J.L.Lemke On-line Office


The Lavender Languages Conferences are an annual series of academic meetings sponsored by American University in Washington, DC and coordinated by Prof. William Leap, Dept. of Anthropology. Research presented at these meetings focuses on the characteristics and role of the specific language used by people of minority gender identity (conventionally designated in contemporary Western societies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered identities, but understood in many other ways in other societies and other historical periods):


Lavender Languages 2000 -- Text Analysis Workshop Pages


Notes on Evaluative Discourse Analysis (Workshop 1999)

If you have arrived at this page, you may also be interested in materials on this site related to my participation in last year's Washington DC conference (1999). The notes below will also be useful for the presentations in the 2000 Text Analysis Workshop.

In last year's Discourse Analysis Workshop, I mainly commented on the presentations by other participants, adding a few notes about a particular technique of discourse analysis that may be useful for the themes of the conference. This technique involves the systematic mapping of the evaluative semantics of a text (and can be applied also to multimedia texts, at least those that combine language and visual images). It is based on the notion that there are in fact a small finite number of evaluative dimensions in English semantics (and perhaps those of other languages), at least as long as we are talking mainly about evaluations of propositions and proposals (statements and offers, realis and irrealis, and to some degree questions and commands as well). A full analysis requires that one also consider the larger subject of evaluations of persons, things, activities, events, etc. which is more varied, but the semantics of evaluations of propositions is still a good starting point. It also lends itself to analysis across clause boundaries, which turns out to be very interesting. The application to the themes of the conference is that the method should allow us to identify and distinguish the evaluative stances of speakers, writers, texts, projected voices in texts, etc. and these are likely to be distinctive for "lavender texts" in terms of their rhetorical address and assumed value system. Texts project value viewpoints. Indeed they presuppose such stances at the same time that they also create them and orient them in a universe of alternative viewpoints in the speech community. This perspective was first developed by M.M. Bakhtin in his work on heteroglossia in 'Discourse in the Novel'. There are striking parallels between his notions of  "ideological and axiological" meaning, and the notions in Halliday's functional linguistics of "ideational and attitudinal" meaning. Of course there is no clean separation between our descriptions of states of affairs and our evaluations of them, but that is just what makes axiological or evaluative analysis so interesting and important.

An early version of this type of analysis is presented in Chapter 3 (and elsewhere) in my 1995 book Textual Politics. Chapter 3 looks at a text of the anti-gay rhetoric of the "Moral Majority" in relation to an anti-fundamentalist (or perhaps just anti-bigotry) text that was published in The Advocate.

Textual Politics: Discourse and Social Dynamics. London: Taylor & Francis. 1995.

The most recent and systematic exposition of the semantic basis of the analysis and some of the textual linguistic phenomena it reveals is in my article: 

"Resources for Attitudinal Meaning: Evaluative Orientations in Text Semantics." Functions of Language 5(1): 33-56, 1998.

People interested more generally in resources for discourse analysis based on functional linguistics of the London-Sydney school (and other compatible approaches), as well as in discussions of some of the major methodological issues in applied discourse analysis research, may want to look at:

"Analysing Verbal Data: Principles, Methods, and Problems" in K. Tobin & B. Fraser, (Eds). International Handbook of Science Education. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1175-1189. 1998. Manuscript.

Though written by request for a handbook on research in science education, the discussion is not specific to that field.

Further afield from the Workshop, but of possible interest also are two items that deal with issues of gender/sexuality and academic discourse, practices, and identities. I have been for some time now coming to the conclusion that the social categories of class, age, gender, sexuality, and ethnic cultural identity are interdependent aspects of a single covert or implicit semiotic system of social categorization that I am tentatively calling "caste". Moreover, each of these aspects of caste is ideologically misrepresented as being categorial (i.e. a matter of "either/or" among two or a few distinct and discrete alternatives), when in fact each is actually a lumping together (conflation) of many dimensions of human variation that are not necessary correlated (except insofar as social pressures favor de facto correlations -- i.e. stereotypes -- and suppress other variants), and finally each of these many dimensions tends to be a matter of difference of degree rather than difference in kind. I have presented a number of conference papers on these themes, but not yet formally published any of this work, and may not for some years yet. There are some previews of the arguments in Chapter 5 of Textual Politics. But here are two unpublished sources for a more detailed preview of these developing ideas:

SCIENCE, MASCULINISM, AND THE GENDER SYSTEM . Paper at University of Delaware, 1994.

Masculinity and Academic Discourse -- ISCRAT Congress, Aarhus, Denmark, 1998.

Finally, the link at the top of this page goes to the homepage of my website, from which you can move to a wide range of topics I have written about, including some hopefully helpful suggestions for research students and new researchers (the Researcher's Corner).