D is for Discourse Analysis

Ken BeattyDr. Ken Beatty

Discourse analysis is about understanding what is not said. Consider this conversation:

Speaker 1: Do you think we could watch a movie?
Speaker 2: Ah, yeah. That’s gonna happen. Have you practiced piano?
Speaker 1: I’ll just get a snack first?
Speaker 2: Sure. We can eat it during the movie.

If you are a native speaker of English, the conversation will strike you as easy to understand and, hopefully, humorous. But that’s because you were able to recognize a series of subtle linguistic cues. These cues are typical in any conversational exchange, but also in written discussions, such as in texts and emails. It’s worth looking at eight types of discourse-analysis cues in detail and seeing how they would apply to this short conversation.

The first cue has to do with the setting, or where the speech event is located in time and space. If you’re a native speaker, you probably realize this conversation takes place at a home in the evening because practicing the piano fits into that particular schemata (mind map of associated ideas). Although people practice piano at music schools, it’s more commonly practiced at home. This is reinforced by the idea of someone asking permission to have a snack and watch a movie, which also gives a clue about the participants.

Participants in a conversation are those who take part in the speech event, and the roles they play. In the short conversation above, the act of asking for something—a snack—helps to define roles and makes it likely that the conversation is between a child and a parent. Continue reading

Pronunciation from the Perspective of a Linguist/Speech-Language Pathologist

Jenna Luque

Jenna Luque

Julia Moore

As linguists (and in Jenna’s case, as a speech language pathologist as well), we have been taught to see how speech sounds are formed in the vocal tract and how to get learners to produce sounds more accurately. Jenna’s experience in working with clients has shown her that learners can use the senses of hearing, vision, and touch to hear and produce sounds more accurately, but that each learner varies in how they use these senses in pronunciation work. Therefore, it is important to introduce learners to how all three senses may be used, and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading