Discourse Analysis: What It Is And Uses In Social Psychology

Speech analysis

Discourse analysis is a qualitative research technique which has had an important impact on both the social sciences and social psychology, and which arises from the importance that language has gained not only as a way of expressing a certain social reality, but as a way of constructing it.

It is also a complex orientation that has gained significant popularity in social studies and that can be carried out in very different ways. Below you will find an overview of discourse analysis, its background, and the impact it has had on social psychology.

Study of language in social psychology

Language is undoubtedly one of the most complex and interesting elements that we share human beings, which is why it has been positioned as an object of scientific discussion and research for centuries.

In social sciences, the 20th century is recognized as a period in which language was placed at the center of social, historical, philosophical and scientific research and analysis. what is known as the linguistic turn In other words, the study of language has been a very useful tool for understanding both psychological and social processes.

From this arises the interest of social psychology in studying and analyzing discourses, which in turn has generated research techniques such as discourse analysis, thematic analysis, content analysis or conversational analysis.

What distinguishes discourse analysis is that it considers the theory of language as something complex. Unlike, for example, content analysis, which focuses on the direct manifestation of a concept and the times it is repeated, discourse analysis pays attention to some elements that structure everyday language, such as irony, double meaning, metaphors, implications, or the context itself among others, that can account for implicit or latent relationships.

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Discourse analysis: a theoretical and methodological proposal

Discourse analysis is the name given to a set of theoretical and methodological proposals that are actually very diverse For this reason, it is difficult to offer a single definition of this technique and there is no type of recipe that can be used in the same way by all researchers.

Some background

Although its antecedents can also be traced in other traditions, discourse analysis arises mainly based on the linguistic philosophy of the Oxford school which considers that language directly affects social reality (interpersonal relationships, behavior, cognition, language).

Specifically, speech act theory has had an important impact on discourse analysis, since it proposes that linguistic expressions produce effects that go beyond words that are used. On the other hand, discourse analysis is also influenced by works that have a more political and sociological orientation.

Possible definitions

One of the possible ways to define discourse analysis is to point out that it is a flexible research method that serves to carry out a systematic interpretation of the speeches

And a discourse is a set of linguistic practices that maintain and promote social relations (Iñiguez and Antaki, 1994), therefore, language is not only an individual communicative skill but is a practice that constitutes and regulates social relations that are capable of being studied.

There are many ways to analyze a speech. In any case, the starting point is to ask what the social relations that we want to explain are and how they are (pose a research problem related to discourse), and then gather the corpus of data that will be analyzed, that is, the linguistic materials. (for example, press release, interviews, public policy, regulation, etc.).

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From there, speeches can be analyzed through different tools Some researchers begin by carrying out a content analysis, categorizing the content of the texts according to the objectives of their research and then interpreting some of these categories.

Other researchers carry out deep, careful, repeated and systematic readings of each statement looking for language resources such as irony, metaphors, contradictions, trying to reveal the social relations that are mobilized through these resources, that is, looking for the latent effects of language.

What is in any case important in terms of the rigor of the research is to adequately justify the steps we have followed during the analysis.

Critical discourse analysis

Critical discourse analysis has recently been positioned as a new research method and has gained much popularity. Broadly speaking, it consists of applying a critical perspective to discourse analysis, that is, pay attention to not only social relations, but also power relations, abuse of power and domination that shape social reality and that are mobilized through language.

That is to say, critical discourse analysis seeks to understand how domination is produced and reproduced through discourses. At a methodological level there is no great substantial difference, it is just as flexible and interpretive as traditional discourse analysis.

His contribution to social psychology

The main impact of discourse analysis in social psychology is that it allows us to develop an alternative to research methods focused on experimentation considering that this is not a neutral process where the researcher does not affect the reality he investigates, but on the contrary.

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Likewise, it has had an impact on the way of doing social psychology, because it understands language not as something that is in each individual but as a way of constructing ourselves, and the environment with which we interact.

Being such a broad and heterogeneous tradition, there are schools, authors and paradigms that nuance both the theory of language and the research methods in a different way, in the most traditional perspectives of discourse analysis as well as in the current of critical discourse analysis. speech.