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The French word for discourse or conversation. When it appears in this form in modern theoretical writings in English, it usually carries a special sense given to it by the linguist Émile Benveniste in his Problèmes de linguistique générale (1966), in which he distinguishes discours as a ‘subjective’ mode of speech (or writing) from histoire, which is apparently ‘objective’. In discours, the present situation of speech or writing is indicated by signs of deixis (e.g. the pronouns I and you, the adverbs here, now, there, etc.) and by the use of tense (she has gone rather than she went). While discours thus displays its nature as an enunciation involving a relationship between a speaker/writer and a listener/reader, histoire conceals this by its concentration on the enounced (see énoncé). Confusingly, another distinction is made between these two terms in narratology, where histoire is story, and discours is language or narration.

Subjects: Literature.

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