УДК 81.25

Discourse as a complex concept

Белошицкая Ирина Анатольевна – студент магистратуры Российского университета дружбы народов

Abstrcat: The article analyzes different approaches to the concept of "discourse" in a historical format and studies the current understanding of this concept by researchers. In the course of the research, the most general definition of the concept of "discourse" is proposed.

Keywords: discourse, discursive analysis, text, communicative event, category of discourse.

The cognitive-discursive paradigm is nowadays one of the main components of the development of linguistic science, many modern researchers devote their work to the concept of "discourse". Close attention is paid to the nature, structure, and content of this concept. The term "discourse" in the science of language has been recognized for a long time. The problem of defining the term discourse has occupied scientists since the middle of the 20th century. Milevskaya T.V. states that in modern science, issues concerning the units of "higher syntax" and the relationship between text and discourse, as a process of its generation, come to the fore. According to the scientist, the change of the research paradigm is caused by "the insufficiency of the explanatory power of the traditional structural-semantic approach." The sphere of studying the realizations of linguistic facts has expanded due to the concept of coherent discourse "as an object of anthropo-centrism and subject-centrism" [1, p. 32]. The main problem for researchers is the place of the concept of "discourse" at the boarder of many scientific disciplines with different subjects of research: sociology, psychology, political science, logic, ethnography, philosophy, literary studies, stylistics, linguistics, etc. Therefore, the term "discourse" today does not have a single generally accepted definition.

According to Selezneva L.V., the problem is also aggravated by the fashion for discourse. "The word "discourse" began to replace concepts and terms that have long been registered in linguistics" [24, p. 119]. Nevertheless, thanks to researchers from different fields of science, the concept of discourse gets formalized. At the same time, the discourse is still understood ambiguously. The purpose of this article is to analyze different approaches to the concept of "discourse" and study the current understanding of this concept by researchers as well as the choice of the general definition of "discourse", which could be used when working on the topic within any science.

The scientific use of the concept of "discourse" was founded by the works of three scientists E. Buissance, E. Benveniste and Z. Harris. It was first introduced into circulation by the Belgian scientist E. Buissance. In 1943, in the work "Language and Discourse", he added the third element to Ferdinand de Saussure’s binary scheme of speech activity ("language – discourse – parole"), which denoted the combinations of language code implementation underlying the mechanism of transition of the sign system into speech. The term entered the scientific theory in the 50s of the 20th century thanks to the French scientist E. Benveniste, who sees the word discourse as "a speech act that arises every time we speak" [9, p. 312], highlighting the situation of the realization of the utterance and the means of its actualization. E. Benvinist created prerequisites for the extension of the concept to all types speech which is pragmatically conditioned and differing in their goals. In 1952 , Z. Harris first coined the term discourse analysis in an article under the same name. The object of study in his work was a piece of text larger than a sentence [10, p. 23]. According to him, the term "discourse" means "a super-phrasal unit in the context of other units and the socio-cultural situation associated with them." Discursive analysis, according to the scientist, is intended for the extention of descriptive linguistics beyond the limits of the sentence, at a given time and in a given cultural situation.”

The formation of a scientific discipline studying discourse begins in the 70s of the 20th century. Professor T.A. van Dijk is considered one of the founders of the modern theory of discourse. In 1972, he wrote that a text is not just an ordered sequence of sentences, but a segment of a coherent discourse. Theo van Dijk noted also noted that the term "discourse" is a popular and vague concept and gave several directions for understanding this concept: "a complex communicative event ... in a certain temporal, spatial and other contexts; a specific conversation; genre; social formation; text or conversation" [6, pp. 121-122]. For the correct interpretation of the discourse, the scientist introduces the concept of a pragmatic context that reflects the original context of communication. "The concept of pragmatic context is a theoretical and cognitive abstraction of various physio-biological and other situations" [6, p. 19].

A. Leontiev made a significant contribution to the development of the theory of discourse. Within the framework of the theory of speech communication, he identified such signs of speech action as a communicative situation, the internal structure of speech, a goal, a task [17, p. 82]. Designed the structure of speech action: the unit of orientation (location), the unit of planning (extralinguistic factors), the unit of implementation (language code). He identified such factors influencing the implementation of a speech intention as motivation, environment, experience, and task.

The whole end of the 20th century scientists are occupied with the correlation of text, speech and discourse. Various scientists have tried to define discourse through text or speech, without giving this concept sufficient independence. V.A. Koch defines discourse as "any text (or parts of a text) that contains manifestations of the same specific motive will be considered a discursive text" [7, pp. 149-171]. I. Bellert considers discourse in a logical-semantic aspect. Discourse is "such a sequence of statements S1..., Sn, in which the semantic interpretation of each statement S1 (for 2 < i < n) depends on the interpretation of statements in the sequence S1..., Si-1" [8, p. 172]. The definition emphasizes the role of the preceding context for an adequate interpretation of the message. R. Barth, expands the concept. "Discourse is any finite segment of speech that represents some unity in terms of content, transmitted with secondary communicative goals and having an internal organization corresponding to these goals, and associated with other cultural factors than those that relate to the language itself" [18, pp. 443-444]. V.G. Borbotko in his work "Elements of the Theory of Discourse" defines discourse as a text consisting of communicative units of language – sentences and their associations into larger units that are in continuous semantic connection, which makes it a whole formation. In the study of A.I. Varshavskaya, discourse is a broader concept in relation to the text. The scientist introduces the concept of "discourse-text", while the discourse is interpreted as a "process of linguistic thinking", and the text as "the result or product of this process" [11].

In the 90s of the 20th century, discourse begins to be considered from the standpoint of communicative-oriented and situational approaches. Discourse is seen as a complex concept that goes beyond the text. Y.N. Karaulov and V.V. Petrov define discourse as "a complex communicative phenomenon that includes, in addition to the text, also extralinguistic factors (knowledge about the world, opinions, attitudes, goals of the addressee) necessary for understanding the text." According to A.A. Kibrik, discourse is "a communicative situation involving the consciousness of communicants and the text created in the process of communication." Stepanov defined discourse as "language within language", meaning that discourse is a special way of using language to express consciousness. Thus, the discourse reflects both linguistic and socio-cultural reality. Refracted through the mentality of the speaker or listener, it is realized in a text with its own special structural and functional specifics" [19, p. 71]. K.F. Sedov [21. p. 5] understands by the word "discourse" "an integral speech work in the diversity of its cognitive and communicative functions". V.V. Krasnykh [22. p. 190-192] defines discourse as "verbalized speech-thinking activity, which includes not only linguistic proper, but also extralinguistic components" and looks at the text as the "basic unit of discourse" E.S. Kubryakov and O.V. Alexandrova understand discourse as the cognitive process associated with speech production, and the text is the final result of the process of speech activity [20, p. 190].

The term “discourse” entered the beginning of the 20th century, as a complex multicomponent concept, including linguistic and extralinguistic components, inseparable from social, cultural, situational aspects. According to E.F. Kirov, discourse is "a set of written and oral texts in a particular language within a particular culture within the entire history of their existence." We find the most complete definition of discourse in N.D.Arutyunova: "Discourse (from fr. discours – speech) is a coherent text in combination with extralinguistic – pragmatic, socio-cultural, psychological and other factors; a text taken in the event aspect; speech considered as a purposeful social action, as a component involved in the interaction of people and the mechanism of their consciousness, speech “immersed in life”.

Having analysed the works of the researchers, it is possible conclude that until the beginning of the 21st century, discourse was correlated with such concepts as speech, speech activity, text, communicative situation, monologue, dialogue. On the one hand, the dynamics of understanding discourse as a multi-component phenomenon is traced, on the other hand, a false idea of the identity of these phenomena is created. Clearly there are two approaches to understanding discourse: speech and textual. Within the framework of the speech centered approach, the understanding of discourse is based on the concept of "speech" in all its meanings ("speech act", "communicative situation", "dialogue", etc.) (N. D. Arutyunova, E. Benveniste, V. G. Borbotko, T. B. Gulyar, T. van Dyke, N. I. Formanovskaya). However, unlike speech, "discourse presupposes a system, has the property of integrity, has an internal organization, the concepts of type, genre and style, and the communicative field are applicable to it." Discourse is speech perceived as a purposeful, socio-cultural, cognitive action [12, pp. 136-137].

Within the framework of textual understanding of discourse there is the concept of "text" as a coherent sequence of sentences (V. A. Andreeva, R. Barth, I. Bellert, V. V. Bogdanov, V. E. Chernyavskaya). However, discourse is a dynamic phenomenon, and text is thought of as a static product. Discourse is the actualization of the text, and the text is an abstract grammatical structure. To understand the discourse, such factors as mental process, pragmatics, socio-cultural component, psychology, etc. are important. "Since discourse implicitly contains the concept of consciousness, cognition, it is not syntagmatic, but paradigmatic, and as a result it is broader than the text" [13, p. 100]. As can be seen from the analysis, it is appropriate to consider speech and text in their various forms as specific concepts in relation to the generic term "discourse" that unites them.

In the modern understanding, discourse is an independent concept and includes speech and text as constituent elements. In continuation of the theory started by A. A. Leontiev, researchers distinguish the types of discourses that make up the discourse, the idea of "discursive competence" appeared. Modern scientists recognize the interdisciplinary nature of discourse and do not limit its definition to just one science. From this point of view, E.S. Kunryakova defines the discourse. “It is such a form of using language in real (current) time (on-line), which reflects a certain type of person’s social activity. It is created to construct a special world (or its image) with the help of its detailed language description and is generally part of communication process between people, characterized as each act of communication, the participants of communication, the conditions of its implementation and, of course, its goals” [3, p. 525]. V.M.Leychik defines discourse as "a complex mental socio-cultural and individual-cultural activity in which language and speech occupy an essential, but not the only place." G.N.Manaenko identifies four components in the structure of discourse: environment, social subject, role and personal relationships of communication participants, the content, intentions and goals). The scientist presents discourse as a complex process [4, p. 59]. V.S. Grigorieva emphasizes the role of cultural characteristics of the country to which the language of communication belongs, as well as moral and ethical norms, both universal and specific for a particular nation. [5].

Understanding of discourse as an independent and broad concept necessitated the researches on the structure, types and components of discourse.

In modern science, the issue of the classification of discourse is still open. Types of discourse are divided regarding the situation of communication (everyday, poetic, scientific). From the standpoint of sociolinguistics, there are personality-oriented and status-oriented discourses, personal and institutional. From the standpoint of pragmalinguistics, there is a valuantative, dirrective, motivational discourse. Within the professional sphere, one can distinguish political, medical, pedagogical, religious, etc. discourse. According to the channel of information transmission – oral and written, internal and external (mental and realized). There is an opinion to single out electronic discourse in this regard as a separate kind of discourse, combining the features of oral and written discourses. P.V. Zernetsky divides discourses according to the degree of complexity of speech impact into elementary and combined ones [15, p. 66]. There is a division into practical, critical and ethical discourses. The list of discourse components is also open. Scientists agree that there is a key concept in any discourse (religious – god and faith, scientific – knowledge, etc.) [14]. By definition, V.Z. Demyankova, elements of discourse – events, participants, information, circumstances accompanying events (background), explaining events (assessment of participants in events), information correlating discourse with events [16, p. 7]. Of course, the list of researchers and their theories is not exhausted. Today there are works by authors on the topic of discourse, in which attempts are made to solve open issues. Based on the analysis, the following conclusions can be drawn.

  1. The concept of "discourse" has gone through a complex evolutionary path from being equivalent to the concepts of "speech" and "text" to understanding it as an independent multicomponent phenomenon that includes both text and speech in all their manifestations.
  2. There is no clear understanding of the components of the discourse. Speaking about the modern understanding of the structure of discourse, the most general and understandable is the description given by Yu. A. Komarova [23] "... it (discourse) can be represented in the form of a formula: what exactly is said, by who and where." However, there is no consensus regarding the internal elements of these three components.
  3. There is also no single approach to the classification of discourse.
  4. The theory of discourse is developing as an interdisciplinary science, and therefore, the problem of developing a single term remains open.


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