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An Approach to Corpus-based Discourse Analysis: The Move Analysis as Example
THOMAS A . UPTON AND MARY ANN COHEN

Abstract
This article presents a seven-step corpus-based approach to discourse analysis that starts with a detailed analysis of each individual text in a corpus that can then be generalized across all texts of a corpus, providing a description of typical patterns of discourse organization that hold for the entire corpus. This approach is applied specifically to a methodology that is used to analyze texts in terms of the functional/communicative structures that typically make up texts in a genre: move analysis. The resulting corpus-based approach for conducting a move analysis significantly enhances the value of this often used (and misused) methodology, while at the same time providing badly needed guidelines for a methodology that lacks them. A corpus of ‘birthmother letters’ is used to illustrate the approach. Biber et al. (2007) explore how discourse structure and organization can be investigated using corpus analysis; they offer a structured, seven-step corpusbased approach to discourse analysis that results in generalizable descriptions of discourse structure. This article draws on the themes in this book, but focuses in particular on analyses that use theories on communicative or functional purposes of text as the starting point for understanding why texts in a corpus are structured the way they are, before moving to a closer examination and description of the linguistic characteristics and overall organizational tendencies reflective of the corpus. Biber et al. (2007) refer to this as a ‘top-down approach’ to the analysis of discourse structure. (In a bottom-up approach, the lexical and/ or form-focused corpus analysis comes first, and the discourse unit types emerge from the corpus patterns. See Biber et al., 2007, for discussion.) The primary…...

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