concern is more a matter of discerning the rules which govern bodies of texts and utterances. The discourse is used abstractly (as an abstract noun) for the domain of statements, and concretely as a count noun (a discourse, several discourses) for groups of statements or for the regulated practice (the rules) which govern such a group of statements.

We see discourses as ways of representing aspects of the world the processes, relations and structures of the material world, the mental world of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and so forth, and the social world. Particular aspects of the world may be represented differently, so we are generally in the position of having to consider the relationship between different discourses. Different discourses are different perspectives on the world, and they are associated with the different relations people have to the world, which in turn depends on their positions in the world, their social and personal identities, and the social relationships in which they stand to other people. Discourses not only represent the world as it is (or rather is seen to be), they are also projective, imaginaries, representing possible worlds which are different from the actual world, and tied in to projects to change the world in particular directions. The relationships between different discourses are one element of the relationships between different people they may complement one another, compete with one another, one can dominate others, and so forth. Discourses constitute part of the resources which people deploy in relating to one another keeping separate from one another, cooperating, competing, dominating and in seeking to change the ways in which they relate to one another [Fairclough, 2004].

To conclude, as is evident from the work presented, the nature and structure of the discourse event and speech event are complex due to the interrelationships among the participants and their aims, their expectations and assumptions, the ways in which meaning emerges, and the way participants represent those meanings in their languages. Studying discourse, its phenomena and speech event among and between the participants and the interpreter explicates how the interpreting process works and how the interpreter works within it.

In todays linguistics the  studies of discourse analysis and speech events seem envisaging further development from different scientific positions: discourse practice, discourse technologies, geosemiotics, process of globalization and others.


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Discourse analysis, studies of discourse, speech event, complex speech events, Speech acts, aspect of language use, monologues and dialogues, spoken and written media in communication, language phenomena, linguistic project, speech-act theory, conversation analysis, Critical discourse analysis, sexist discourses, multimodal discourse analysis, face-to-face interaction, lexical system of a language, linguistic philosophy, cognitive psychology, cognitive linguistics, theory of communication

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