Professor Teun Van Dijk is a Dutch scholar who’s active in the fields of text linguistics, discourse analysis, and critical discourse analysis.
He started his work many years ago in French Language and Literature. He was interested in French surrealist poetry.
In the 60s, academics were influenced by Chomsky’s work, and so, the only way to describe poetry in a systematic way back then was through the linguistic of text.
Since Text is more than just sentence structures, other aspects such as cognition and text coherence that has to do with mental representation were missing.
He was interested afterward to establish the basis for some discourse structures like the macro-structures which cannot be directly observed in the text such as the General topics, the global meaning, etc.
The book “Strategies of Discourse Comprehension” was a product of collaboration between T. Van Dijk and the American psychologist Walter Kintsch. It tries to explain how people produce and understand discourse.
By the 1980s, many discourse structures like the structure of the mind that are relevant to producing and understanding discourse have already been discovered. However, there was a third dimension missing, that is society.
And that means that for one to understand the full impact of discourse, they don’t only need discourse structures or mental structures, but also social structures.
T. Van Dijk’s Current Framework has Three Dimensions
- Describe text and talk: Systematically and explicitly describe discourse structures at all levels: semantics, syntactic, pragmatic, and narrative.
- Deep analysis of cognitive structures which are the interface between discourse and society.
- Analysis of social structures.
A New Theory of Context
A mental model of the communicative situation is the adaptation of what one knows to what others more or less know: Our brains are like an epistemic machine that constantly adapts what we know to what we think others know.
Context as a mental model explains why people in the same situation speak differently: They store a lot of knowledge of the world in their memory and adapt their discourses to their audience and the situation they are in to assure mutual comprehension.
Where does our Knowledge Come From?
- Everyday Experience: Vision, touching, hearing… it’s by all our senses. (We already know it from empiricists)
- Text and Talk: communication (Most things we know come from discourse)
- The inferences based on these two.
Why Should We Talk About Discourse and Knowledge?
- Most of our knowledge comes from discourse and the inference based on that knowledge.
- In order to produce and understand discourse, you need a vast amount of knowledge
Context is subjective and it’s embedded into our long-term memory. it has to do with knowledge.
This latter is a very important element for discourse production and comprehension.