Conceptual delimitation" "social work

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  • Scollon & Scollon, Discourse and Intercultural Communication

1. Discourse analysis as a polysemic term

On the one hand, it refers to the close linguistic study, from different perspectives, of texts in use. On the other hand, discourse refers to socially shared habits of thought, perception, and behavior reflected in numerous texts belonging to different genres. In the first sense, discourse analysis grows out of a heterogeneous group of disciplines

including linguistic analysis, French structuralism, the ethnography of communication, Hallidayan functional linguistics, linguistic philosophy, pragmatics, and variation analysis, all of which focus on the analysis and interpretation of texts in use. In the second sense, discourse analysis grows out of critical, sociocultural, sociological, or historical analysis. It merged in 1990// social practice and discourse are mutually constitutive phenomena. Social practices are understood as being constituted in and through discursive social interaction while at the same time those social interactions are taken as instantiations of pre-existing social practices.

2. Intercultural communication, meaning and relationship with discourse analysis

“Intercultural communication” and "cross-cultural communication" are problematical in relationship to discourse analysis in that they have developed out of a conceptually wider range of disciplines including anthropology, sociology, social psychology, speech, communication, management or business communication, and even international political science. Adding to this problematicity has been the largely practical or applied nature of intercultural and cross-cultural communication studies. Researchers have often had much greater involvement with non-academic colleagues in workplaces and with professionals than has been the case with most discourse analysts until relatively recently.

3. Intertextuality/interdiscursivity

All texts represent different voices engaged in implied if not actual dialog with each other. Within discourse analysis and intercultural communication, cultural units have been dissolved into boundless forms of intertextuality and interdiscursivity. Culture has largely been demoted to the status of a minor discursive formation at best. That is, culture in the sense of "Chinese culture" or "European culture" might be used as one of a very wide range of discourses at play in any particular instance of discourse.


4. Contextualization cues: their relevance and  purpose in discourse analysis

An intercultural or interactional sociolinguistic approach would identify people from these different groups who are in social interaction with each other. Through a close analysis of the discourse actually produced, the analyst would first identify breakdowns in communication, then try to find the sources of the breakdowns in the language used as well as in the misinterpretation of contextualization cues . Differences between the participant would most likely be understood as arising from a history of socialization to different. Groups and therefore a misunderstanding of contextualization cues in the actual situation of communicating with each other.

5. The concept and role of culture

With this change of focus has come a change in assumptions about the purposes of research and of the entities upon which analysis should be focused, Rather than seeking an explanation of how given identities and meanings are communicated or fail to be communicated, what is sought is an understanding of how identities and meanings are constituted in and through the interaction itself. The role of culture and other a priori categories in this model is as historical and cultural archives of tools through which social actions are taken by participants.

6. Interdiscursive communication: what is its aim?

We have called our own approach to intercultural communication a "discourse pproach" (Scollon and Scollon 1445) and we have preferred to call what we do "interdiscourse communication." We take the position that in any instance of actual communication we are multiply positioned within an indefinite number of Discourses (in the Gee sense) Or within what we have called discourse systems. These discourse systems would include those of gender, generation, profession, corporate or institutional placement, regional, ethnic, and other possible identities. As each of these discourse systems is manifested in a complex network of forms of discourse, face relationships, socialization patterns and

ideologies, this multiple membership and identity produces simultaneous internal (to the person) and external contradictions.

7. Mediated discourse and its relation to culture

A mediated discourse approach would begin by asking why the problem was posed in the Erst place as a problem in communication between members of different cultural or other discourse-based groups. The primary question would be: what is the social action in which you are interested and how does this analysis promise to focus on some aspect of social life that is worth understanding? This concern with social action would treat the group identities of the participants as problematical only to the extent that such membership can be shown to be productive of ideological contradiction, on the one hand, or that the participants themselves call upon social group membership in making strategic claims within the actions under study, on the other. Thus the analysis would not presuppose cultural membership but rather ask how the concept of culture arises in these social actions. Who has introduced culture as a relevant category, for what purposes, and with what consequences? In this sense a mediated discourse analysis is a way of erasing the field of intercultural communication by dissolving the foundational questions and reconstituting the research agenda around social action, not categorical memberships or cultural genres.


  • Mantzoukas, Exploring ethnographic genres and developing validity appraisal tools
  1. The aims, methods of data collection and analysis of classical ethnography, critical ethnography and interpretive ethnography in qualitative research

Classical ethnographic genre

Epistemology: Cultural and social reality is ahistorical, that is out there independent of human thought and values. Classical ethnography can truthfully, objectively and exhaustively capture and represent this cultural and social reality.

Aims: The aim is to discover and describe the culture reality so as to reproduce the researched culture reality with accuracy, objectivity and authenticity. The mantra is

‘telling it as it is’.

Data collection is done by direct and prolonged observations of present social and cultural structures. The researcher immerses in the researched culture and uses participant observations so as to observe anything that takes place (observations of participants are not predefined, but are randomly observed so as to capturethe mundane). The researcher maintains a ‘native’, ‘stranger’ or even ‘a fly on the wall’ stance and writes in an impersonal, impartial and dispassionate manner neutralizing and invisibilising both the researcher and the techniques of inquiry.

The data are analysed by producing rich and thick descriptions of the cultural reality, including extensive verbatim quotes. The data analysis concludes with the production of a series of linear and hierarchical classifications/taxonomies, which are systematised into general statements producing theories and laws with regards to social phenomena.

Critical ethnography genre

Epistemology: Cultural and social reality is a historically bounded formation that individuals do not have direct access to because it is intentionally and artfully blurred,

distorted and manipulated by powerful members of society. Critical ethnography can disclose the distorted reality by identifying the underlying synergies that actually create that illusionary reality, hence empowering, emancipating and representing marginalized, oppressed and deviant groups.


The aim is to unpack, interpret and analyze the culture reality so as to untangle the historical contingencies and reveal the cultural substratum that influences and creates specific worldviews and cultures. The eventual aim is to emancipate, empower and transform the lived reality of participants. The mantra is ‘giving voice.

Data collection is done by confrontational dialogical and reflective interviews are the principal data collecting method used to discover specific systems relationships and reveal hidden meanings. Complementary methods are non-participant observations and analysis of historical documentations. The participants are purposefully selected for what they know. The researcher maintains subjective familiar and passionate relation to the topic/culture uses reflection to present this subjectivity and is able to neatly separate

the Self from the Other. The data are analyzed by invoking sociological and reflective imagination producing brief excerpts from interviews that are explained and interpreted. The data analysis concludes with the creation of images and metaphors that re-frame the familiar in a new social light.

Interpretive ethnography genre

Epistemology: Cultural and social reality is a human and textual construction that is influenced by both historical formations and by current developments. Interpretive ethnography as a language is a construct of humans that is used as a tool to create, fabricate and narrate both the researcher’s self and the researched world.

The aim is to construct and narrate the culture reality to provide accounts that possess depth, detail, emotionality, nuance and imagination of the participants’ worlds. The eventual aim is the personal engagement of the researcher with participants to excavate meaning and to speak clearly about the immediacy and intensity of some aspect of the researched world. The mantra is ‘storytelling’.

Data collection is done by using multiple methods, e.G. Interviews, observations, videos, pictures, etc. The data collection process begins with a personal moment or confession of the researcher, and continues at multiple sites, contexts and levels with the researcher focusing specific moments of cultural activities where discourses and power relations produce themselves (rather than individuals) in order to extrapolate meaning, e.G. On a

rare moment or moments of conflict or struggle. The researcher is part of the research text and maintains personal and reflexive relations to the topic/culture, which is used both as a tool by the researcher to understand others and as a framework to interpret experiences. The data are analyzed by juxtaposing sites and relationships, and comparing emergent issues or objects of study that were not known beforehand. The data analysis concludes by constructing a coherent narrative account of different, complex and connecting discursive issues. Finally, the analysis of the intended coherence of the narrative continues by the reader that deconstructs and eventually re-constructs in a creative manner the narrative.


  • Smart, Ethnographic-based discourse analysis. Uses,  issues and prospects
  •  Distinction between method and methodology : According to this distinction, a method is a set of procedures for collecting and analyzing research data. A methodology, on the other hand, is broader: a methodology is a method plus an underlying set of ideas about the nature of reality and knowledge.
  • Interpretative ethnography in the Geertzian  tradition

Interpretive ethnography in the Geertzian tradition is used to explore a particular social group's discourse practices — as these are instantiated in writing, speaking, or other symbolic actions — in order to learn how members of the group view and operate within their mutually constructed conceptual world. The goal of such research is to gain a quasi-insider's understanding of how group members interact and communicate with one another, what they believe and value, how they define and solve problems, how they create and apply knowledge, and how they accomplish learning and work.

Ethnographers use a variéty of methods for gathering data, including participant observation, interviews, text analysis, surveys and focus groups. As data are gathered and analysed, the researcher works to produce a `thick description' of the local conceptual world that is discursively created and maintained by the group understudy. 

Ethnographic-based discourse analysis is particularly appropriate for exploring learning and knowledge-making in school and workplace settings.

  •  Difference between the terms ‘ethnography’ and ‘case study’ A case study, which focuses on a small number of informants in their everyday rounds of life or on a single significant event, and an ethnography, which looks at the local culture of a social group, viewed as a collective, and produces a holistic account of the shared conceptual world that is discursively constructed and maintained by the group.

 ‘Thick description’

The meaning of the term `thick description' was originated by Geertz. While the notion has been taken by some methodologists and researchers to mean simply a highly detailed account of a culture (quite understandably, given the face meaning of the phrase), a close look at Geertz's work and methodological logic reveals something much more specific. For Geertz (1973: 14), a thick description of the culture of a social group comprises an account of that group’s ‘interworked systems of construable signs', its `structures of meaning ... And systems of symbols' (1973: 182) and its `mutually reinforcing network of social understandings' (1983: 156). In other words, a thick description is an account of the discursive system used by the members of a social group to construct a particular shared version of reality, a unique conceptual world.

  • Can ethnographic-based discourse analysis be combined with another approach within a single research project?

This is a leading question, admittedly, and my answer to it is 'yes' — ethnographic-based discourse analysis can indeed be effectively combined with another approach within a research project, under certain conditions. The caveat here is that the two methodologies need to share similar assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge. Martin & Rose, Genre Relations

‘Thick description’

The meaning of the term `thick description' was originated by Geertz. While the notion has been taken by some methodologists and researchers to mean simply a highly detailed account of a culture (quite understandably, given the face meaning of the phrase), a close look at Geertz's work and methodological logic reveals something much more specific. For Geertz (1973: 14), a thick description of the culture of a social group comprises an account of that group’s ‘interworked systems of construable signs', its `structures of meaning ... And systems of symbols' (1973: 182) and its `mutually reinforcing network of social understandings' (1983: 156). In other words, a thick description is an account of the discursive system used by the members of a social group to construct a particular shared version of reality, a unique conceptual world.

  • Can ethnographic-based discourse analysis be combined with another approach within a single research project?

This is a leading question, admittedly, and my answer to it is 'yes' — ethnographic-based discourse analysis can indeed be effectively combined with another approach within a research project, under certain conditions. The caveat here is that the two methodologies need to share similar assumptions about the nature of reality and knowledge. Martin & Rose, Genre Relations

  • Discourse Analysis and Narrative ( Barbara Johnstone)
  • Structuralist Narratology: the most immediate context for discourse analysts’ work on narrative.
  • First approach: Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale  (more biology than linguistics) //Syntax
  • Second approach: Claude Leve-Strauss/ formal semantics. Describing abstracts elements of meaning.
  • They share two assumtions: abstract level// narrative can be separated from events it is about.
  • Oral Versions of Personal Experience” (Labov and Waletzky)
  • Labov: Personal experience narrative (PEN):
  • Abstract: summarize the story to come. “danger of death” . It announces that the narrator has a story to tell.
  • Orientation: introduces characters, setting, situation. Often occurs near the beginning
  •  Complicating action: recapitulate a sequence of events leading up to their climax
  •  Evaluation/ result or resolution: realeases the tension and tells what finally happened.
  • Coda. Announce that the story is over.

For Labov narrative was a sequence of clauses with at least  one temporal juncture.// some stories are different.

  • Other Work on the Structure of Narrative
  • Why people Tell Stories.  “Autobiographical impulse”


  • Getting going with the genre 

Report: Some factual texts, like [1:4] generalized about experience, drawing on research about classes of phenomena; these were called reports.

Description: Others focused on specific first hand observations, and often expressed the feelings of writers to what they were describing (these were written by both boys and girls). Text of this kind was termed descriptions.

Procedures: How to texts.

Just so stories: Explain how the world came to be the way it is.

Anecdote: there were anecdotes, which involve some remarkable disruption usually, which is not resolved, but simply reacted to.  The remarkable event may be tragic or comic, engaging or revolting, so the ensuing reaction may be either positive or negative affect.

Exemplum : exemplum, which also involve a disruption,  but this is interpreted rather than reacted to, and the type of attitude expressed in the interpretation tends to be judgment of people’s character or behavior. Again the incident may involve behavior that is either admirable or damnable, so the ensuing judgment may admire or criticize, praise or condemn.

Recount: (when we arrived, after we had lunch, after I went on the trample, after the rugby leg game, after I finished my ice-cream). The linguists involved called this kind of text a recount. -The distinction we drew between observation/comments and recounts was based on the presence or absence of an unfolding sequence of events; and the distinction between reports and descriptions was based on whether the facts presented were generic or specific.

Field refers to what is happening, to the nature of the social action that is taking place: what it is that the participants are engaged in, in which language figures as some essential component.


Tenor refers to who is taking part, to the nature of the participants, their statuses and roles: what kinds of role relationship obtain, including permanent and temporary relationships of one kind or another, both the types of speech roles they are taking on in the dialogue and the whole cluster of socially significant relationships in which they are involved.

Mode refers to what part language is playing, what it is that the participants are expecting language to do for them in the situation: the symbolic organization of the  text, the status that it has, and its function in the context (Halliday 1985/9:12).

Taken together the tenor, field and mode of a situation constitute the register of a text . That is, from the perspective of language, we will now refer to the context of situation of a text as its register. As register varies, so too do the patterns of meanings we find in a text. Because they vary systematically, we refer to tenor, field and mode as register variables.

Discourse analysis

“The study of spoken & written language in use beyondsentence boundaries in communication exchanges”

The analysis of language “beyond the sentence” Not only the study of grammar: Studies of smaller bits of language: parts of words (morphology), meaning (semantics), and the order of words in sentences (syntax).

Discourse analysts study larger chunks of language as  they flow together.

2. What can be analyzed: Context, participants, processes. Functions What is persuasive discourse like? What is narrative / descriptive /instructional /argumentative discourse like? Participants How do men talk in all-male groups? What is newspaper

writing like? Settings What goes on in classrooms? In workplaces? Processes

How do children learn to get the conversational floor? How do people create social categories like ‘girl’ or ‘foreigner’ or ‘old person’ as they talk to, about, among

each other? Textual characteristics of text Adequacy (variety: dialectal/standard); Property of a text that leads to the use of linguistic resources that are inherent to each situation: variety (dialectal/standard), register (general /specific, oral/written, objective/subjective, formal/informal).


Register (oral/written; objective/subjective; formal/informal): Degree of technical specificity or generality of an instance of discourse.

Coherence (relevant/irrelevant); property of a text that selects (relevant/irrelevant) information and organizes the communicative structure in a given way.

Cohesion (cohesive resources): Property of a text that connects/relates the different phrases of a piece of discourse by means of cohesive resources which help the reader/listener understand the global meaning of a text .

Genre : “a recognizable communicative event characterized by a set of communicative purpose(s) identified and mutually understood by the members of the professional or academic community in which it regularly occurs”. In functional linguistics, genre theory is a theory of how we use language to live; it tries to describe the ways in which we mobilise language – how out of all the things we might do with language, each culture chooses just a few, and enacts them over and over again – slowly  adding to the repertoire as needs arise, and slowly dropping things that aren’t much use. Genre theory is a theory of the borders of our social world, and thus our familiarity with what to expect. One important law of genre is that we cannot not mean genres… and that we almost never feel this as a constraint.


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