Meaning and Structures of Discourse

A discourse consists of a complete utterance/text, anything from an isolated Ouch! to an entire poem or book. It may have single or multiple authorship. Discourses could be either oral or written. They are well organized to display aesthetic features such as unity, balance and rhythm. The different types of discourse are almost unlimited, e.g. narratives, jokes, lectures, letters, poetry, sermons, etc.

Discourses have three basic constituents: sounds, lexemes and sentences. The major features of sound consist of 1) repetitions, e.g. alliterations and rhyme, 2) punning, 3) sound symbolism. The lexical features are selected for the purposed of designative and associative meanings. Sentence types provide important clues about the types of discourse style.


Discourse structures can be analyzed on a level of their fundamental framing components, which may be classified as primary features (time, space, and class) and secondary features (rank, consequence and dialogic sequencing). Below is a brief description of each of these elements.

Time is an integral feature of all discourses, which involves temporal sequencing. Space is a feature used to describe entities. Class is used to indicate relations of coordination, including addition (e.g. and), alternation (e.g. or ) and subtraction (e.g. but, except).

Rank is a further development of class. Consequence is basically a matter of cause and effect. Dialogic sequencing involves two or more units in which each following unit is formally or semantically linked in various ways to the preceding.

Almost no discourse involve only a single type of features. They are more frequently found to combine several.

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