The multifaceted and multi-layered phenomenon of discourse has been examined in diverse research paradigms, concentrating on text as the object of investigation, on the connectedness between text and society, and on the representation of discourse. All approaches share the premise that discourse is a parts-whole configuration.

Discourse is investigated with respect to

  • Discourse as Communicative Action
  • Discourse and Context
  • Discourse and Discourse Genre
  • Media Discourse
  • Political Discourse
  • Contrastive Discourse Analysis



discourse pragmatics 

anita fetzer

This project is based on the premise that interlocutors perform communicative action with discourse and in discourse, delimiting discourse from context on the one hand, and from arbitrarily concatenated discursive parts on the other. Their patterned linearisation is constrained by (1) the semantics and pragmatics of the constitutive discourse units, (2) the semantics and pragmatics of the joints, metaphorically speaking, and (3) the semantics and pragmatics of discourse-as-a-whole, demonstrating that the whole is always more than the sum of its constitutive parts.




the construction of ordinariness in mediated public talk: accountability of communicative action and the private-public interface 

anita fetzer and elda weizman (bar-ilan university, israel)

The project examines the discursive value of the first-order concept of ordinary in the context of public talk media, as well as the discursive strategies and their intended perlocutionary effects for the discursive construction of ordinariness as an object of talk in mediated public talk, through the positioning of self and other speakers as ordinary and non-ordinary.

The focus is on the production format of those interactions in which ordinary speakers position themselves, their interlocutors or third parties as ordinary, and by doing so refer indexically to the interconnectedness between the private/public sphere and social, political and communicative accountability. The discursive strategies and strategy-specific linguistic constructions to be analysed include, among others, first-frame meta-pragmatic comments on ordinariness and non-ordinariness; semantic prosodies; self- and other-naming, address terms and deictic expressions used for self- and other-reference; quotations from ordinary people’s talk; ironic criticism of (non)ordinariness; small stories and self-disclosures; subjectification and conversationalisation.




the pragmatics of political discourse 

anita fetzer and peter bull (universities of york and salford)

Political discourse has been described as institutional discourse, public discourse, media discourse and more recently, as professional discourse. It has undergone important changes in our digitalised and medialised societies, and that is why a felicitous analysis of politics and of political discourse can no longer comprise text and talk (Chilton and Schäffner 2002) only, but rather needs to consider political discourse as a form of both professional and media discourse. The symbiotic relationship between political discourse and the media is interdependent on the medium-as-such in and through which political information, political beliefs and political opinions are transmitted and shaped. The impact of modern mass-media culture on communicative behaviour and performance is further reflected in the conversationalisation and professionalisation of mediatized political discourse.

The project examines the strategic use of pronouns and other deictic expressions, of quotation and of facework.





anita fetzer

The concept of context has undergone some fundamental rethinking in the scientific community, where it is no longer seen as an analytic prime. Rather than being looked upon as an external constraint on linguistic performance, context is analysed as a product of language use, as interactionally construed, co-constructed and negotiated, and as imported and invoked. Context is also considered as a psychological construct, and as a set of antecedent premises which are required for a communicative act to be felicitous.

Context is further conceptualized along the distinction between context as type and context as token, differentiating between more generalized and more particularized variants, and context is conceived of as dynamic and relational, more or less (un)bounded, subjective and individual, and social and institutional.




discourse relations in context: negotiating degrees of  explicitness 

anita fetzer, carolin hofmockel and robert m. maier

The goal of this project is to filter out linguistic and contextual features on which the linguistic realisation and interpretation of discourse relations is based – or put differently, which features make language users opt for the assignment of one particular discourse relation rather than another. A more empirically oriented aspect of this goal is to examine the linguistic coding and signalling of discourse relations in English discourse within an overall theory of discourse, comparing their linguistic realisation in different discourse genres and different production formats. The results will provide empirical confirmation for constraints on discourse structure and thus refine discourse grammar – the project’s more theoretically oriented goal –, thereby re-evaluating taken-for-granted premises, in particular (1) granularity and discourse unit, spanning from micro to macro units, and (2) “discursive glue”, that is linguistic and contextual material which contributes to the construal of discourse coherence. Discourse relations are one important type of discursive glue; others are linguistic context, social context and presupposition.




emotion concepts in context – a contrastive analysis of english and german discourse 

phd project - nina-maria fronhofer

Although British English and German discourse have been the focus of quite a few comparative studies reporting on pragmatic contrasts between these two languages, such as differences in the linguistic realization of evaluation or intensification, or stylistic contrasts, such as a differential use of modal verbs, contrastive studies with respect to the linguistic realization of emotions in British English and German discourse are quite rare. Moreover, only recently, the immediate linguistic context in which emotion concepts are realized has been taken into account.

The major research goal of this PhD project is therefore to pinpoint similarities and differences in the linguistic realization of emotion concepts such as ANGER or JOY across British English and German Discourse, more precisely written personal narratives. At the same time, it reviews and extends the Emotion Event model, a cognitive linguistic emotion model that explicitly accommodates the immediate linguistic context of emotion concepts.

Qualitative and quantitative analyses are based on a synchronous, near-to-real-time corpus, the contrastive and comparable AWE-Corpus (Augsburg Corpus of Written Emotion Narratives), which has been compiled (2012-2013) for the purpose of the research project and which comprises 256 personal narratives overall.




left and right peripheries in discourse grammar 

postdoctoral project - matthias klumm

This project examines the forms and functions of left and right peripheries in the grammar of written and spoken English. The left and right periphery of discourse units can be linguistically realised by a wide range of elements (e.g. pragmatic markers, discourse connectives, parentheticals) which are said to share a number of formal properties (e.g. lack of syntactic and prosodic integration, semantic non-restrictiveness). With regard to their discourse-pragmatic functions, linguistic elements occurring at the left periphery of a discourse unit tend to have discourse-structuring and speaker-related functions (e.g. turn-taking), whereas those elements occurring at the right periphery typically fulfil interpersonal, hearer-related functions (e.g. turn-giving). Combining Systemic Functional Grammar and Functional Discourse Grammar and their syntactic concepts of theme zone and extra-clausal constituent, this project provides a comprehensive analysis of the formal and functional similarities and differences of the linguistic elements which may be realised in the left and right peripheries across different text types and modes of discourse (e.g. spoken, written, written-to-be-spoken). The overall goal is to contribute to a more comprehensive discourse grammar of English.


contrastive discourse relations and discourse connectivity

phd project - carolin hofmockel

Indexing semantic dissimilarity between two discourse units on the levels of content, illocutionary force and metacommunication, Contrast is a multifaceted discourse relation that fulfils many important functions in discourse, such as describing a difference, making a concession or correcting a statement. Conceiving of Contrast as a scalar phenomenon subsuming discourse relations that may be more or less contrastive, and may therefore reflect different Degrees of Contrastiveness, this PhD project approaches the multifacetedness of Contrast from the perspective of its encoding and signalling in context, filtering out more generalised and more particularised patterns of realisation in different genres and production formats.




coding and signalling discourse relations in english and german discourse

anita fetzer and augustin speyer (university of saarbrücken, germany)

The project comprises a contrastive analysis of German and English, examining discourse relations and discourse coherence in English and German discourse. We focus on the frequency of overtly represented discourse connectives to signal discourse relations, and on the semantics of discourse relations, and we address the fundamental question of granularity, accounting for the relevant unit of investigation: clause, sentence or (even) larger units.