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                Notes on a Discourse Analysis
              of Selected Zundelsite Materials
                      Gary D. Prideaux
                  Professor of Linguistics
                    University of Alberta
                  Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E7
                      October 13, 1997

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Discourse analysis draws upon a variety of disciplines,
including linguistics, philosophy. psychology, pragmatics,
rhetoric, and sociology, to study language use. Discourse is
a complex of social, psychological, and linguistic phenomena
subject both to the rules of grammar, which all speakers of
a language know implicitly, and to the general principles of
discourse coherence. management. interpretation, and
organization, which speakers of a language also command. A
large body of scientific research has developed which
examines how speakers construct and how hearers interpret
discourse. Among the scholars who have made important
contributions to this research are those listed in the
references at the end of this document. Within discourse
analysis research, attention is typically focused on texts,
both oral or written, and on the roles and strategies of the
speakers (writers) and the hearers (readers) who participate
in that text.

An extended stretch of language, such as we find in
conversations, narratives, polemical statements, political
speeches, etc., is not just a string of sentences, one
following the other, but rather it exhibits properties which
reflect its organization, coherence, rhetorical force,
thematic focus, etc. In written discourse, unlike more
casual oral discourse, the writer constructs the text and
provides it with a more formal and coherent structure, often
through the use of various linguistic, stylistic and
rhetorical devices. The reader of the text faces the task of
constructing an interpretation from that text. One important
aspect of such interpretations is the fact that the author
guides the reader via the use of various linguistic
strategies and structures to imbue the representation with
far more information than that which is overtly present

The discourse interpretation strategies that speakers and
hearer (writers and readers) employ to make sense of a text
include, but do not exhaust, principles of:

1.  Pragmatics, the study of language use from the
perspective of social, conversational, and psychological
principles (see, inter alia, Leech, 1983; Levinson, 1983;
Green, 1989; Blakemore, 1992). (An important contribution to
an understanding of the pragmatics principles involved in
discourse stems from the work of H. P. Grice (1975) on what
he called the cooperative principle, work which has been
elaborated extensively by, among others, Green (1989), Fox
(1987), and Sperber and Wilson (1995).);

2.  Propositional analysis, the construction of the
propositional content of the clauses, including the semantic
roles of the arguments within the proposition (e.g., Brown &
Yule, 1983; Renkma, 1993);

3.  Discourse coherence and cohesion, the devices used to
order parts of a text, establish causal links, sustain topic
continuity, determine relations among discourse entities,
establish bridging between distinct parts of a discourse
(e.g., Brown & Yule, 1983; Givon, 1983; 1993);

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4.  Lexical choice. The types of words that a writer uses
can activate particular presuppositions, reveal speaker
attitudes, require reader agreement for interpretation, etc.
(e.g., Levinson, 1983; Blakemore, 1992);

5. Information management, the ways in which the writer
organizes propositional content into packages, including the
devices used to signal given vs. new information
foregrounding vs. backgrounding, etc. (e.g., Prince, 1981;
Chafe. 1994);

6.  Syntactic Structure, the ways in which clauses and
phrases are structured, their use in anaphor identification,
and their contribution to semantic interpretation (e.g.,
Fox, 1987;Renkma, 1993);

7.  Rhetorical organization, the types of discourse
strategies used to advance a position, build an argument,
refute an argument, etc. (e.g., Sperber & Wilson, 1995).

     Some common rhetorical strategies used in polemical
     discourse include:

          1. the targeting strategy, in which a particular
          group or entity is singled out and to which some
          particular characteristics are attributed;
          2. the inversion strategy, in which a particular
          expression with its commonly held meaning is
          inverted, such that its meaning changes to its
          opposite, as in instances in which victims are
          changed into aggressors and aggressors become
          3. the alibi strategy, which involves the
          equivocal use of words, wherein important terms
          and expressions are given a special, often
          restrictive definition in one location and are
          then used subsequently and without notice in a
          different, often broader, meaning to lead to
          logically untenable and misleading conclusions.
          4. the code strategy, which employs the use of
          metaphor and establishes a series of expressions
          laden with negative associations in order to
          construct a network of interrelated and often
          interchangeable terms..
          5. the metonymy strategy is one in which the
          attributes of a particular instance are projected
          upon the superordinate category.
In summary, extensive research into the structure of
discourse reveals that the interpretation of any particular
text is governed by a variety of syntactic, semantic, and
pragmatic factors, that a meaning representation is much
more than just the literal meanings of the words and the

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sentences, that both explicit and Implicit information are
used, that bridging assumptions are constructed, that
pragmatic knowledge is exploited, that a variety of
rhetorical strategies are employed, and that participants'
attitudes colour interpretations.


Blakemore, D. (1992). Understanding utterances. An
introduction to pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Brown, G., & Yule, G. (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press

Chafe, W. (1994) Discourse, consciousness, and time: The
flow and displacement of conscious experience in speaking
and writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Fox, B.A. (1987). Discourse structure and anaphora.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Givon, T. (1993). Coherence in text, coherence in mind.
Pragmatics and Cognition, 1, 171-227.

Green, G. (1989). Pragmatics and natural language
understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Grice, H.P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J.
Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics, Vol 3: Speech acts (pp.
41-58. New York: Academic Press

Johnson-Laird, P. (1983). Mental models. Cambridge, MA.
Harvard University Press

Lakoff, R. (1990). Talking power: The politics of language.
New York: Basic Books

Leech, G. (1983). Principles of pragmatics. London & New
York: Longman

Levinson, S.C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press

Prince, E.F. (1981). Toward a taxonomy of given-new
information. In P. Cole (Ed.), Radical pragmatics (pp. 223-
256). New York: Academic Press

Renkma, J. (1993). Discourse studies. Amsterdam: John

Schiffrin, D. (1994). Approaches to discourse. Oxford:

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance (2nd edition).
Oxford: Blackwell

Stubbs, M. (1983). Discourse analysis: The sociolinguistic
analysis of natural language. Chicago: University of Chicago

van Dijk, T.A. (1992). Discourse and the denial of racism.
Discourse and Society, 3(1), 87-118

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