Mode of discourse

The third part of the context of situation is the mode of discourse. Mode refers to:

what part the language is playing, what it is that the participants are expecting the language to do for them in that situation: the symbolic organisation of the text, the status that it has, and its function in the context, including the channel (is it spoken or written or some combination of the two?) and also the rhetorical mode, what is being achieved by the text in terms of categories such as persuasive, expository, didactic, and the like.

The mode is generally divided into three main areas:

1. language role, or how important is the language in this context, is it ancilliary (not important) or is it constitutive (the central element in the context);

2. channel, which may be either phonic or graphic;

3. medium, which may be either written or spoken.

These three together generally form the mode of discourse. A politician’s speech, for example, would be constitutive (the language itself is the central focus), phonic (the politician is speaking) but written (it is generally prepared on paper).