What is a text? Questions of boundaries and limits

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Critical Discourse Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, 2009, pp. 37 - 48
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Discourse analysis has had an approximately 60-year history. Since its slow start in linguistics around the middle of last century, the field has grown and proliferated rapidly, with many disciplines producing their own versions. Today, overview accounts of the field typically begin with a list of these founding disciplines. Yet it is still possible to say that discourse analysis remains an emergent or indeed pre-paradigmatic methodological field. This means that descriptions and accounts of the field remain by and large within the theoretical parameters of their constituent traditions and there is a lack of engagement with the question of the constitution of the field itself. Each discipline or theoretical tradition in the field of discourse analysis takes up a particular set of relationships around discourse and analysis, text and context, text and commentary. These in turn construe or constitute the field in specific ways and produce specific units of analysis. What is not often attended to, however, are the terms of these determinations. For example, how is a text defined? On what basis is it selected? What are the possible relationships between a corpus of data, and the production of specific units of analysis. When is a text? This chapter asks questions of the conditions under which specific units of analysis such as 'text' or 'discourse' are determined within specific traditions of discourse analysis, the epistemological assumptions underpinning these, and the effects. It argues that these units are artefacts of the analytic disciplines themselves and that the terms and conditions of their production need to be reflexively accounted for. The purpose of this work is to begin to develop a meta-language, beyond specific traditions, about discourse analysis as a distinctive methodological field within social research. © 2009 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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