Discourse Perspectives on Technical Communication

03 Jun 2019 – 05 Jun-2019
Leuven, Belgium

The overarching aim of this panel session of DICOEN 2019 is to advance interdisciplinary research in the field of technical communication. More specifically, this session aims to bring together researchers, practitioners and professionals with an interest in discourse aspects of technical communication, addressing the role of language-in-use and the way in which language is embedded in technical communication settings. Unlike other institutional contexts such as politics, the media, the workplace, healthcare etc. (for other “real-world contexts”, see e.g. Tannen et al. 2018), the study of technical communication discourse has so far received little attention. This is somewhat surprising in view of our highly technologized society and the increasing importance of communicating effectively about technology in order to bridge the gap between users and (the functionalities of) technical products.
Discourse analysis encompasses a broad range of theories, topics and approaches for explaining language-in-use. In line with Bloor and Bloor (2015), we understand discourse as “symbolic human interaction in its many forms”, whether through spoken or written language or via non-linguistic resources such as image, symbol, sound, and gesture. We welcome contributions that address various discourse aspects in technical communication settings. Contributions may focus on a range of linguistic (grammatical, semantic, pragmatic, stylistic, rhetorical, conversational, narrative, intercultural, critical, cognitive discourse) and non-linguistic phenomena that may be used to examine the relationship between form and function in any technical communication genre across the product life cycle (e.g. instructions for use, technical procedures, warning notices, FAQs, training documents, …). For example, contributions may focus on how language is used to communicate and interact in technical communication contexts or on how semiotic modes such as text, speech, image, symbol, graphics, and sound interact in technical communication outputs. Given that discourse does not only refer to actual ‘text’ but may also incorporate the whole communicative act involving production and comprehension, viz. “peoples’ actions, interactions, values, beliefs, and uses of objects, tools and environments within social or institutional settings” (Gee 2011: 181), contributions may also address matters such as context, background information, conventions, or other shared knowledge between the writer and his (increasingly multicultural or international) audience (Bloor and Bloor 2015), hence widening the scope from micro to macro levels of discourse.

Theme session organizers:
Parthena Charalampidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and Birgitta Meex (KU Leuven) <birgitta.meex@kuleuven.be>

Bloor, Meriel & Bloor, Thomas (2015). The Practice of Critical Discourse Analysis: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge.
Gee, James P. (2011). How to do Discourse Analysis: A toolkit. London and New York: Routledge.
Tannen, Deborah, Hamilton, Heidi E. & Schiffrin, Deborah (eds.) (2018). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. 2nd edition. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.

Call deadline:
If you are interested in participating, please send a provisional title or topic proposal by 8 October. Abstracts of 400 words maximum are due by 15 November 2018, if the theme session is accepted.