A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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1.4 Methodology

General Method

There are many aspects of discourse analysis which can be pursued. This study is limited to eight of them. In order better to understand the rhetorical situation and the cultural-historical background to the book, a study covering author, reader, setting, background and related items has been done. In order to understand the overall thrust of the book, an attempt is made to formulate the macrostructure of I Corinthians. Next, based on the results of gross chunking and macrosegmentation, a constituent analysis has been done. Then a search for markers of peak is conducted throughout the book. Studies are also done on participant reference, clause word order, and quotations. These latter involve charting and the creation of a computer database. When these studies have been done, the data is then checked to see if there is a difference in grammatical and stylistic tendencies between the parts of this letter which were in response to the letter which the Corinthians sent to Paul and the parts that were in response to information that he received by word of mouth.


In order to understand the rhetorical situation and the historical-cultural background to I Corinthians, research has been done in the letter itself, within the rest of the New Testament, in other ancient documents of and near that time, and in current scholarly writings. An emphasis is placed on discovering the Greek cultural attitudes and practices as regards wisdom and leadership, fornication, lawsuits, marriage and celibacy, meals with regard to idol worship, head coverings, drunkenness in religious services, ecstasy in religious services, views on the resurrection from the dead, and concerns about raising money.

Work on macrostructures within I Corinthians begins by concentrating on the macrostructures of each of the several discourses within the letter. Van Dijk's four methods have been used where possible, but in order to make the task manageable, two concepts on macrostructure have been imported from Longacre's work. The first is that macrostructure material is more likely to be foregrounded in the text than backgrounded. Therefore the background material has been omitted from consideration for the most part. The second is that the primary material in a hortatory text consists of forms of commands, suggestions, and requests. Since most of the discourses in I Corinthians are hortatory, macrostructure work centers around these primary forms.

The constituent analysis has been done from two ends. For top down processing, the text has been divided using principles of gross chunking. For bottom up processing, relationships between colons (Greek linguistic sentences) and paragraphs have been considered. This is often known as micro-segmentation. A constituent display for selected passages has been prepared and from this work a preliminary salience chart for Greek hortatory text has been prepared. Ideally, material that is higher up on the salience chart should be given prominence in the constituent analysis.

A clause chart for the text of I Corinthians was prepared according to the layout shown in (2). The passage from I Corinthians 2:1 is given to demonstrate how the chart is prepared. Information from the chart was entered into a database that was begun as a part of a Computer as a Second Language project.


(2) I Corinthians 2:1

Notes | conj.| preceding dep.| independent| following dep.
sV1 Kagwelqwn proV umaV,  
V- adelfoi,hlqon ou kaquperochn logou h 
ViO  sofiaVkataggellwn umin to musthrion tou qeou

That database contains information on twenty-six variables plus two other items for each clause of I Corinthians. Using the database, as well as a Greek concordance, a search is then made for markers of peak and for features (both at the clause and discourse levels) which control word ordering. The chart and database are also used to study participant analysis, quotations, and any influence which the rhetorical situation may have on features of grammatical discourse. Specifically, preliminary research has indicated that passive constructions and conditional sentences are found distributed throughout the letter in a manner which may indicate that the extent of their use or non-use was dependent upon whether Paul at any given point was responding to the Corinthians' letter to him or was responding to a report which he had received by word of mouth. Further study has been done to determine whether this distribution of these features is statistically significant and whether there are other features that show the same distributional patterns.

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