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115054, Moscow 21/4 Staraya Basmannaya ul.

Phone: +7 (495) 772-95-90 * 12481

Email: fldepartment@hse.ru; langhse@gmail.com

Head of the School Ekaterina Kolesnikova

Secretary's phone number: +7 (495) 772-95-90 ext. 23152

Deputy Head of the School Nadezhda Vradiy

Text and Discourse, a New Track in the FLaIC programme

A new track called Text and Discourse is being added to the bachelor’s programme in Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication. We talked to Anna Sebryuk, Associate Professor at School of Foreign languages, and discussed discourse, features of the new track, and opportunities for students.
Anna Sebryuk

Associate Professor

— What is discourse? And how is the new track of studies connected to linguistics?
— Discourse is one of the more ambiguous and complex terms in modern humanities, and is, essentially, the study of how language functions. It is widely understood that the result of speech is a text. But a text is never created outside of a situation, it is influenced by extralinguistic factors that affect its formation and perception. Speech as a combination of all these linguistic and extralinguistic characteristics is a discourse.
I think the definition of discourse given by one of the founders of modern discourse, James Paul Gee, can be useful: “A Discourse is a sort of ‘identity kit’ which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so to take on a particular role that others will recognize.”
Studying discourse, we look at language outside of the sentence. Discourse analysis allows us to understand the social, cultural, and political contexts that directly affect what we say and how we talk about both ourselves and everything else. These contexts also affect the way we form ideas about ourselves and the world around us, and how we interact in both real and virtual environments.

— What are the specifics of the track?
— The concept of discourse is interdisciplinary, and it is impossible to study it in isolation from linguistics, sociology, psychology, intercultural communication, semiotics, philosophy, and culturology. In a broad sense, our track will study the connection between the text and the context, as well as the interrelation between text, discourse, and worldview. We will examine the relationship between language and society. Students will have an opportunity to take the following courses: Text and Practices: Critical Discourse Analysis; Multimodal Storytelling and Creative Writing; Rhetoric and Public Discourse; Discourse and Pragmatics; Introduction to Discourse Analysis; and Media Discourse.

— What will students learn within this track?
— The disciplines we offer cover a wide range of both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Students will learn about the features of texts in different styles and genres, including multimedia texts, and they will also learn how to compose them and use them in their work. They will get an understanding of modern approaches in the theory of discourse. For example, a lot of attention will be paid to the increasingly relevant topics of gender and queer studies, the theory of feminism, issues of racial and ethnic inequality, the phenomenon of inclusive language, linguistic discrimination, and cultural appropriation. In other words, all those issues that shape modern discourse and are reflected in language. Students will develop a clear understanding of social, political, and cultural phenomena and associated problems reflected in the discourse. Thanks to a number of disciplines offered, students will gain knowledge about the target audience and methods of interacting with them through text, as well as learning to distinguish and apply the basic techniques of creative writing and storytelling. They will learn how to perform in public successfully, using a wide range of rhetorical techniques and means of oral expressiveness.

— What career opportunities will students have with such education?
— There is probably not a single profession or specialization where being good with words, both in written and spoken forms, is not useful. Being able to clearly express your thoughts, to speak logically and reasonably, and to stand in front of an audience with confidence is, perhaps, one of the most valuable skills nowadays. If you look at the descriptions of available vacancies, you will notice that it is almost always necessary for specialists in the field of text content (copywriters, web-writers, content managers, etc.), as well as in the field of public relations and marketing, to have a specialized linguistic or philological education. In all these areas, it is necessary to construct written communications not only in a grammatically correct way, but also effectively. It is important to make high-quality and readable content. You have to express your thoughts in an elegant manner in order to grab the attention of the audience. And if not linguists, then who is capable of dealing with this task professionally? Of course, such education will also allow one to work in the publishing industry.

— Who can be interested in working with text and discourse?
— If we talk about the personal characteristics of our potential students, I think that the field of intercultural communication may appeal more to extroverts. But the field of text and discourse will appeal to introverts, as well as to all thoughtful people who are capable of critical and reflexive thinking. Also, I am sure that this track will be eminently suitable for those who want to continue studying and are thinking about an academic career in the field of linguistics.

— Do you have any recommendations on what to read or watch to get a deeper understanding of the topic?
— In order to get to grips with such a broad and comprehensive concept as discourse, I would suggest the following sources:
FAQ: Discourse (Andrew Kibrik)
Vocabulary: DISCOURSE — Strelka Mag
James Gee’s “Discourse”. What exactly is a Discourse?
Website of Teun A. van Dijk
Lecture by Teun van Dijk at European University at St. Petersburg
Brian Paltridge, Discourse Analysis: An Introduction.
James Paul Gee, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method.