Assignment 3 : Discourse Analysis I – Text , Intertextuality , Context



Discourse primarily refers to a speech, a talk and a conversation literally , while the concept ‘ Discourse ’ articulates through visual and verbal images and texts i.e. film , photography ,television etc. , pose importance to look into intertextuality when interpreting it . Lynda Nead specialises the linguistic part of ‘ Discourse ’ , defining it as ‘ the form of language with its own rules and conventions as well as the institution within which the discourse is produced and circulated ’ . From her point of view , a particular discourse produced among different subject positions , for example patients, doctors and nurse in the medical discourse.


Michel Foucault , as a French philosopher studied the relation between power and knowledge in the field of cultural studies, further developed the concept . According to him , ‘ Discourse ’ is a kind of discipline , constructing the world by our understandings and descriptions toward it . The particular knowledge and group of statements establishing the way that a subject (e.g. places, scenes, objects , relations ) is interpreted as well as our corresponding behaviour on the foundation of that thinking . To illustrate, visuality can be considered as a discourse as it provided a perspective that something is visible in a certain way , while other things are being neglected – a particular viewpoint that people observe .


Additionally , It is not only about the statements of the outside world but also building identity of ourselves, as stated by Rose , “ our sense of our self is produced through the operation of discourse ”. For instance , the Chinese concept of filial piety are constructed by a handful of characteristics defined by the Chinese community , people learn those principles and hence regard themselves as ‘good son and daughter’ when they behave in the way that the community long for .


There is dominance of a particular discourse , its reasons are two-fold. Firstly, it located in socially powerful institutions . Secondly, those discourses depend on assumption and claimed absolute truth.


By studying the use of language through visual text and speech , discourse analysis I investigate the social meaning and the forms of knowledge . It aims at revealing socio-psychological characteristics of a person or community rather than text alone. Its major concern include discourse , discursive formation and their production in social modality , but not the practice of institutions in terms of power , regime of truth and technologies.


Rose suggested way of working on discourse analysis I step by step . The first step is try to remove all the premise and presumption toward the source material. Take a look of it in every detail with flesh eyes and immerse into it. Identifying the key themes and hence their effect of truth. Contradiction and complexity of the theme should be admitted and the invisible part should be taken same importance along with those visible . All in all, attention to details. Unlike content analysis, the method emphasis its qualitative side in exploring the construction of meaning instead of focusing on the repeated patterns.


Illustrate with Elliott’s discourse analysis on Starbucks , his work shows the procedure clearly and provide insight into how the meaning of drinking coffee transform into the concept of lifestyle and develop new social behaviour within the community . He look into the invisible part of the Starbucks advertising strategies , by telling the origins of beans but not the workers in the underdeveloped countries.




Rose, G.(2001). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials. London: Sage.


Elliott, C.(2001). “Consuming caffeine: The discourse of Starbucks and coffee” In: Consumption, Markets and Culture, 4(4), pp. 369-382.

Assignment 1: Signs, Icons, Symbol

Semiotics is the study of signs , scholars in this field are particularly interested in figuring out the constitution of signs and the rules governing them. Sign ,which is the basic unit of semiotics, is the composition of a material object incorporated with cultural meaning , which called ‘signifier’ and ‘signified’ in technical term respectively. The meaning of a sign would change over time , as it is mainly based on cultural conventions . According to Saussure , signs do not have essence itself, but defined by relative association with other signs . He suggested that we should think of what the signs aren’t rather than what they are , due to our contrasting mindset when thinking of concepts . Only by knowing what it isn’t, we know what it is .


For another scholar of modern semiotics , Peirce, he added that sign stands differently for different individuals. For example , the written word ‘ lamp ’ as a signifier , may come up in our mind primarily with its function – lighting up the surroundings in the dark , but different people may recall different image of lamp due to their own experience interacting with ‘ lamp ‘ , which can be drastically diverse when presenting it . To illustrate , the picture below shows the same google search for lamp for different nation.

Another example is that the signs of man and woman on the door of the washroom . They implied that the room is specified to particular gender or the disable . Assumingly , the sign should be significantly substitute the concept , which rely on its physical details. However , some sign are understandable to specific community sometimes fail to present the concept to outsiders and hence cause doubts or even misconceptions which leads to trouble in daily life within the community . For example, the colour used and the design to signify gender.

Peirce further divided signs into three types :  Icon , Index and Symbol . The icon implies that it shares similar physical characteristic comparing with the signified object . The superficial feature of the signifier and the signified are relatable . For example, the map shows the overview of partial region in the world . By making use of various colour , ie. Blue , green ,yellow , those indicate the river , forest and the land on scale. The structure of the map and the reality are highly associated for people to understand the landscape and the route in the region .

While for the index , the signifier and signified have causal logical connections in between . For example , when the sky is filled up with thick and dark cloud , it would probably rains in next few hours. Utilizing those sign given by nature, human can identify directions by observing stars etc.


Sign considered as symbol when it denotes historical and cultural conventions . We have to acquire from extrinsic environment by learning the denotation of the sign , for instance , the symbols of music notes and staff notation are tied to rhythm, tone and volume . Musician have to learn about those symbols and associate them to music , people with no prior knowledge can not tell the difference of tempo between a four fourth and a two fourths and play the song.  Additionally, symbols are not merely words , but also included gestures, drawings, mechanical devices and natural objects , making them more complicated than the former two types. On the basis of metaphoric foundation of our conceptual system according to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson , symbol also becomes specifically important as they associated and recall hidden imperatives.