Towards an analysis of discourse

Sinclair, J & Coulthard, R.M. (1975). Towards an analysis of discourse: the English used by teachers and pupils. London, Oxford University Press.

The book describes research into student/pupil discourse - who controls the flow, what coded messages are being communicated, etc…

Four minimum criteria for producing a descriptive system as outlined in Sinclair (1973):1

  1. The descriptive apparatus should be finite, or else one is not saying anything at all, and may be merely creating the illusion of classification.
  2. The symbols or terms in the descriptive apparatus should be precisely relatable to their exponents in the data, or else it is not clear what one is saying.
  3. The whole of the data should be describable; the descriptive system should be comprehensive. (have an “other” category)
  4. There must be at least one impossible combination of symbols. (I don’t get this…)

5 major dimensions along which situations could vary:

  1. Number and grouping of participants
  2. Control
  3. Copresence
  4. Intended audience
  5. Purpose

Sociolinguistic aspect…

Latent patterning.

A model for discourse

  • orientation
  • organization
  • fit
  • play
  • assembly

  1. Sinclair, J. (1973). A course in spoken English: Grammar. London. Oxford University Press, 1972. Linguistics in colleges of education. Dudley Educational Journal. 1(3). ↩︎

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