My name is Heather. I am a native Brit, and I have been an English as a Foreign Language teacher since 1996.
I started out volunteering as a teaching assistant in Moscow. Having discovered to my complete surprise I really liked teaching, I got qualified in EFL instruction, moved to Russia full time and never looked back. Except that time I taught History to teenagers.
Since then I have worked in both the UK and Russia, in private language schools and the state sector, as a teacher, an academic manager and a teacher trainer.
This blog isn’t really about that though. It’s my love letter to discourse analysis, social media and online communication.
What discourse analysis is can be quite hard to define. Whole books have been written on the topic, but let’s have a stab, shall we?
Discourse analysis is the study of language at text level, with text being defined much more widely than neatly complete written articles in newspapers or whole novels. It’s a fairly interdisciplinary sort of field involving everyone from linguists, the language teaching profession, sociologists, anthropologists, to computer scientists trying to programme AI, and that’s not even an exhaustive list.
To me, it’s super interesting because it’s where sentences or words stop and communication begins. It’s about the choice of phrasing. What intonation does to the message. It’s about the aspects of language which cannot be described by a grammar reference book. And it’s about the nature of how we cope with trying to construct utterances in real time, and what happens when we can wield words with more consideration.
And it’s about why it all goes wrong and we have cut all ties with Auntie Vera because of the way she used ‘well’ on WhatsApp.
I will mostly be writing about whatever I have last been reading on the topic, possibly illustrated with stuff people have said on social media. I love online communication. I happen to think that because it is an interesting blend of spoken and written language, it has turned us all into discourse analysts. Moves that people might have got away with in ephemeral speaking get clocked much more easily by casual onlookers on the Internet. Plus, of course, some of the gloves are off in a medium which transcends the need to get along with your neighbour for the foreseeable future.
I wanted to call the blog WEAPONISING DISCOURSE ANALYSIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA, in fact.
But I couldn’t figure out how to fit that neatly into a URL. Or come up with a version of the name that would not get me an immediate reputation on Twitter.
So Those Sharp Words it is. Thanks to my friend who is much better at snappy titles than I am.
I am highly unlikely to have an original thought on this topic. I am not going to be doing formal discourse analysis myself. But I hope there are other people out there who find this as interesting as I do, and I am looking forward to connecting with them.