Discourse analysis (DA), or discourse studies, is a general term for a number of approaches to analyzing written, spoken, signed language use or any significant semiotic event.
The objects of discourse analysis—discourse, writing, talk, conversation, communicative event, etc.— are variously defined in terms of coherent sequences of sentences, propositions, speech acts or turns-at-talk.
Contrary to much of traditional linguistics, discourse analysts not only study language use ‘beyond the sentence boundary’, but also prefer to analyze ‘naturally occurring’ language use, and not invented examples.
This is known as corpus linguistics; text linguistics is related. The essential difference between discourse analysis and text linguistics is that it aims at revealing socio-psychological characteristics of a person/persons rather than text structure.
Discourse analysis has been taken up in a variety of social science disciplines, including linguistics, sociology, anthropology, social work, cognitive psychology, social psychology, international relations, human geography, communication studies and translation studies, each of which is subject to its own assumptions, dimensions of analysis, and methodologies.