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Etymology and Semantics of the Term Discourse in Modern Humanities


This article discusses and systematizes modern approaches to the interpretation of the notion of discourse. The notion of discourse analysis, features and general characteristics of communicative discourse.

Key concepts: discourse, discourse analysis, communication, communicative discourse.

There are a variety of communicative skills, which are undoubtedly useful and necessary for everyone who wishes to establish verbal communication, continue and develop communication. It play an important role in the communication process, provide connectivity texts of various genres. That discourse reflects a communicative phenomenon, consisting of certain sets of statements that generate text and cognitive components such as knowledge, thoughts, goals.

Today modern linguistic science aims to explore and develop the specifics of the general theory of communication, one of the most important categories of which is the concept of discourse as a unifying element for communicative linguistics, linguae philosophy, rhetoric, semiotics, journalism, it is urgent to study the etymology and semantics of the term “discourse”.

Category ‘discourse’, one of the main communication in modern linguistics and the social sciences, so like any other widely-used concept involves not only pronunciations, but a lot of scientific interpretations. Discourse studied philosophy, semiotics, social psychology, artificial intelligence theory, literary studies, communication theory, as well as various areas of linguistics: psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, pragmalinguistics, ethnolinguistics, linguistics [6].

However, in various disciplines and paradigms of linguistics in the term “discourse” are put different values, which emphasize different characteristics lingual concept. Now there is no single definition that covers all contexts the term ‘discourse’, which, however, hardly possible, because researchers who use it, often go out of his inconsistent positions, depending on the specific field of expertise, which uses the concept of the characteristics of the object of research.

That is why, depending on the intended application or the object of research, discourse can be interpreted: as a cognitive process associated with the formation of verbal behavior; as a series of interrelated propositions united by common targets; as a means of conversation and thought that, as a genre, can become ritualized; as verbal education unit higher than supply, level; as a form of verbal communication, which involves the relationship between the speaker and the listener, as sociolinguistic structure created by the addressee in a particular communicative, pragmatic and social situations; it is determined by the text, or through it. [2]

Discourse analysis – is an interdisciplinary field of knowledge and carried out various positions [3, c. 142]. However, among all the researchers interpretations of the term, discourse combines the following basic views:

1) The static model of the language is too simple and does not correspond to its nature;
2) A dynamic model of language should be based on communication, ie joint activities of people who are trying to convey their feelings, ideas and experience or influence on each other;
3) Communication continues in communicative situations that should be considered in the cultural context;
4) The central role in the communicative situation belongs to the people, not the means of communication;
5) Communication and includes Dokommunikativnuyu Postkommunikativnuyu stage;
6) Text as a product of communication has several dimensions, the principal of which are generation and interpretation of the text.

It is also worth noting that the notion of discourse is an intermediate order between speech, communication, language behavior, communication, on the one hand, and fixed text – on the other hand [5, p. 231]. That is why the notion of communication and discourse are similar to the interpretation and the interpretations of scholars linguists – are often interpreted in terms of each other. Discourse is an element of the communication process, communication – the element of discourse analysis.

The term “discourse” was born more than two thousand years ago in ancient Rome, which in those days was called conversations, dialogues, speech scientists and philosophers. It is in this sense the word came into modern European languages: French word «discourse» and the corresponding English «discourse» have the same value “dialogue, reasoning, lecture, report.” If the word literally translated from Latin discourse («discursus»), the term means “to reflect” [4].

Research concepts discourse began only in the 20s of XX century, when the scientist Lev Szczerba use the term “complex syntactic unity” to describe a single complex expression, combining different types of syntactic relationships between components [7, p. 10]. However, interpretation of the concept in this sense has not been entered in the scientific revolution in linguistics. Only 50 years of the twentieth century the concept of “discourse” began to use the term linguistics.

In the second half of the twentieth century, when there was, and began to develop a theory of discourse, discourse analysis, first associated with linguistics text. As the term linguistics word “discourse” was first used S. Harris in 1952 in the article «Discourse analysis», devoted to the analysis of advertising language. Harris sets a new object of study the problem of discourse – a sequence of statements, the length of the text exceeds the supply. Since then, the term “discourse” has become quite common in modern linguistics [6].

Research discourse as pragmatized form text E. Benveniste began during the development of the theory of utterance. E. Benveniste treated discourse as an explication of the speaker’s position in the utterance. Scientists first delimited discursive, dividing it into – it assigned to those who says, and plan for the story.

In the 60 years of the twentieth century, E. Benveniste develops Michel Foucault, offering his vision of the goals and objectives of discourse analysis. According to M. Foucault and his followers, the priority is to establish the position of the speaker, but not for generating statements and in relation to other subjects interchangeable statements and expressed their ideology in the broadest sense of the word [1, c. 152]. The term “discourse” has been interpreted primarily as a type of utterance inherent particular group. In the 1970s, with the emergence of text linguistics, the term “discourse” was more widespread, live in the sense of functional style.

In the 1980-1990-ies have seen rapid growth in the number of studies devoted to the analysis of discourse. However, it should be noted that while this term gets a variety of interpretations and definitions that are allowed to use the concept of discourse in the humanities in general.

In modern linguistics, the notion of discourse is treated uniquely. To determine the discourse understanding all the existing approaches that have been identified by scientists from different areas of the humanities, can be summarized as follows [7, c. 21]:

  1. Discourse is defined by the text, or through the discourse.
  2. Discourse is understood as a cognitive process associated with the creation of verbal behavior.
  3. Discourse is seen as a series of interrelated propositions united by common target job.
  4. Discourse is defined as a means of conversation and thinking that as genres can become ritualized.
  5. Discourse interpreted as verbal education unit higher than the offer level.
  6. Discourse seen as a form of verbal communication, which involves the relationship between the speaker and the listener, as interpersonal activities.
  7. Discourse is understood as a complex communicative event.
  8. Discourse interpreted as sociolinguistic structure that is created by the addressee in specific communicative, social and pragmatic situations.
  9. Discourse – Interaction is a communication of the sender and addressee, which occurs in a particular situation and aimed at the implementation of cognitive, emotional, physical and pragmatic impact on the recipient.
  10. Discourse is defined as a coherent text combined with its extra, social, pragmatic, mental health and other factors.
  11. Discourse is understood as text – taken in terms of events as socially-oriented action.

As already noted, today there is still no single universally accepted definition of the concept of “discourse”, which would cover all areas of the term, and to generalize its meaning. O ne of the reasons such uncertainty is that the scope of this terminological units are very broad: linguistics, communication theory, semiotics, logic, philosophy, and psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics.

Should indicate that the discourse – the subject matter of communicative linguistics. As a terminological unit, he was inducted into scientific circulation German philosopher Jurgen Habermas. Habermas under discourse understood form of communication that is determined by reasoning; a form in which the significance claims that become problematic issues become discussion [8, p. 43].

T. Van Dyke defines “discourse” as a communicative event that takes place between those who speak and those who listen to a specific temporal and spatial context. [4] Scientist also notes that it is communicative action can occur both orally and in writing, and contain all the features of communicative events. Typical examples of discourse T. Van Dyke believes may be a conversation with a friend, a dialogue between doctor and patient, reading the newspaper.

T. Van Dyke also examines the main varieties of discourse from the perspective of critical discourse analysis: the media discourse («media discourse»), political discourse («political discourse»), medical discourse («medical discourse»), the judicial discourse («courtroom discourse»), educational and scientific discourse («discourse of education and science»), corporate text and speech («corporate text and talk») [3]. Each of these species has its own characteristics and lingual signs, performs certain functions in the communicative process, is used depending on the sphere of professional activity or communicants.

Analyzing discourse concepts, scholars have identified the following main aspects: speech and communicative, as well as see it discursivety.

Communicative aspect of discourse governed by the rules of inter-phrase syntax includes pronominal relatedness, foricheskie communication of tenses, functional perspective, press positive dependence which, assuming the variation is relatively tough due to the peculiarities of the grammatical structure of a particular language, discursive nature of the dependence of a particular element and the canons of construction of the type of text [1, c. 209].

Communicative discourse – text containing multiple reflections related subjects. This sign is logically due to the view that seeks consistent and systematic its development, researchers, and Yu. Ischenko, and Yu. Kolisnik called discursivety, ie strict transition from one statement to another, which can be traced in thinking through logical rules and logical clear Deployment thoughts [5, c. 152].

Aspectuality multifaceted discourse suggests that this concept can not be chaotic form. Since having certain features and being characterized by certain aspects of discourse is always governed by certain rules. These rules should not apply to the most statements, and to the relations between the actions that are performed by these statements, ie in the current language integration acts relate to acts are often, but not exclusively demonstrations in real discourse, and this implies three types of rules: repetition, interpretation and generation [8, c. 47].

Discourse has enough other signs of which stands spatiality. Semantic specificity spatiality discourse is characterized in that, on the one hand, integrates semantic, syntactic and pragma semantic and semantic features of all sentences, which it is composed, and with another – as an integrated entity is related to a holistic and dynamic referent bears the imprint of the social and personal and communicative context text created alleged perception [3]. Spatiality is primarily a qualitative characteristic discourse.

The specifics of each of the above features of discourse determines a characteristic type of text perception: through macro mark – recognition, identification of text in which our language expectations adapt to the characteristics of the type of text that is perceived at the moment; through the communicant – understanding, integration of text; through discourse – its decoding, decoding [7, c. 26]. So, we can conclude that the discourse – a phenomenon quite systematic and orderly, regulated by specific rules and regulations although naturally there are deviations from these norms.

Smooth term “discourse” was caused by two reasons: first, the history of formation when semantic “memory” tokens bearing signs her previous applications, and secondly, a certain uncertainty places the concept of “discourse” in the system of the existing categories and modes of manifestation of language.

Theory of discourse, usually guided by the conviction that, despite the variety, many types, differences of discourse, they are rules that define the historical ways of understanding between people and their cognitive capabilities.

The variety offered interpretations of the “discourse” is the most positive factor in the development of this branch of linguistic research. And interpretative differences arising from a particular focus of interest researchers, in most cases, are not mutually exclusive, but complementary action by the uncertainty principle: the more we strive for the most accurate fix some characteristics describing a phenomenon, the more uncertain the other becomes characteristics associated with a first further [5. 287].

Discourse – the type of communicative activities, interactive phenomenon, the speech stream, which has various manifestations (oral, written, paralingual) occurs within a particular channel of communication strategies and tactics regulated parties. Discourse – a synthesis of cognitive, speech and extra-linguistic (social, mental, psychological) factors, which are defined specific terms of “life forms”, depending on the subject of communication, and has resulted in the formation of a variety of speech genres [1, p. 154].

Thus, discourse can be regarded as both a living process of communication and the most common category of interpersonal interaction. To study texts and literature as Product speech activities under customary discourse understand a story text, formed by the members of a particular speech activity linguocultural community, which takes place in the framework of a particular channel of communication and has various manifestations.

Discourse today is a complex unity of language practice and extralinguistic factors (significant behavior that manifests in the available sensory perception forms) needed to understand the text, ie give an idea about the participants of communication, their attitudes and purposes, the conditions of development and acceptance of a message.

Analyzing the above, it should be noted that the discourse – is just one of the levels of the text, a complex hierarchical system, it is an integral subsystem that interacts with the other two subsystems (makroznak and communicant), give the text integrity. When considering two subsystems need to recognize the independence of each level and its ability to function only in close connection with others.

Although the theory of discourse for quite a long time worked and studied linguists, the global approach and the definition of “discourse” still does not exist. Discourse from the perspective of a variety of aspects: as a communicative process, and as a text and as a system, and as a communicative event. However, despite the fact that all of these approaches are based on the different features and characteristics, they do not exclude each other. Therefore, based on the above information, a generalized definition of discourse would look like: discourse – a communicative event, which is due to the relationship between the speaker and the listener and the expected behavior of the last speech.


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Parfenyuk, Natalia & Zukow, Walery. (2014). Etymology and semantics of the term discourse in modern humanities = Этимология и семантика термина дискурс в современных гуманитарных науках. Journal of Health Sciences. 4. 151-160. 10.5281/zenodo.10770.

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