Revolution Lullabye

September 10, 2007

CCR 735 Notes Barton

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 2:29 am

Barton, Ellen. “Linguistics and Discourse Analysis.” In English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Ed. Bruce McComiskey. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. 67-81.

In this essay, the author discusses the place of lingusitics in the academy. She explains that often lingusitics (as a scientific study of language) is defined as its own discipline but is closely related (by tenure lines, faculty, joint programs) to English departments as well.  Her primary purpose in the essay is to look at ways in which lingusitics and discourse analysis have situated themselves in English departments and how this placement has informed both the fields of English studies and of linguistics, especially in how the theories and theorizing practices of English can enrich linguistic discourse analysis. Her argument is based on her study of the topic of prognosis in the discourse of medicine. In the first part of her essay, she reviews some of the major 20th century linguistics theorists, including Saussure, Boaz, Sapir, Bloomfield, and Chomsky. She points out that linguistics sees language both synchronically (out of time – focus on the structures) and diachronically (in historical context.) Linguistics has a dual, interdisciplinary scientific/humanities identity: it has recieved federal funding through the National Science Foundation because it has argued that language is cognitive (scientific) and has been funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities because of the work done on the social context for language. Discourse analysis projects that are based on linguistics are one kind of interdisicplinary research projects English studies and linguistics scholars can pursue.

Quotable Quotes

“My experience leads me to argue that lingusitics provides a substantive and robust theory of language as an object of study and offers discourse analysis as an empircal method for describing the organization of language in context; English studies provides an equally substantive and robust understanding of discourses as configurations of power and knowledge and offers a range of interpretive and critical methods for theorizing discourses” (69).

“A broader, though still controversial, characterization of teh field might be to say that linguistics investigates language as both a cognitive and social object, viewing language as a set of structures and a variety of functions. Under this view, speakers have internalized both the rules of grammatical structure and the conventions that underlie the situated and communicative functions of language in context” (77).

Notable Notes

When was linguistics founded? 1916 (pub. of Saussure); 1911 (pub. of Franz Boas); 1933 (pub. of Bloomfield’s Language); 1957 (pub. of Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures.)

Saussure = distinguishes between langue (a language system) and parole (an individual act of speech situated in a certain context.)

Boas/Sapir = described the structure of native American languages

Bloomfield = developed a grammar of langauge, building up from sounds (phoentics) to words (morphology) to sentences (syntax) to discourse. He believed that linguistics could not study meaning scientifically.

Chomsky = shot down behaviorism as a way to explain langauge structure and acquisition; he believed that the ability of humans to acquire langauge has to do with cognition and development. Rules of langauges and grammar are deeply embedded in the human mind.

Barton, Ellen and Gail Stygall. Discourse Studies in Composition. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, 2002. 1-9.

The editors of this collection, Barton and Stygall, point out that the systematic study of discourses (linguistics and discourse analysis) has not been fully incorporated into the field of composition even though the two have parallel and sometimes overlapping histories and purposes. They blame some of the lack of coordination between the two fields to a tension between the composition teacher’s authority on how to teach individual students how to write (and the emerging process movement) and linguistics’ scientific studies on the proper use and structure of language. This tension did not prevent all interaction; both compositionists and discourse scholars attended the Dartmouth Conference in 1966 and the British linguists and compositionists there (Britton, Dixon) profoundly affected the American attendees and the development of the American discipline of composition. Composition and linguistics also joined forces during the heydey of the sentence combining era of the 1970s, but many in composition who were suspicious of this scientific, seemingly prescriptive approach dismissed it and moved further and further away from linguistic study. In the 1980s, linguistics took a contextual, social turn and began investigating spoken langauge in the new sub-field of discourse analysis. Linguistic theory, though, dropped out of favor in the late 1980s in the college English curriculum, as focus was shifted to literature and writing. However, discourse analysis research does pop up in composition research through cohesion analysis of texts, second language writing research and analysis, studies in language variation, and literacy issues.

Quotable Quotes

“The primary strengths that discourse studies brings to composition are in its ability to do two things: to elaborate and specify the discourse features of writing itself and to elaborate and specify the discourse contexts in which writing takes place” (3).

“What discourse analysis brings to composition, then, is both a theory of language in use and a methodology with which to formulate and test insights about social interaction and structural analysis” (9).

Notable Notes

Look into the Oregon Curriculum – transformational grammar in the secondary schools.

Sentence combining in the 1970s was composition’s answer to teaching grammar – Frank O’Hare, John Mellon, William Strong, Miami University, Donald Daiker, Francis Christensen

1987 meeting of the English Coalition Conference (“Democracy through Langauge”)


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