TERMS AND CONCEPTS
The field of a discourse is simply the answer to the question, ‘What is it generally about – its subject matter?’ E.g. ‘The field
of this discourse is politics/family life/law/school-life’ (see register, below). The field of a discourse will always be made
evident by the existence within it of field specific lexis, i.e. words related to that particular area of human activity.
The mode of a text answers the question, ‘How is this discourse being encountered?’ If it is being heard directly from the
speaker, the mode is ‘spoken’; if it is being read the mode will be written, typed or electronically displayed. If it is being
heard after having been mediated through a secondary source such as a telephone, the Internet or TV, for example, it
might show features of both speech and writing and thus be ‘mixed mode’.
Mode is closely linked to the channel of the discourse which refers to the medium through which the text is being
transmitted. Mode should always be thought of on a kind of continuum, e.g. an email will show features of both spoken and
written modes, for example.
There is a second use of the term ‘mode’ that is rather different. It can be used to describe a dominant aspect of the style
of a text. Poetry, for example, uses a strongly metaphorical mode; story-telling uses a largely narrative mode, and so on.
The tenor of a discourse answers the question, ‘What relationship is being developed in this discourse?’ It can be useful to
characterise the tenor of a discourse when, for example, a speaker attempts to create a sense of, perhaps, friendliness,
objectivity, solidarity or distance, for example.
The tenor is often created by the context of the discourse and the way its participants relate to each other. Questions to
ask might include, ‘Is the speaker sincere?’, ‘Is the discourse reflecting the status of the participants’ (i.e. the power
relationships between them might be symmetrical or...