Difference Between Text and Discourse

The main difference between text and discourse is that the text does not specify an agent whereas the discourse specifies the agent of the information. Thus, a text is necessarily non-interactive while discourse is necessarily interactive.

Even though the two terms text and discourse are used interchangeably with concern to literary analytical studies, these two are two diverging subjects. This confusion arises due to the similar nature of the two in their literary analytical studies as textual analysis and discourse analysis.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Text
     – Definition, Features, Examples
2. What is Discourse
     – Definition, Features, Examples
3. What is the Similarity Between Text and Discourse
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Text and Discourse
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Analytical Studies, Discourse, Linguistics, Text, Communication

Difference Between Text and Discourse - Comparison Summary

What is a Text

A text includes some information, specifically in the written form or printed form. Thus, it is noteworthy that the agent of a text is not crucial: there may or may not be an agent. And the agent has no direct impact of the content to the reader. For example, consider the text in a subject textbook, an essay, or a press release where the information is merely reported with or without an agent or the speaker. The information present in a text is usually non-interactive, or it does not contain an indication of conversational speech. Thus, the reader only reads and becomes aware of the facts presents. As defined by the Linguistic glossary terms, text is “a sequence of paragraphs that represents an extended unit of speech.” Therefore, the grammatical cohesion is a fundamental factor in a text.

In order to analyze the content of a text, one should be aware of the linguistic and grammatical categories of the language, and the information provided according to the meaning, grammatical devices used, structure, meaning, etc. Therefore, by analyzing the overall structure of the text, one is able to grasp the meaning of the text. Thus, textual analysis, in brief, is the analysis of these grammatically cohesive sentences, imparting some information.

Main Difference - Text vs Discourse

However, in literary studies, there are several text types: narrative texts, descriptive texts, expository texts, etc. in which discourse can be included as well.

What is Discourse

A discourse is necessarily interactive, which means there is always an agent to the information in discourse. In simple terms, discourse is often conversational communications between people. Therefore, under linguistics and literary theory, discourse is defined as “a social event of multi-layered communication in a variety of media: verbal, textual, visual and audial, that has an interactive social purpose.

Thus, interactive quality is a primary requirement in discourse. In other words, the existence of an agent to the information defines what discourse means. Therefore, unlike a text, a discourse can have cohesive sentences as well as utterances of the communicating agents. In other words, discourse depicts the usage of language in for social purposes. This is the basic difference between text and discourse.

Difference Between Text and Discourse

Therefore, to analyze a discourse, one should study the persons or the agents involved in the communication (who to whom), the purpose of them (the social purpose), and medium used (verbal, written, audio or visual). Thus, to grasp the meaning of discourse, one should analyze all these three basic elements in the discourse.

Similarity Between Text and Discourse

  • Both text and discourse usually consist of sentences which communication information.

Difference Between Text and Discourse


Text is usually a written form of communication information, which is a non-interactive nature. In contrast, discourse can be from spoken, written, visual and audial form, communicating information that is interactive in nature.


The agent is not crucial for the text. However, the agent is crucial, and it is that what makes up a discourse. This is the main difference between text and discourse.


Also, the text is non-interactive in nature; on the contrary, discourse is interactive in nature.

Analysis Parts

In a text, the grammatical cohesion and the structure of sentences are analyzed whereas, in discourse, the agents involved in the communication, the social purpose and the medium utilized are analyzed to comprehend the meaning of it. This is an important difference between text and discourse.

Medium or Form

Furthermore, the text is usually in written form whereas discourse can be either in written, verbal, visual or audio form.


Examples of texts include press reports, street signs, documents, etc. whereas discourse can be dialogues, conversations, interactions in audio-visual programmes, etc, anything that depicts the social usage of the language.


Text and discourse create varied confusion due to the interchangeable use of these two terms in varied contexts. However, these two are distinctive aspects of linguistics and communication studies. A text is necessarily non-interactive while discourse is necessarily interactive. Therefore, a text does not necessarily indicate an agent whereas the agent is a crucial element in a discourse. This is the main difference between text and discourse.


1. Hardison, Karen P.L. “Text And Discourse.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, 6 Aug. 2011, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “535803” (CC0) via Pxhere
2. “@onepercentyello Critical Discourse Analysis – BIG D, little d. [viz notes]” by Giulia Forsythe (Public Domain) via Flickr

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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