Discourse is a lengthy formal discussion of a certain subject. Discourse can be represented verbally or written. In linguistics, discourse is used to refer to texts and sometimes to a speech. There is a criteria used by writers that must be fulfilled in order for a text (spoken or written) to qualify to be a discourse. A text should have cohesion; for the text to be interpreted there has to be a grammatical relationship between the essential parts of the sentence. The statement has to make sense through the order of the statements relationship. The message in the text has to be conveyed consciously and deliberately. The text has to be acceptable in such a way that it is satisfactory and gains approval from the audience. The text has to be informative with new information included. In a discourse, the text should match with the situation such that the remark is made under important circumstances. The text has to be intertextual as well such that it has to refer to the interpreter’s schemata or to the outside world.
Discourse is important in linguistics as it helps in teaching and learning a language. Discourse analysis helps in grammar teachings, in particular it helps in production of comprehensible communicative products (Aijmer & Stenström, 2004).Discourse analysis is important in vocabulary teaching and lexical items memorization. Discourse analysis is important in text interpretation teaching as well as bottom-up and top-down text processing and understanding the types and patterns of texts.
Language is a very important tool in the world. Although many people think language is, only a communication tool it serves other functions as well. Aijmer and Stenström (2004), try to find out whether the use of different terminology reflects a difference in perspectives under similar context. Aijmer and Stenstrom (pg 6), discuss about written and spoken discourse and which of the two is mostly effective. They say that written dialogues and dyadic dialogue use similar cohesive strategies indicating that cohesion is collaborative.
Gee (2001), on the other hand in the book “An introduction to disclosure analysis: theory and method”, say that language supports social identities and support the performance of social activities as well as human affiliation within social groups, cultures and institutions. Gee tries to explain the theory and method that studies how language is used practically to enact specific social identities and activities. Wood and Kroger (2000) explain discourse in various aspects especially the written and spoken forms of a language that is used in social practice. They explain the various ways the texts and talk are used in social practices. From the study language, both written and verbal forms are important as they form basis of communication that enhance social practices. It is evident that people put efforts in order to be effective in texts they write as compared to the way they talk.
The aim of the study is analyze a written discourse. The study focuses on how a foreign student would interpret an English written text. In the study, a sample of twenty foreign students between the ages of 17-20 years from different backgrounds was taken. Random sampling was used, the students were told to analyze a written discourse. One of the issues the study would observe was the student’s criteria in analyzing the texts authenticity. In written discourse the relation between sentences, grammar and sentence, structure capability would be observed. The links within the disclosure both formal and contextual will be the communicative products observed in the study. The ability to recognize cohesive devices such as ellipsis, conjunction, references, lexical cohesion and substitution will be noted too. Other features to be observed include the student’s ability to recognize texts structure and the sentences connection to the ideas. The textual pattern, inter-clause relations, lexical signals and grammatical and lexical cohesive links will also be observed (Wood & Kroger, 2000). The research questions in the study include
Does the written text follow the written text criteria?
Is the text authentic?
Which features have you recognized in the written text?
Results and Discussion
After the analysis of the students’ capability to analyze a written discourse, it was found out that 10 out of the 20 students tested recognized at least one feature of written discourse.70 percent of the students recognized that the discourse shows a problem solution pattern. For example, the students recognized the situation as the disagreements in the 3 million years B.P transition from the “man like ape” to the “ape like man”. The problem in the discourse was “the missing link”. While the solution in the written text is “homo aquaticus” (Morgan, 1990).
Sixty Five percent of the students recognized that the clauses in the text are related in such a way that they give logically presented ideas. For example the sequence of the text is elaborates the process through which man evolved from an ape. The cohesive devises used in the text is substitution, that is the use of so. Reference is also used by using the word it to replace the ape.so is also used as a conjunction to join the two ideas. Lexical cohesion is also used in the text to join the idea “major disagreements”.
The above text fulfills the criteria for written discourse. Seventy three percent of students said the written discourse was authentic since it has included Gee’s (2001) description of a valid text. These include coherence, acceptability, intentionality, cohesiveness, intertextuality and being informative. The text can be said to be authentic since it uses a sequential in-text pattern, has interrelated clauses and follows the aspects of cohesiveness for example conjunction, reference, substitution and lexical cohesion.
Studying a language using genuine circumstances after coming in to contact with natural input is effective. The linguistic code required by the learners is best systemized using a classroom discourse. In the classroom environment, the teacher has exposed the students to authentic discourse in the language. Giving students authentic discourse to find features gives them an opportunity to develop the language and use it while speaking. The teacher encourages the language learning process through feedback and turn-taking mechanism in classroom.
Discourse is important in teaching because it helps in text interpretation that helps in grasping the meaning a product of communication is trying to convey(Gee,2001).Reading is related to writing in such a way that it is an exacting action dependent on recipient’s experience, knowledge of the world and ability to deduce discourse aims. Discourse also helps in vocabulary and grammar teaching (Gee, 2001).
The most effective way of teaching discourse is encouraging turn taking whereby every student participates in the classroom. In spoken discourse, a student-taking turn to come up with a text or discuss a text encourages confidence. In both spoken and written texts, feedback mechanism is necessary as it ensures that all students are at the same level and the student left behind can be given special attention. Home works and illustrations are also effective in teaching discourse.
Limitations to the study
The limitations the study includes having a classroom that contains foreign students from different society and cultural background. Spoken discourse differs with different cultures and some students might find it hard to grasp than others. The other limitation would include having a text that does not include as many txt patterns and features as possible. These would mean that the students’ knowledge would not be thoroughly tested.
Discourse is important in language study and communication. It is particularly important with foreign students who struggle to learn how to speak and write a foreign language. For every utterance, the lexical items, grammatical structures and intonation used, define the purpose. All sentences have a structure they follow. It is therefore very important to connect the ideas and connections between sentences through lexical signals, textual patterns, grammatical and lexical cohesive links as well as inter-clause relations.
Aijmer, K., Stenström, A. (2004). Discourse patterns in spoken and written Corpora. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Gee, J. P. (2001). An introduction to discourse analysis. London: Routledge.
Morgan, Elaine. (1990). The Scars of Evolution. London: Souvenir Press
Wood, L.A., Kroger, R.O. (2000). Doing discourse analysis: methods for studying action in talk and text. Amsterdam: SAGE