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What Is Discourse?

Discourse is a coherently-arranged, serious and systematic treatment of a topic in spoken or written language. It constitutes the categories of academic writing aimed at teaching students the method of organizing, narrating and giving detailed description of events in expository paragraphsOpens in new window.

Classes of Discourse

Discourse may be classified into descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative.

1.   Descriptive Discourse

A descriptive discourse often takes two forms; it can be in static form, or the form called process description. The static description draws a verbal picture using words that appeal to the senses, while the process description tends to explain the various degrees or levels of advancement involved in carrying out a task.

Again, static description may either be the technical or the imaginative form. The technical form gives a lucid description and objective delineation of details; whereas, the imaginative uses suggestive words and connotations to create a dominant effect about the subject being described. Thus, we may have an equipment being described technically by thoroughly giving details of its parts and the functions of such parts, or imaginatively — where figures of speechOpens in new window and associated connotations are used to describe it.

2.     Narrative Discourse

A narrative discourse is that which in its description, portrays causally related incidents; here the occurred incidents are often arranged one after another in an order of chronology. The narrative discourse in its typical form is often referred to as fiction; this is because it both provides a highly detailed and structured conception of anecdoteOpens in new window.

3.     Expository Discourse

An expository discourse consists in giving definitive explanation and clarification by means of examples and illustrations, details, comparison and contrastOpens in new window, definition, and other rhetorical devices of like nature.

4.     Argumentative Discourse

The argumentative discourse is used with the sole purpose of persuading the audience (hearers or readers) to either accept or reject opinions. As a primary prerequisite, argumentative discourse only takes effect where there is a contentious or controversial topic.

A topicOpens in new window is said to be controversial if there are at least two sides of analyzing or resolving it, and if both sides are logical as well as equally debatable and defensible. It is unnecessary writing an argumentative discourse if the resolution to the issue is obvious.

Credibility of sources and logic of presentation are important factors in writing an argumentative essay. Also important is combining a number of rhetorical devices to add rhetorical nuances. The most common of such devices are definitionOpens in new window, comparison and contrastOpens in new window, classificationOpens in new window, example and illustrationOpens in new window (exemplum), and similar other devices.

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