Discourse analysis is the analysis of a cross section of predominantly written language. Do not confuse it with literary analysis. The purpose of discourse analysis isn’t necessarily to understand the text itself, but to understand the sociocultural world the text is caught up in. In this type of analysis, the text is considered suspended in webs of meaning (or culture). Discourse analysis comes into play especially when I am preparing a wedding ceremony.
#1: Improve Understanding of Prospective Client’s Interests & Values
After I’ve met with a couple preparing for their wedding, I use discourse analysis while exploring the couple’s interests to better understand their tastes and humor. I watch the movies they love, read the poems they like, and review the ceremonies they considered beautiful. Going through these materials allows me to find the commonalities and recreate those commonalities within the wedding ceremony.
For one couple, this part of the discourse analysis lead to an important realization about their humor: they loved nerdy insight jokes! Their humor revolved around subtle SyFy references that only the well-versed SyFy nerd would know. Armed with this insight, I was able to replicate (without copying) these jokes and integrate them into their ceremony. What some people thought was beautiful wording gave fellow SyFy nerds a knowing smile.
#2: Identify Your Patterns within Target Genre/Medium
Discourse analysis provides important insight into the structure of certain genres. A great writer will use discourse analysis (whether or not they realize it) when they begin to write within a genre that is unfamiliar with them. For instance, they’ll find the most popular blogs and analyze them to discover what they have in common. They’ll look at the structure, format, syntax, and word choice. They’ll then recreate the patterns they’ve found within their own blog.
For wedding ceremonies this means analyzing the wording of wedding ceremonies the couple deemed beautiful. One couple found parallel grammar structures particularly beautiful, another couple found Shakespearian-like language intriguing, and another couple found ceremonies that engaged the audience interesting. Discourse analysis allows me to grasp what about the ceremonies speaks to the couple even if the couple can’t seem to put their fingers on it themselves.
#3: Discover Biases and Prejudices
Discourse analysis brings these biases and prejudices to the surface. Once these biases and prejudices are discovered, we can learn from them and expand our world views.
One couple I aided originally came to me with a wedding ceremony already written for them by another officiant. They just wanted me to read the ceremony aloud on their wedding day and that was it. When I analyzed the ceremony, I found several assumptions woven into the very fabric of the syntax and word choices. For instance, the original writer of their ceremony had the bride agreeing to way more duties than she had the groom agreeing to. When I pointed this inequality out (along with other insights), the couple had me revise their ceremony according to their beliefs on love and marriage.
To Sum Up:
- Discourse analysis explores texts and assumes that these texts are part of larger sociocultural phenomena.
- Discourse analysis allows a research to improve their understanding of prospective client’s interests and values.
- Discourse analysis provides important insight into the structure of certain genres.
- Discourse analysis aids a researcher in discovering biases and prejudices.