Discourse structure refers to the roles of different types of elements in conversation and how these roles contribute to the overall goal of the conversation—that is, it refers to what speakers want to communicate and how they want their listeners to interpret the message.
Discourse structures vary greatly depending on whether you’re participating in an academic discussion or having a casual chat with friends; there are even different discourse structures in different languages! This assignment will go over some common discourse structures and provides tips on how to recognize each one and adapt your behavior accordingly.
The importance of variety
One of the things that makes a speech so good is variety. Without variety, a speech can get repetitive or feel slow because it has one dominant pattern. With variety, there is constant motion which keeps the audience interested. The two main views on discourse structure are
linearity takes place when all points in the speech follow from one another in an ordered sequence with no digressions.
Branching refers to the movement back and forth between different topics that are not necessarily linked together through logic or chronology. When looking at discourse structure as a whole, we see how they function differently but also overlap in some ways to create more complex structures.
The importance of dialogue
Dialogue is important for the reader to feel a sense of connection with the characters in your story. The more dialogue there is, the easier it will be for readers to connect. Dialogue also moves the plot forward. If you are writing a first-person narrative, this becomes even more important because then readers only have one character’s thoughts to connect with (so they’ll need as much dialogue as possible).
When you’re drafting dialogue, keep in mind that dialogue is not just what people say but what they do when talking. In other words, a lot of people talk with their hands, so their gestures should be included in the conversation. Make sure that your dialogue sounds natural and doesn’t seem like an author was trying too hard to create realism or detail for no reason.
The importance of diversity
In order to achieve a truly tolerant society, it is essential that we recognize and respect the rights of others. This can be done through the representation of all types, not just racial diversity. In some states in America, school districts are mandated to create diverse teaching staff so that all students will see themselves represented in the classroom.
I think this is an admirable way to foster tolerance and teach students acceptance of one another while encouraging them to broaden their horizons. It’s important for young people to learn about other cultures, religions, languages, etc., and this type of diversity will help them do so. It’s also beneficial for teachers because they can understand more viewpoints on any given topic or idea they might discuss with their students.
Closure, structural cohesion, and a smooth flow
Traditional linguistics view on discourse structure is typically said to be the argument or narrative sequence, however, there are many views on discourse structure with two main camps being Sociolinguistics and Cognitive Linguistics. Sociolinguists typically look at how discourse works in everyday spoken interactions, whereas cognitive linguists believe that every sentence acts as a thought that links back to other thoughts of relevance in the speaker’s mind.
Structural cohesion can come from focusing on syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic aspects of language. The sociolinguistic perspective does not take into account pragmatic aspects such as word choice and intonation example.
The opposite side of this argument is that pragmatics cannot always be accounted for because it varies so much depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. There also needs to be a balance between context (background knowledge) and relevance, which takes place when social interaction takes place. Without understanding all of these different viewpoints, it would be difficult to know what theory best describes discourse structure today.
A history lesson from Aristotle to Baker (and to you)
In the ancient world, Aristotle was one of the first people to write about language. In his work on rhetoric he identified three types of discourse that are part of everyday language use:
Epideictic oratory (designed to praise or blames someone),
1. Forensic oratory (designed to argue a point in court),
2. Dialectic argumentation (designed to reach an understanding).
Dialectic arguments are best for persuasion, though they can be viewed as attempts at establishing common ground.
Practice makes perfect
A typical view of discourse structure is that a discourse consists of cohesive segments connected by relations between them. Segments can be anything from a sentence to a paragraph to an entire document. They are not complete sentences but are larger units of discourse in which each successive segment builds on the information in the preceding segment. Another perspective comes from George Zipf who hypothesized that frequency determines coherence. In this view, the most frequent words constitute chunks because they occur more often than any other word or group of words.
One way to get started on this topic is to introduce the main viewpoints on discourse structure. For example, David Crystal argues that there are two types of discourse structure:
1. Lexical cohesion
2. Thematic cohesion.
Lexical cohesion refers to how words connect through grammar such as articles, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, etc., whereas thematic cohesion looks at how ideas cohere over a text or an extended period of time. In other words, the emphasis is on content rather than form. As such, grammatical features play a minor role in holding together related elements within a text. Yet another type of discourse structuring is temporal structuring which examines temporal connections across an entire text.