Approaches to Discourse Analysis: A New Typology

Discourse analysis is a daunting field to enter, and as students and scholars seek to apply discourse analysis to the New Testament, they need a map to navigate the domains of the discipline. The most thorough and important work to-date is the article by Porter, “Discourse Analysis and New Testament Studies: An Introductory Survey” (1995), which has been updated by Porter and Pitts (2008), and most recently Porter and O’Donnell (2023). In these works, the authors describe discourse analysis in terms of what might be called a “school of thought” approach, in which they divide the field up based on institutions or geographical regions and the thinkers associated with them. These schools of thought include: (1) the SIL school, (2) the SFL school, (3) the Continental European school, (4) the South African school, and (5) eclectic models. While this approach has merit, it has the downside of focusing on institutions and regions in a way that masks the differences between scholars associated with these schools (esp. the diversity of approaches found at SIL). This paper will construct an alternative typology that divides the terrain on the basis of the focus and methods employed by scholars engaged in NT discourse analysis. The main approaches under this typology are as follows: (1) colon analysis, (2) semantic structure analysis, (3) Longacre’s tagmemic model, (4) functionalist approaches, (5) Hallidayan approaches, and (6) textual delimitation. This approach foregrounds the variety of interests and activities that fall under the name of discourse analysis and clarifies the concerns and boundaries of the discipline. In short, it shows more clearly what these groups of scholars are focused on in their analysis of texts.