Presupposition, (Idealogical) Knowledge Management and Gender : A Socio-cognitive Discourse Analytical Approach.

Polyzou, Alexandra (2012) Presupposition, (Idealogical) Knowledge Management and Gender : A Socio-cognitive Discourse Analytical Approach. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The thesis proposes cognitive linguistics, and in particular cognitive approaches to presupposition, as a suitable theoretical basis for critical discourse analysis, and explores empirically a sample of texts in order to examine knowledge management in relation to gender, sexuality and sexual health in Greek lifestyle magazines. I claim that theorising language in terms of cognition can account for the constructive aspect of discourse though the accumulation of cognitive effects, while at the same time discourse is constructed by and reflects social structure in that discourse production draws on shared and commonly accepted knowledge and attitudes in any given context (Ch. 2). I argue that the way knowledge is not only drawn on but also reproduced or contested in discourse is related to the study of presupposition, including the presentation of propositions as 'given' (known and commonly accepted) and/or backgrounded and therefore incontestable. Presupposition has been defined and identified in very different ways within the critical study of discourse, and part of this thesis (Ch. 3) has aimed to disentangle this confusion by exploring the theoretical underpinnings and empirical applications of the concept within the field. I propose studying presupposition more systematically by explicitly taking into account the three parameters which seem to have always influenced the study of presupposition (defined prototypically as a figure-ground distinction where the ground is also triggered and necessary for meaning making): how open to contestation a belief is, how fore- or backgrounded it is, and whether (and to what extent) we can assume it to be known to potential audiences of a text (Ch.4). In terms of methodology I suggest a method similar to the study of category norms in order to find out which items are considered prototypical members of a category at a particular point in time among a specific population; in this case the focus has been on discovering prototypical lifestyle magazine titles for the Greek public (see 5.2). I further explore the classification of texts in 'genre categories' based on communicative purpose when a discourse community does not have specific names for such categories (see 5.3); in this case, in Greece there are not always specific names for the different types of texts to be found in lifestyle magazines, at least among non-professionals. Finally, within each text I propose distinguishing among different levels of presupposition, from looking at framing activated by single lexical items to examining broad systems of belief or 'discourses' pertaining to the data (4.5 and 5.5). In terms of empirical critical discourse analysis, I chose to examine three texts on the issue of sexual health, one from Status (men's magazine), one from Cosmopolitan and one from Marie Claire (women's magazines) in relation to the negotiation between traditional and more recent (hetero)normative beliefs in relation to gender and sexual conduct. The analysis has focused on the frame and sentence levels and has indicated that although there is a higher degree of permissiveness in relation to female sexuality, women in Greece still have to choose or balance between traditional ideals of chastity and modesty and equally pressing imperatives of (penetrative heterosexual) sexual activity circulated (and taken for granted) in popular culture texts.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2012.
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02 May 2019 16:25
Last Modified:
16 Apr 2024 23:26