Holistic Discourse Analysis: A new work by Longacre and Hwang

The title Holistic Discourse Analysis is chosen to highlight the conviction that linguistic analysis properly deals with wholes and not with fragments…We claim that the whole determines the part and that most of the whys are found in consideration of discourse context.

-From the preface of Holistic Discourse Analysis, by Robert E. Longacre and Shin Ja J. Hwang

(December 2011) SIL International Publications announces the release of Holistic Discourse Analysis, a new work by SIL linguist Dr. Robert E. Longacre and longtime colleague Dr. Shin Ja J. Hwang. Suitable as both a classroom text and as a field manual, Holistic Discourse Analysis provides explanations of discourse analysis theory and a number of exercises for students wishing to practice the principles.

The discipline of discourse analysis encourages linguists to look beyond isolated sentences and consider the characteristics of an entire text (either narrative or non-narrative) when researching the structures of a language. This broader approach can bring clarity to issues of variation in sentence structure that might seem perplexing in isolation.

Topics include:

  • A layman’s introduction to discourse analysis
  • The purpose of discourse analysis
  • Text typology
  • Constituent-based charting in terms of peak and profile
  • Functions of verb types and tense/aspect/modality
  • Functions of noun phrases
  • Clause combining in discourse
  • Non-narrative discourse: procedural, hortatory and expository




To the butterfly emerging from the cocoon the wings droop on both sides like damp weights, but as soon as the wings dry out and stiffen they provide the butterfly with flight. And flight equals power and enhanced range and perspective. So the linguist equipped with knowledge of the discourse structure of language, which is the object of research, attains more control over the data and increased perspective and insight.
-From Holistic Discourse Analysis

Longacre and his wife Gwen began fieldwork under SIL in the Trique community of Mexico in 1947, where he made a significant contribution to the analysis of tonal languages and published the first extensive historical reconstruction of a Mesoamerican language. Trained under several of the twentieth century’s leading linguists (Zellig Harris, Henry Hoenigswald and Kenneth L. Pike), Longacre in turn has influenced several generations of field linguists through his teaching and publications on grammar, syntax and discourse. The SIL Language & Culture Archives list over two hundred publications which Longacre has authored or co-authored.

A student of Longacre during her MA and PhD studies, Hwang has taught graduate courses on discourse analysis, functional grammar, linguistic typology and sociolinguistics. She has served as Associate Professor of Linguistics at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics and as an Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Texas at Arlington. She has also taught at Handong University in South Korea. She has written and edited numerous articles and books in linguistics. Hwang and Longacre have collaborated for many years, sometimes team-teaching, co-authoring articles, and serving on thesis and dissertation committees together. She is the author or co-author of nearly forty publications listed in the SIL Language & Culture Archives.

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