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One of the most over-used, and some would say misused, concepts in the social and human sciences. Discourse is a highly contested field, with authors offering widely different accounts of what discourse is (and isn't) and how it should be studied (see van Dijk, 1997, 1998). Only three approaches to discourse are introduced here: the formalist and functionalist definitions used in linguistics (Schiffrin, 1994b); and the Foucauldian notion of ‘orders of discourse’. First, we can define discourse as a particular unit of language, specifically, as a unit of language ‘above’, or larger than, the sentence. As Cameron (2001: 10–11) illustrates:

[linguists] ‘treat language as a ‘system of systems’, with each system having its own characteristic forms of structure or organization… If discourse analysis deals with ‘language ...

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