Discourse-level constructions and frame analysis of policy discourse: Case of evaluation of university teaching


Much of the work done in Cognitive Linguistics has found its way into the area of Discourse Analysis. However, this has been mostly limited to insights from the conceptual metaphor theory and cognitive modeling. This paper will outline a proposal for the integration of insights from work done in cognitive and construction grammar at the level of discourse and at the same time suggest ways in which cognitive grammar can take discourse level phenomena into account.
This paper demonstrates how a view of discourse from the perspective of construction/cognitive grammar is relevant for applied analysis of discourse in the policy arena. In particular, it will show how traditional concepts such as genre, register or even topos can be viewed as constructions that are conceptually integrated with other linguistic units such as lexical or grammatical constructions. Lakoff’s (1987, 1996) Idealized Cognitive Models and Fauconnier’s and Turner’s (2002) Blending Theory will provide a theoretical model of how discourse functions and Croft’s (2001) construction grammar provides a theory of how the conceptual elements are encoded linguistically.
There have been numerous applications of the concept of ‘frame’ in many branches of discourse analysis (e.g. Tannen, 1993). One example discussed here is Schön and Rein’s (1994) critical frame analysis. Schön and Rein suggest that successful policy analysis can be done only if one takes into account conceptual framing. However, their approach has been criticized for being too generic and not providing any real analytic tools to back up claims about frames that will put the analyst in a privileged position. Also, they have no theory of how frames are established and used, and how they can be identified. This paper offers several suggestions for how a construction-based approach to conceptual frames can provide a heuristic for integrating frames that might otherwise seem incompatible. It will further suggest criteria for identifying and judging evidence of frames in text on examples from discourse on the evaluation of university teaching. The principal claim of the paper is that frames in many ways behave just like constructions but they have been seen as somehow disparate both by construction grammarians and by discourse analysts. For instance, although there are many claims of frame-like biases in the discussion of the evaluation of university teaching, most notably those within the education as marketplace metaphor, it is not clear how exactly these biases are represented in text. A construction-based frame analysis, however, can provide an evidentiary basis for such assertions.
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Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner. 2002. The way we think : conceptual blending and the mind's hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books.
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Schön, Donald A., and Martin Rein. 1994. Frame reflection: toward the resolution of intractable policy controversies. New York: BasicBooks.
Tannen, Deborah ed. 1993. Framing in discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.