Sociocultural Discourse Analysis

Barb Meek – University of Michigan
Susan Philips – University of Arizona
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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The purpose of this course is to provide training in discourse analysis that focuses on how culture is manifest in discourse practices.  Recordings of socially occurring speech render relatively ephemeral speech in a material and permanent form that gives it cultural reliability and repeatability not available in data collected through other anthropological/ethnographic research methods such as participant observation and note taking.  Topics include: 1) Research design.  When is recording useful, appropriate, and ethical; what kinds of activities will be recorded and how much material in hours will be recorded? 2) Transcription, translation and computer entry of recordings.  How to choose what to transcribe and how much to transcribe; in-field versus after-fieldwork transcription and translation; selection of transcription formats and software for coding data.  3) Analysis based on recordings, transcripts and coding of transcripts. Using the comparative method, identification of relevant units of interaction and their internal sequencing; comparison of multiple instances of the same units of interaction; comparison of multiple kinds of units of interaction and forms of talk; relating discourse analysis to other kinds of data concerning forms of local knowledge in order to make claims for sociocultural processes greater in scale than the discourse data.  4) Analysis of linguistic structures crucial to the interactional constitution of cultural processes, e.g. mood/modality; agency; evidentiality.  This will be a hands-on course involving analysis of data provided by the instructors.  This approach can serve scholars interested in how culture and language are mutually constituted through not only socially occurring speech, but also in interviews, in written records and in the media.  The planning and implementation of research in linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology, sociolinguistics, and language change can be strengthened by greater knowledge of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of discourse analysis.

Some experience with linguistic analysis/description is preferred, but not required.

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