chapter  17
17 Pages

Constrained but Not Determined: Approaches to Discourse Analysis

In fairly stark terms, Harris’s epigraph captures what would become the tension between “formal linguistic” or “structural” approaches to language study and what has been termed more recently the “social turn.” For Harris (an early teacher of Noam Chomsky), discourse was seen as an accretion of lower-level features. “Discourse analysis” implied the study of the operations of structures, without regard to meaning, “above the sentence.” This separation of structure from meaning is unfamiliar in today’s applied linguistics. Widdowson (2004) points out that a “text” can be smaller than a sentence insofar as, for example, the single letter P, designating a parking space, conveys a complete message.