12. Discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork

in Handbuch Diskurs

Abstract

Discourse analysts commonly focus their attention on one or more (spoken or written) texts and their identifiable features, such as their grammar or lexis. They have, however, always maintained that language needs to be studied in context, as social practice, and this has always put discourse analysts in proximity with ethnographers and their focus on culture and everyday social life. This chapter examines research into discourse that combines a more text-focused approach, as developed by linguists, with ethnographic methods that allow researchers to understand text production and text use in specific contexts. Beginning with brief definitions of discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis and ethnography, the chapter then illustrates published examples of research combining a close analysis of specific texts, their grammatical features and wording, with how and to what effect these texts are being used in particular social contexts. The final section of the chapter, drawing on the author’s own recent research into the discursive production of urban spaces, argues that an ethnographic perspective can offer discourse analysts deeper insights into the social situations out of which discourses emerges and in relation to which they impact on people’s thoughts and actions.

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