Scholars from a range of disciplines use the term 'frame' to mean a variety of disjointed and incompatible concepts. This paper examines a range of framing literature, from the writings of authors including Erving Goffman, Tuen van Dijk, Serge Moscovici, George Lakoff, Alan Johnson, William Gamson, David Snow, Robert Benford and Paolo Donati. Then it develops the theoretical case for defining frames as semi?structured elements of discourse which people use to make sense of information they encounter. Additionally, this paper demonstrates the need to include social system frames, which provide patterns for understanding social relations, among the presently acknowledged frame types. Frames develop in parallel with language, vary across cultures, and shape, but are distinct from other extra?linguistic discourse forms, including myths and ideologies.
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