Critical discourse analisys

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Practical Task: Analyzing language for sociocultural purposes

George Carlin’s Ten Commandments was one of his most celebrated performances. Yet, it was just one more show from many, during nearly forty years of career, in which he built himself a name among the most popularstand-up comedians in the world. His routines were always based on his view on controversial topics such as politics and religion. His particular use of Black Humor to refer to these entities of society and the wide diffusion of his style through different media gave him the possibility to attract big audiences to his shows and to a large following. In respect to his view on religion, he couldhave been defined as an Atheist, (though he always rejected this label as he stated: “the fact of being an Atheist itself means believing in something”) thus it is clear that the crowd that attended “The Ten Commandments” comprised mainly Atheist people or at least people whom differed from Catholicism. Undoubtedly, these people were familiar with Black Humor and the use of explicit words in stand-upcomedy, two key features of Carlin’s shows. The Ten Commandments live performance took place in New York in 2001, more exactly, in the Beacon Theatre. This document will analyze ‘The Ten Commandments’ with regards to pragmatics, Critical Discourse Analysis and Building Tasks.

When listening to the show, it is evident that the speaker is Carlin and that the hearer is the audience. With thisinformation, it is possible to infer that the situational context is the theatre, where the comedian performs his act on the stage and the audience responds to it with approval, which is manifested in the form of applauses and laughter. It is obvious Carlin and the audience share cultural background knowledge about the topic that is being talked about: religion; more specifically the TenCommandments. Probably everyone in the crowd knows what the Ten Commandments are and probably have read them sometime. In line A-1, by using the background knowledge that he has on the audience, Carlin introduces the topic with, ‘There’s one thing I gotta tell about that… bothers me: The Ten Commandments’, he knows the audience will react with laughter immediately because of their awareness of his way ofdealing with religious topics. In this case, it is evident that people whom do not know Carlin’s views on religion would never laugh at his initial statement because they would not understand his humor (Cutting, 2002).

When Carlin mentions the Ten Commandments in line A-1, he is uses exophoric reference to introduce the topic. In the first paragraph, Carlin also uses some referring expressionsto point to three main entities: Carlin himself, The Ten Commandments and the people who created The Ten Commandments. The first one comes in line A-1: ‘There’s one thing I gotta tell about…’. The second one comes in line A-2 with, ‘Why are they ten?’. And the third one comes in line A-4: ‘Here’s what they did: about 5,000 years ago…’. These are the first examples of person deixis that can befound in the text and Carlin continues using them along the first minutes of the show as they are the main referents to be talked about. When analyzing the co-text, it is possible to find different examples of reference; Carlin actually uses different types of endophoric references to point to the same items. For instance, in the first paragraph, The Ten Commandments are referred to in this way:

-Line A-2: In ‘Why are they ten?’, they refers back to TTC.

There are also endophoric/anaphoric references of the people who created TTC (‘a bunch religious and political hustlers’):

- Line A-7: In ‘so they announced that God had given them some commandments’, them refers back to ‘a bunch religious and political hustlers’.

- Line B-1: In ‘when they were sitting around…’, they refers...
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