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6 - Discourse structure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 December 2009

Elise Kärkkäinen
Affiliation:
University of Oulu
Marja-Leena Sorjonen
Affiliation:
Research Institute for the Languages of Finland
Marja-Liisa Helasvuo
Affiliation:
University of Turku
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Summary

Introduction

In this chapter we discuss the following questions: how may discourse structure and the interaction between discourse participants shape the kind of syntax that a language has, but also how may the syntactic structure of a language constrain the interactional practices engaged in by its speakers?

We will examine here a selection of pertinent discourse phenomena with a view toward cross-linguistic comparison and will thereby draw from two main areas of inquiry, namely discourse–functional (or functional) linguistics and conversation analysis. In discourse–functional linguistics, what is common to the rather diverse areas of study is that they try to uncover functional motivations for the organization of forms and structures in grammar and language use (see Cumming and Ono (1997)). More recently, many of the scholars in functional linguistics have begun to adopt the research methodology and findings of ethnomethodological conversation analysis, which is originally a sociological line of inquiry concerned with the interactional organization of social activities and the role of talk in social processes (see, e.g., Sacks (1992 [1967–8]); Heritage (1984:232–92); Schegloff, Ochs, and Thompson (1996)). Linguists of this orientation aim toward expanding our understanding of grammar as an interactionally shaped phenomenon. A growing number of contributions now examine the ways in which the dialogic nature of language use is associated with particular grammatical structures. The position adopted in all the studies to be discussed here, then, is that linguistic structure is viewed above all as a tool for interaction between conversational co-participants.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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