Someone, I think, warned me here at the beginning of the semester that Discourse Analysis will turn me into a cynic. Now towards the end of the term, I’m beginning to see the point of the observation. Thirteen weeks spent looking at the way language and speech work to serve plenty communicative purposes is enough to rewire a previously harmless brain into looking at the world differently. Or not.
Billions of texts are generated everyday from online and telephone conversations, and the work in ethnography of speaking/communication seeks to plow through the relevant portions of them to make generalizations. It is fun. It is also a consciously empowering one. The skills to be gained from learning to analyse discourse include a more analytical approach to making generalizations. It also builds the ability to use specialized language to refer to what can already be understood by someone not in the field of linguistics. What we see when we study discourse is not new, but what we acquire are new ways to look at it and explain it to ourselves, and the world.
I spent the weekend reading up on the work of Derrida and Barthe and the influences of their post-structuralist ideas on linguistics and the way we interpret language use. A recent article by Deborah Cameron exposes the danger of coming to analysis with our own ideas conditioned by societal expectations. I think my class project will be interesting. I just have to come up to the table with a critical angle to analyse a few of my own long-held preconceptions, then tear them to the ground. You can see that I haven’t yet become a cynic.