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(1) In linguistics, a unit of language longer than a single sentence.

(2) More broadly, the use of spoken or written language in a social context.

See also:


From the Latin, "run about"


  • "Discourse in context may consist of only one or two words as in stop or no smoking. Alternatively, a piece of discourse can be hundreds of thousands of words in length, as some novels are. A typical piece of discourse is somewhere between these two extremes."
    (Eli Hinkel and Sandra Fotos, New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002)

  • "Discourse is the way in which language is used socially to convey broad historical meanings. It is language identified by the social conditions of its use, by who is using it and under what conditions. Language can never be 'neutral' because it bridges our personal and social worlds."
    (Frances Henry and Carol Tator, Discourses of Domination. Univ. of Toronto Press, 2002)

  • "I call the discourse of power any discourse that engenders blame, hence guilt, in its recipient."
    (Roland Barthes, "Inaugural Lecture: Collège de France," 1977, in A Barthes Reader. Jonathan Cape, 1982)

  • "Within social science, . . . discourse is mainly used to describe verbal reports of individuals. In particular, discourse is analyzed by those who are interested in language and talk and what people are doing with their speech. . . .

    "The term discourse is also used to refer to meanings at the more macro level. This approach does not study the individual words spoken by people but the language used to describe aspects of the world, and has tended to be taken by those using a sociological perspective."
    (Jane Ogden, Health and the Construction of the Individual. Psychology Press, 2002)
Pronunciation: DIS-kors
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