Eclecticism in Discourse Analysis: What Can Be Gained?

Editor: Rebekah Johnson


The field of discourse analysis is comprised of many diverse approaches and methods for the analysis of spoken discourse. Researchers often debate the merits of these different approaches. Indeed, when using only one analytical framework, the focus tends to be on a limited set of details in the data and these foci tend to recur within the approach. This prompts the question: is it more beneficial to stay within one approach and maintain the consistency and method of the approach, or is it beneficial to focus on a broader range of features that can be found by using a variety of approaches to examine a set of data?

Inspired by Stubbe, Lane, Hilder, Vine, Vine, Marra, Holmes, and Weatherall (2003), who showed multiple perspectives based upon one particular workplace interaction, this Forum examines one conversation using several discourse analysis perspectives in order to compare the kinds of findings each approach produces. The data consists of three excerpts from a 24-minute conversation between a husband and wife. The full conversation was initially analyzed by Wine and Frenz-Belkin (2000).

Below are four different analyses of the same data. First is a segment of the original analysis by Wine and Frenz-Belkin, which used a combination of approaches. This is followed by three analyses of the data excerpts, using three diverse perspectives: A Pragmatics Perspective, by Rebekah Johnson; A Conversation Analysis Perspective, by Christine Epting; and An Interactional Sociolinguistics Perspective, by Donna DelPrete. These latter three analyses were done by the researchers without their having read the original analysis.

In the final Conclusion: Re-evaluating Eclecticism, we revisit the question of whether it is more beneficial to use one approach or a combination of approaches, and we consider whether the analyses are convergent or divergent.

Also available in digital video format are the three short excerpts of the data, titled A: Nervous, B: Senior Tickets, and C: Put Off.


We would like to thank Professor Leslie M. Beebe and Dr. Hansun Zhang Waring for their valuable substantive comments on these analysis pieces. We also thank Linda Wine for allowing us to use her data and both Linda Wine and Patricia Frenz-Belkin, authors of the original analysis, for their many insights. In addition, we would like to acknowledge Professor Beebe's Discourse/Sociolinguistics Doctoral Seminar for all their support and inspiration in general, and in particular, we want to thank Gabrielle Kahn for her helpful comments on this Forum. Finally, we thank the participants in the data, who remain anonymous, for their consent to publish the video data.

Stubbe, M., Lane, C., Hilder, J., Vine, E., Vine, B., Marra, M., Holmes, J., & Weatherall, A. (2003). Multiple discourse analyses of a workplace interaction. Discourse Studies, 5, 351-388.
Wine, L., & Frenz-Belkin, P. (2000, March). The impact of gendered social discourse of labor and long-term relationship on conversational interaction: A case study. Paper presented at the American Association of Applied Linguistics, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Original Analysis: An Eclectic Perspective
by Linda Wine and Patricia Frenz-Belkin

A Pragmatics Perspective
by Rebekah Johnson

A Conversation Analysis Perspective
by Christine Epting

An Interactional Sociolinguistics Perspective
by Donna DelPrete

Conclusion: Re-evaluating Eclecticism
by Rebekah Johnson


Gender; Politeness; Conversation Analysis; Interactional Sociolinguistics; Framing; Transcription; Interview

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