this paper I discuss contributions that corpus linguistics can make to the study
of meaning in discourse. The article takes account of theories and methodologies
within structuralism and poststucturalism, which have opened new alleys towards
the analysis and interpretation of meanings in linguistics and in a range of related
disciplines, in order to provide a theoretical foundation for the corpus linguistic
study of meaning in discourse. The focus is on the qualitative analysis of discourse
seen as a concrete socio-historical formation characterised by particular ways
of using language. In particular, I am interested in the contribution that corpus
linguistics can make to the historically-oriented "genealogical" analysis
of discourse in the tradition of Foucault. Taking into account theorisations of
the concept of discourse in linguistics and social sciences, suggestions are made
for underlaying both the synchronic and diachronic aspect of discourse analysis
with a principled collection and documentation of data.
words: corpus linguistics, discourse, Foucault, meaning.
Whilst branches of linguistics such as syntax, semantics,
and sociolinguistics have as their aim the description of an aspect of language
structure or language use, corpus linguistics is a broader concept that can be
applied to many aspects of linguistic enquiry. During its early days corpus linguistics
was seen merely as a bundle of methods and procedures that deal with empirical
data in linguistics. It was predominantly employed to serve lexicography and language
teaching. With the formulation of more theoretical principles underlying the corpus
approach, we can observe the emergence of corpus linguistics as a (sub-) discipline
in its own right. This has lead to a new focus on qualitative analysis together
with a concern of discourse in Foucauldian sense, i.e. as a concrete socio-historical
formation characterised by particular ways of using language. This article takes
up and develops such an approach.
article takes account of theories and methodologies within structuralism and poststucturalism,
which have opened new alleys towards the analysis and interpretation of meaning
in linguistics and in a range of related disciplines, in order to provide a theoretical
foundation for the corpus linguistic study of meaning in discourse. First, I outline
the uses of the term "discourse" in linguistics and social sciences
to show different understandings of discourse analysis within the disciplines.
The term "discourse" implies a complex interrelationship between the
linguistic and the social and different approaches construe this relationship
on different terms, as there are several ways to see how meaning is created in
language use. Depending on the approach, the understanding of the term "discourse"
determines the choice of corpus linguistic principles to supplement discourse
analysis. Therefore, further in this article I discuss the concept of discourse
and discourse analysis within the theoretical framework of corpus linguistics
to demonstrate how corpus linguistics can contribute not only to the analysis
of discourse on the level of the quantitative studies of lexis and syntax but
also to discourse analysis aimed at the interpretation of lexical items in a particular
context (i.e. studies where discourse is theorised as a complex relationship between
language, ideology and society).
Discourse: The Problem of Definition
Currently, the notion of discourse
is employed across a range of disciplines from linguistics to cultural studies
and anthropology, and can mean "something as specific as spoken language,
or something as general as the social process of communication" (Lemke, 1995,
p. 6). The multiplicity of disciplines and approaches that study written or spoken
communication makes an attempt to define discourse a difficult task, and it is
not my aim here to provide a comprehensive overview of all the approaches. The
objective is to present central ideas that influenced the development of the concept
of "discourse" in social sciences and linguistics in order to discuss
the use of the term in critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics.
The Term "Discourse" in Linguistics
In linguistics, discourse
has developed as the main object of investigation in two sub-disciplines: conversation
analysis and the analysis of written text. Hence at least two definitions of discourse
have been elaborated. Here discourse is predominantly seen as 1) language above
the sentence level that is extended chunks of text; 2) language in use.
example, Conversation Analysis (Schegloff and Sacks, 1973; Shegloff, 1998) - a
research tradition that grew out of ethnomethodology - studies the social organization
of "talk-in-interaction" by a detailed inspection of tape recordings
and transcriptions made from such recordings. Therefore, for practitioners of
conversation analysis discourse is first of all a naturally occurring conversation,
i.e. instances of language in use. It is characterised by the two level view of
discourse - the micro level of utterance and the macro level of context of situation.
Compared to previous sentence-dominated models of text analysis, written discourse
analysis offers a fundamentally different way of looking at language that proved
to be particularly useful in language teaching (Widdowson, 1978). Descriptive
discourse approaches to the analysis of written texts are exemplified by the works
of Hoey (1994), Winter (1994) and Coulthard (1994). These studies look at texts
in terms of their vocabulary, grammar and how these relate to the cohesion and
to the realization of the text's micro and macro structure. Genre Analysis (Swales,
1990) is another discourse analytical approach, where the conventions common to
texts of similar type, for example, academic articles, are described.
general, discourse analysis in Applied Linguistics investigates how lexico-grammatical
forms take on meanings in particular contexts, thus seeking to match form and
function. Although the emphasis is on how the context affects the use of language
(discourse), the proponents of such discourse analysis are not concerned with
the ideological implications of language use. This version of discourse analysis
does not aim to explore why and how the individuals come to say certain things,
as the users of language are seen as more or less autonomous actors who establish
meanings by intention and inference. This contrasts with Marxist approaches (critical
discourse analysis discussed further in this paper) that operate with a broader
understanding of context and thus with a politicized view of discourse, where
subject is "interpellated" by discourse or ideology (Althusser, 1971).
The Term "Discourse" in Social Sciences
In the late 1960-s significant
shifts occurred in the conceptualisation of how meanings are constructed through
the social use of language. The models developed as the result of this shift have
the notion of discourse as their central category. Their common feature is the
definition of discourse as a form of social practice. The new angle on the view
of discourse challenged the structuralist concept of "language" as an
abstract system (Saussure's langue) and emphasized the process of making and using
meanings within particular historical, social, and political conditions. At this
level, then, the term discourse is employed to explain the conditions of language
use within the social relations that structure them.
Foucault's archaeology and genealogy.
approach to discourse is central to many works in social sciences. Despite the
wide influence of his works on the conceptualisation of discourse, Foucault does
not provide a consistent and clear definition of this term. Foucault (1989) himself
acknowledges the wide range of meanings that the term "discourse" has
in his works:
of gradually reducing the rather fluctuating meaning of the word 'discourse' I
believe I have in fact added to its meanings: treating it as sometimes the general
domain of all statements, sometimes as an individualisable group of statements,
and sometimes as a regulated practice that accounts for a number of statements.
main points in Foucault's discussion of discourse in his "Archaeology of
Knowledge" are as follows: 1) the smallest unit of discourse is a statement;
2) discourse is the body of formulated statements and represents the archive of
the discourse analyst; 3) regularity in dispersion of statements is called discursive
formation: "whenever one can describe, between a number of statements, such
a system of dispersion, whenever, between objects, types of statements, concepts,
or thematic choices, one can define a regularity, we will say, for the sake of
convenience, that we are dealing with discursive formation" (Foucault, 1989,
then, discourse does not consist of texts but statements. Texts or books do not
have strict boundaries to provide the basis for discourse analysis. A statement
subscribes to certain concepts and is a statement only in the surrounding of formulations
that it implicitly or explicitly refers to, by the way of modifying them, repeating
them, or opposing them. According to Foucault, statements always invoke other
statements in one way or another: statements do not only relate to previous statements
but also contain some features of the future ones.
contrast to literary analysis, Foucault's discourse analysis does not see a book
or a text as embodiment of the writer's thoughts, experiences, or unconscious.
It does not strive to interpret texts in order to make them complete. Therefore,
any analysis of a statement should not go back to the author and his intentions
or circumstances. According to Foucault (1989), a statement should be analysed
as it appears in discourse, and cannot be reduced to expressing anything external,
such as for example, an underlying intention, or context:
tries to define not the thoughts, representations, images, themes, pre-occupations
that are concealed or revealed in discourses; but those discourses themselves,
those discourses as practices obeying certain rules
It is not an interpretative
discipline: it does not seek another, better-hidden discourse. (p.138)
study of discourse based on the Foucault's views would thus be concerned with
"the rules (practices, technologies) which make a certain statement possible
to occur and others not at particular times, places and institutional locations"
(Foucault, 1989, p.21). This is of importance for the historical analysis of meaning
of lexical items: each time period is characterized by its own means of knowledge
production. Such kind of analysis aims to clarify why a particular knowledge is
articulated in the specified time period, and how it finds reflection in the meaning
of lexical items used in this period.
archaeology is predominantly a synchronous analysis of statements in discourse
seeking to uncover complexities of texts and how each discourse delimits its own
boundaries. At the later stage of his work, Foucault turns to the problems of
power and develops a historically oriented "genealogical" line of analysis
drawing on Nietzsche's "Genealogy of Morals" (Foucault, 1984). Here
we see Foucault using the term "discourse" to refer to any written or
spoken language in which power is exercised: "As history constantly teaches
us, discourse is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination,
but is the thing for which and by which there is struggle" (Foucault, 1981,
p. 372). Therefore, power is always present regardless of the approach to things
chosen, as long as the objects we relate to are objects produced by discourse.
the European (mainly French) tradition of discourse analysis, which embraces the
"socio-historical-political" view of discourse. This approach tends
to theorise discourse from the very beginning as "socio-historically specific
systems of knowledge and thought" (McHoul and Luke, 1989, p. 324). According
to Foucault then, discourse is inseparable from ideology although he avoids the
use of the term itself. Meaning, as studied in discourse, is always ideological.
This contrasts with the discourse analysis carried out according to Anglo-American
tradition (Critical Discourse Analysis discussed below), where the analysis is
carried on within a dualistic framework of the linguistic analysis and an added-on
political dimension (McHoul and Luke, 1989).
Foucault's view of discourse does not include the concept of ideology there still
remains the difficulty of explaining the ways in which oppositional political
ideologies are constituted and function (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985, pp. 134-45).
In this regard, Howarth (2002), for example, suggests supplementing Foucault's
genealogical account of political discourse with a post-Marxist concept of hegemonic
practice that enables one to explain the formation of oppositional ideologies.
In a similar way, Michel Pêcheux successfully incorporates the concept of
oppositional ideologies into the theory of language and discourse. His work is
discussed in the next section.
"Discourse" in the works of Michel Pêcheux.
discourse theorist Michel Pêcheux works in the space between the "subject
of language" and the "subject of ideology". His work is characterised
by a pronounced focus on establishing the connections between the linguistic theory
and the theory of discourse and provides insights into the conditions for an oppositional
politics of the production of meaning.
his "Language, Semantics and Ideology", Pêcheux sees discourse
as an intermediate link between language and ideology (language here is seen as
the object of linguistics, i.e. the Sausserian langue) as he attempts to
clarify the links between the "obviousness of meaning" and "the
obviousness of the subject" (1982, p.55). For Pêcheux, discursivity
is not indifferent to ideological struggles, because "every discursive process
is inscribed into an ideological class relationship" (1982, p. 59).
the traditional view of lexicon, a lexeme is seen as the smallest carrier of meaning,
and words as having their own meaning. In contrast to this position, Pêcheux
maintains that words do not have their own "word" meanings. As he writes,
"a word, expression or proposition does not have a meaning of its own, a
meaning attached to its literality." Pêcheux emphasizes that meaning,
"does not exist anywhere except in the metaphorical relationships (realized
in substitution effects, paraphrases, synonym formations) which happen to be more
or less provisionally located in a given discursive formation: words, expressions,
and propositions get their meanings from the discursive formation to which they
belong" (Pêcheux, 1982, p. 188).
are thus seen as having a discursive meaning identifiable through their interrelations
with other lexemes. As in Foucault's view of discourse, meaning is seen as dependant
on a complex system of statements and is thus influenced by the discursive practice.
Following Pêcheux's analytical insights, the study of paraphrases, those
"metaphorical relationships", as he calls them, in which meaning is
located within the boundaries of a discursive formation can lead to insights into
the ideological dimension of meaning.
to one of Pêcheux's main theses "words, expressions, propositions,
etc., change their meaning according to the [ideological] positions held by those
who use them, which signifies that they find their meaning by reference to those
positions; that is, by reference to the ideological formations in which those
positions are inscribed" (1982, p.111). Here Pêcheux suggests that
the naturalness or obviousness of words or expressions (after Althusser,
1971) leads to changes in their meaning as they "slide" or "slip"
from one discursive formation to another. Therefore, new meanings of lexical items
arise from interdiscursive relations and are the result of the struggle for power.
The Term "Discourse" in the Works of Critical Discourse Analysts
far, a clear distinction was maintained between the use of the term "discourse"
in Linguistics and Critical Theory - a branch of scholarship elaborated by a group
of scholars from the Frankfurt school that deals with the development of emancipatory
knowledge - knowledge that can empower otherwise powerless groups and lead to
the creation of a society free from domination of anyone's interests. However,
there are examples of the definition of the term that draw on both disciplines.
Thus, proponents of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) fuse the linguistic and
critical theory definitions of the term and focus on "not just describing
discursive practices, but also showing how discourse is shaped by relations of
power and ideologies, and the constructive effects discourse has upon social identities,
neither of which is normally apparent to discourse participants" (Fairclough,
direction in discourse analysis is therefore highly politicized as it is devised
to bring out hidden meanings and implicit assumptions that would otherwise escape
critical attention. Drawing on the works of a number of influential discourse
theorists (including the above mentioned works of Foucault and Pecheux) CDA aims
to help the analyst understand social problems that are mediated by mainstream
ideology and power relationships. Discourse is seen as both socially constituted
and socially constitutive as it produces objects of knowledge, social identities
and relationships between people (Fairclough, 1995).
example, Fairclough's works, "Language and Power" (1989) and "Critical
Discourse Analysis" (1995), articulate a three-dimensional framework for
studying discourse, "where the aim is to map three separate forms of analysis
onto one another: analysis of (spoken or written) language texts, analysis of
discourse practice (processes of text production, distribution and consumption)
and analysis of discursive events as instances of sociocultural practice"
(1995, p. 2).
important method for analysing discursive practice for Fairclough is through the
concept of "intertextuality" which (following Bakhtin, 1981) refers
to the way texts derive their meaning from other texts (Fairclough, 1992). Fairclough
approaches intertextuality on the macro level of narratives, genres, and discourses.
The intertextual analysis aims to show how media texts are constituted through
often hybrid configurations of different genres and discourses, which in turn
constitute the larger "orders of discourse". In this sense, the analysis
of discourse practise relates textual analysis to the analysis of sociocultural
of criticisms have been raised about CDA's methods of data collection and description.
There is no typical way of collecting data in CDA. Some authors do not even mention
data collection methods and others rely strongly on traditions based outside sociolinguistic
field (cf. Titscher et al., 2000). There is little discussion about statistical
and theoretical representativeness of the material analysed (Stubbs, 1997). Many
CDA studies deal with only small corpora which are usually regarded as being typical
of certain discourses. Hence the criticism is about untheorised choice and use
of fragmentary textual material, which make replication and comparison of different
studies difficult to achieve.
example, Fairclough's approach to critical discourse analysis is designed for
the analysis of a relatively small number of texts. A very detailed linguistic
analysis suggested by his framework would be impossible to carry out on a large
collection of texts. Therefore, Fairclough uses carefully selected texts only
to exemplify the main categories of his approach. This emphasis on micro-linguistic
analysis makes it difficult to transfer the results to the macro level of social
of CDA is defined by as interpretative process (Meyer 2001, p.16), although the
stance of performing interpretative (hermeneutic) analysis is not made explicit
by all critical discourse analysts. The interpretative procedure, as a method
of identifying and summarising meaning relations, presupposes that a substantial
amount of data is analysed, because the process of interpretation is based upon
the identification of the links a text or a text segment has with other texts.
Consequently, a detailed documentation of the data used in the investigation is
also necessary. In contrast to the outlined procedure, CDA adopts rather "text-reducing"
method of analysis as it concentrates on clear formal properties of a small number
of texts, which contradicts their "hermeneutic endeavour" (Meyer 2001,
point of criticism is the lack of diachronic studies in CDA. CDA analytical frameworks,
with the exception of Wodak's historical method (Weiss and Wodak, 2003) tend to
be ethnographic, and thus synchronic. Critical discourse analysts identify changes
in meanings of lexical items when they talk about their connotations signalling
ideological bias, but because of their limited use of textual sources, they do
not document these changes diachronically or quantitatively. However, any attempt
at understanding the impact of temporal context needs to include a diachronic
perspective and in one of the following sections of this paper I will discuss
how corpus linguistics can be employed for diachronic investigations of meaning
Discourse and Discourse Analysis in Corpus Linguistics
In her criticism
of sociolinguistics, Hasan (2004) emphasizes the importance of data driven research
within the field that investigates the interrelations between the linguistic and
the social. Only when the sociolinguistics allows "data to speak to it",
it becomes obvious that language has to be viewed as meaning potential. Below
I introduce the view of discourse in corpus linguistics which, being a strongly
data driven approach, can not only be complementary for conducting discourse analysis
in Applied Linguistics and CDA but also can serve as a theoretical framework for
the historically oriented "genealogical" analysis in Foucauldian sense.
3.1 The Term
"Discourse" in Corpus Linguistics
Corpus research started out
as a methodological approach based on collecting and documenting real-life language
data. The field was established in 1967, when Henry Kucera and Nelson Francis
published their classic work "Computational Analysis of Present-Day American
English" on the basis of the Brown Corpus. Corpus linguists emphasize the
importance of studying patterns of real language use in linguistic research. They
advocate an analysis of language based on large collections of authentic texts
- corpora. Corpora are used to derive empirical knowledge about language, which
can supplement information from reference sources and introspection.
corpus linguistics then, discourse is a totality of texts produced by a community
of language users who identify themselves as members of a social group on the
basis of the commonality of their world views (Teubert, 2005). Their shared attitudes
and beliefs find reflection in the way members of such a community use language
- which topics they highlight in their conversations, which expressions recur
in their day-to-day interaction etc. (the view of discourse community common
in Cultural Studies). Such a discourse is what Foucault (1989, p. 80), cited above,
refers to as "individualisable group of statements"- a group of statements
which seem to exemplify a similar sets of concerns and which have some coherence,
e.g. "discourse of organic food promotion" or "discourse of British
left wing press".
corpus linguists have nothing but texts at their disposal they have to be content
with the version of reality supplied by discourse members who produce the texts.
In contrast to the tradition of Sausserian structuralism, as well as some approaches
in CDA (for criticism see Pennycook, 1994), which assume that there is an "underlying"
pre-given reality beyond signs, the reality obscured by "misinterpretation",
the corpus-driven approach views discourse as a self-referential system (Teubert,
2005) and meaning as an entirely discourse internal phenomenon
to such a view, discourse has a reality of its own, constructed of past and current
texts, and is thus constitutive of its objects. Facts can be found only within
discourse. This is not to say that discourse external "real world" facts
do not exist, but that they are not knowable to us, cannot be communicated and
thus do not have any meaning outside discourse. Consequently, texts never show
us what "really" happened, only "the narrative of what happened"
with a point of view and cultural/ideological interests (Irvine, 1994).
social perspective on meaning advocated by corpus linguists implies that meaning
is seen not as personal or cognitive but as cultural and shared. This is characteristic
of the social constructionist approach, according to which "
it is within
social interaction that language is generated, sustained, and abandoned. . . The
emphasis is thus not on the individual mind but on the meanings generated by people
as they collectively generate descriptions and explanations in language"
(Gergen and Gergen, 1991, p. 78).
the corpus linguistic approach is compatible with the Foucauldian analysis of
discourse though the latter is not linguistic in the traditional sense. As discussed
above, for traditional linguistics, discourse is language in use, a communicative
exchange, not a complex entity that extends into the realms of ideology, strategy,
language and practice, and is shaped by the relations between power and knowledge,
as it is for Foucault and, currently, for the proponents of CDA. Nevertheless,
there are common points which allow merging linguistic and "archaeological"
methods of research in the corpus-driven approach to the study of discourse: 1)
the view of language as a social construct 2) the emphasis on historical and cultural
aspects of meaning production in discourse. From this perspective, the corpus-driven
approach to discourse would be focused not on how meanings are constructed between
sentences, which is characteristic of the abovementioned approach to discourse
analysis in Applied Linguistics, but rather on how meanings come to be articulated
at particular moments in history.
Corpus Linguistics and Quantitative Methods of Discourse Analysis
its first years, corpus research was widely used to complement methodologies in
the studies of linguistic variation. Its quantitative methods were new and quickly
became popular in various branches of language analysis. Corpus linguistics can,
and indeed has been used to supplement both the discourse analysis in Applied
Linguistics - (the "non-critical" discourse analysis employed in language
teaching) and Critical Discourse Analysis aimed at revealing ideological biases
on the basis of the synchronic studies of lexical patterns (Orpin, 2005 among
the most recent).
the predominantly synchronic corpus-driven approach following the British traditions
of text analysis proclaims a close link between co-text and context . It is assumed
that the choice of words in a text reflects social choices, and it is in this
way that the selection at the textual level is seen as reflecting the contextual
level dealing with social and cultural aspects. This link between co-text and
context is important for the study of language of a particular discourse, and
also enables comparison between discourses, as the same words and expressions
within the same language can have different semantic values for people from different
discourse communities. By comparing the ways that discourse communities use language
on the basis of corpora specifically tailored for that purpose, particularly in
respect to the lexical choices they make, a corpus linguist has a good picture
of what it is that makes their language ideological.
computer software allows systematic analysis of discursive patterns without recourse
to the authors and their intentions. Therefore, a segment of discourse in the
form of a corpus is analysed as a collective body of statements and not as a collection
of opinions of individual authors. Details about the authors' social background
are seen as irrelevant for the purpose of the investigation. Concordance or collocation
software picks out only recurrent patterns, thus producing empirical evidence
for how the object of discourse is formed. Not employing the notion of authority
and authorship, we automatically discard any interest in what lies hidden; the
analysis is concerned only with what is on the "surface" of the texts.
Stubbs (1996) provides an example of such a methodological framework. Subscribing
to the views on discourse of Foucault and Firth he examines culturally important
keywords and fixed phrases, "the kinds of things that are repeatedly said,
in discourse which is jointly constructed, but which is known consciously by no
one" with corpus linguistic methods (1996, p. 194). Such an approach is corpus-driven
- it constitutes a methodology that uses a corpus beyond the selection of examples
to support linguistic arguments or to validate a theoretical statement (Tognini-Bonelli,
2001). The theoretical statements, as well as comments or recommendations made,
arise directly from, and reflect, the evidence provided by the corpus.
Corpus Linguistics and Qualitative Analysis of Discourse
With the formulation
of more theoretical principles underlying the corpus approach (Thomas and Short,
1996; Teubert, 2005), we can observe a new focus on qualitative analysis. In the
course of linguistic analysis the following question is posed: what are the rules
governing the production of a particular statement, and other statements related
to it? During the investigation of meaning in a particular discourse the focus
is on the different issue, namely: why is this particular statement and not the
other? Here there is a shift of emphasis from description to explanation characterised
by the objective to analyse the specific meaning construed in discourse within
particular spatial and temporal frames. This is the view of discourse analysis
found in Foucault's works, whose interest was in "seeing historically how
effects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither
true nor false" (Foucault, 1980, p.118).
meaning is to be searched for in discourse itself, as suggested by Foucault, then
we need a much larger "archive" of texts to look for reactions and paraphrases
(i.e. all additions and changes to meaning) than is normally compiled by critical
discourse analysts. The archive of statements in the machine readable form would
then allow studying the discursive emergence of meaning on the level of language
. Corpus linguistics - being a (sub-) discipline that deals with large bodies
of authentic language data can provide such a possibility. However, the large
quantity of real language data is only one essential component of the "socio-historically"
oriented study of discourse. The principled choice of texts and their arrangement
represent another important constituent.
principled collection of texts in the form of a corpus has to have a number of
specific characteristics, which would make a corpus not merely a tool but a concept
in discourse analysis. According to Busse et al. (1994, p.14) texts that make
up a corpus representing a segment of discourse have the following features: they
deal with a particular theme, object, knowledge complex or concept; they are interconnected
in accordance with the specific purpose of the communication; they are defined
by specific parameters such as time period, area, segment of society or text type;
and, essentially, they are characterised by implicit or explicit textual or semantic
(contextual) connections which makes a corpus an intertextual entity. It seems
to me that another essential characteristic of such a corpus is the chronological
arrangement and full documentation of texts. Only then we can be sure that such
a corpus will enable the analyst to investigate into the socio-historical aspects
of meaning production in discourse.
principled collection of data can contribute to the problem of the replicability
of the analysis, which is an important issue in the qualitative studies of discourse.
The strict "objectivity" can never be achieved by means of discourse
analysis as it inevitably embeds beliefs and ideologies of the analysts. However,
it is possible to make the analysis replicable through detailing the analytical
steps taken and making the data available. Corpora as well as the software used
in the investigation are normally accessible to anyone who wishes to carry out
his/her own investigation.
the predominance of (internal) content criteria (such as common topic and intertextual
links) over external objective parameters (e.g. date) in the corpus make up the
descriptive frames of the corpus-driven approach differ from traditional linguistic
approaches. Discourse in such an approach is less defined by objective parameters
of time and space, but rather intentionally defined by its content. Therefore,
whereas descriptive linguistics takes its analytical categories externally out
of the formal relationships between linguistic entities in texts under investigation
(for example, from a collection of texts that belong to some time period) and
then makes explicit formal connections (what makes us say that these texts belong
to standard English or a variety of English), the approach to discourse in a "socio-historically"
oriented corpus-linguistic study would be focused on the internal content-driven
connections between texts, i.e. what makes these texts belong to the discourse
of, for example, British left wing press.
analysis of paraphrases (seen as "metalinguistic statements" that serve
for explanation, explication or re-definition (Teubert, 2005)) within a corpus
that represents a segment of discourse can complement the hermeneutic endeavours
of discourse analysts interested in how utterances came to be made and how their
production was constrained. As pointed out by Pecheux (1982) paraphrases play
a crucial role in the process of meaning construction in discourse. In a corpus
that represents a segment of discourse they indicate various links that connect
text segments, and are easily identifiable with the help of the search tools available
through most corpus linguistic software . The study of paraphrases in such a corpus
thus allows a detailed and documented diachronic analysis of intertextual links
that uniquely characterise any text segment in the focus of analysis.
the point of French discourse analysis meaning is always a result of the hegemonic
struggle. The automatic searches for paraphrase of the lexical item can also help
tracing various and often contrasting definitions given to a word that circulates
in general discourse and in this way revealing possible sites of conflict. From
this perspective, the interpretation of meaning in terms of paraphrases supplied
by members of contending discourse communities will bring us closer to historically
situated discourse analysis, as well as enable the documented analysis of meaning
The discussion of theoretical points undertaken in this article
was intended to demonstrate how corpus linguistics can be a useful framework for
the study of meaning in discourse. Although corpus linguistics has a lot to offer
for the synchronic investigation of meaning in terms of frequency information
for words, phrases, or constructions used in discourse, a particular focus of
this paper has been to discuss how it can also be an important framework for the
study of the unstable and disputed nature of meaning.
theoretical framework for reading and interpreting texts and text segments in
their interdiscursive conditions of emergence established on the basis of the
works of Foucault and Pecheux enables the analyst to study meanings of lexical
items through their paraphrases in different discourses. In order to be able to
analyse discourse in Foucauldian sense from the linguistic perspective we need
to have recourse to texts produced within the community of speakers, delimited
according to our research purposes. In this paper I discussed how corpora compiled
according to a set of pre-determined criteria (such as, for example, content-driven
connections between texts and chronological arrangement of texts) offer the means
to study the emergence of meanings of lexical items within discourse communities
in question. It is in this way that the principled collection and detailed documentation
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