Discourse & Grammar

Graduate students Alex Wahl and Heather Simpson engaging in discourse. The UCSB Department of Linguistics takes Discourse and Grammar as the label for a unified field which looks at discourse from the perspective of grammar, and grammar from the perspective of discourse. Discourse is understood as the domain of language use, with speakers making functional choices at all levels of structure, whether across sentence and larger unit boundaries, inside clauses and phrases, or even within words. Given the department’s theoretical orientation toward functional explanation, UCSB researchers approach grammatical constructions by asking not only how they are defined structurally, but also what functions they serve for their users. Grammar provides the structures for linguistic action, and functionally motivated linguistic action in turn produces the recurrent patterns that ultimately grammaticize, giving rise to linguistic structure. Research at UCSB on interactions between discourse and grammar focuses on two major directions of flow: (1) how grammatical structures arise from the relatively fluid patterns of language use (discourse) through regular processes of grammaticization; and (2) how the relatively stable and reusable structures of grammar provide templates for linguistic action, imposing a grammatical shape on functional realizations in discourse. At UCSB, faculty and graduate students routinely carry out discourse and grammar research in a very broad typological array of languages. This element of the linguistic toolkit is necessary for those who seek to understand the grammars of the languages of the world in both empirical descriptive and theoretical explanatory terms.

Core Faculty

John W. Du Bois, Carol Genetti, Stefan Th. Gries, Marianne Mithun, Sandra A. Thompson


Linguistics 208: Introduction to Morphology 
Linguistics 209: Introduction to Syntax
Linguistics 212: Discourse Transcription
Linguistics 214: Discourse
Linguistics 217: Discourse and Grammar
Linguistics 224: Spoken and Written Discourse
Linguistics 227: Language as Culture
Linguistics 228: Discourse in Sociocultural Interaction
Linguistics 234: Advanced Syntax
Linguistics 238: Syntax Beyond the Clause
Linguistics 252A-B: Seminar in Morphology and Syntax
Linguistics 254A-B: Seminar in Discourse
Linguistics 273A-B: Language and the Body


Language, Interaction, and Social Organization (LISO)
The Interactional Linguistics Page