What is Critical Discourse Analysis?

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2013

47 Pages, Grade: Excellent


Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction
1.1 CDA: Historical Outline
1.2 What is Discourse?
1.3 Discourse as Social Practice
1.4 Text, Discourse, and Semiosis
1.6 What is Critical in Discourse Analysis?
1.7 Intertextuality and (Inter) disciplinarity
1.7.1 Intertextuality
1.7.2 Interdisciplinarity
1.7.3 Transdisciplinarity
1.8 The critique of CDA
1.9 Conclusion

Works Cited

What is Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)?

Just as even a single sentence has traditionally been seen to imply a whole language, so a single discourse implies a whole society. (Fairclough, 1989, p. 152)

1.0 Introduction

In this paper, a historical outline of Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA) will be presented, and some notions and concepts, such as discourse, critical, text, and semiosis, will be clarified. In doing so, many relationships of CDA to other components such as social structure, social event, social practice, and orders of discourse are introduced in such ways that grant redefinitions to discourse and discourse analysis as well as show why CDA is critical and how its constructing components ( i.e., critical, discourse, and analysis) draw its meaning and contribute to form its aims and principles.

1.1 CDA: Historical Outline

The roots of CDA lie in Classical Rhetoric, Text Linguistics and Socio-linguistics, as well as in Applied Linguistics and Pragmatics (Weiss and Wodak, 2002), and some of its tenets can already be found in Jürgen Habermas and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School before the Second World War (Van Dijk, 1993). The orientation of CDA was developed by neo-marxist and post-modernist approaches of social theorists, such as Foucault (1972) and social linguists, such as Pecheux (1975), who help understand ideology in relations to discourse, which becomes the primary instrument through which ideology is transmitted, enacted, and reproduced. For example, Foucault was concerned with the representation of knowledge, and the context in which such representations are given form and meaning, and ultimately can be applied. Some concepts of discourse, which CDA's researchers used later, were introduced by social theorists (e.g., Foucault 1972; Bourdieu 1974), linguists (e.g., Saussure 1959; Schiffrin et al, 2001) such as ‘discursive formations’, ‘discursive practices’, and 'discursive regularities' and used in relations to representations of knowledge, ideology, and power in institutions and society (Chavalin Svetanant, 2009).

The current focus of CDA on language and discourse was initiated with Critical Linguistics that emerged mostly in the UK and Australia at the end of the 1970s (Fowler et al, 1979). Though CDA is based on Critical Linguistics (CL) (Rogers, 2004), it stepped CL in such a way that CL stepped Chomskyian formal grammar and description, which Halliday (1978) showed:

- It is a means of representing patterns of experience ... It enables human beings to build a mental picture of reality, to make sense of their experience of what goes on around them and inside them.

Halliday's functional grammar added two things to formal grammar: 'patterns of experience' and 'patterns of ideologies'. For example, the usage of different grammatical structures of passive and active voice may refer to different ideological interpretations. Following Halliday, these CL practitioners view language in use as simultaneously performing three functions: ideational, interpersonal, and textual functions. Ideational function concerns the external world, e.g., ideas, ideologies, and theories. Interpersonal function expresses the speaker role in the speech situation, e.g., the personal commitment and the interaction with others. Textual function concerns the creation of text, e.g., how information is structured and related. It is the text-forming function, which provides the texture and the relation of language to its environment, including both verbal and nonverbal acts. Halliday's view of language as a "social act" is central to many of CDA's practitioners (Fairclough, 1989, 1992, 1993; Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999; Fowler et al., 1979). According to Fowler et al. (1979, p. 185), CL asserts "that there are strong and pervasive connections between linguistic structure and social structure".

CL, thus, took the fundamental step of interpreting grammatical categories as potential traces of ideological mystification, and introduced a tradition on which CDA developed (van Leeuwen, 2009). It provided the fundamental insight that made it possible to move linguistic analysis beyond formal description and use it as basis for social critique (Halliday, 1973, 1978). To Fairclough (1989), CL and CDA are complementary to each other, as both consider language as socially and ideologically driven (Sheyholislami, 2001) .

Van Leeuwen (2006) pointed out that the emergence of CDA as a term may be traced in Fairclough's works from 1989 to 1995. In his (1989), he used other terms interchangeably besides critical discourse analysis, such as Critical Language Awareness (CLA) and Critical Language Studies (CLS). In his edited (1992), he used Critical Language Awareness (CLA) and used critical discourse analysis without specially abbreviating it to ‘CDA’. In this work, he positioned critical discourse analysis as a form of CLS. In his (1995), a decisive terminological shift was made when Fairclough published his book Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1995). In the same stream, van Dijk (1993) shows that CDA and CL "are at most a shared perspective on doing linguistic, semiotic or discourse analysis” (p. 131).

CDA has also counterparts in critical developments in sociolinguistics, psychology, and the social sciences, some of them already dating back to the early 1970s (Billig, 2002; Wodak, 1996). As is the case in these neighboring disciplines, CDA may be seen as a reaction against the dominant formal (often "asocial" or "uncritical") paradigms of the 1960s and 1970s.

Van Dijk (1993) traced back to the philosophers of the Enlightenment or to Marx, and more recently to the members of the Frankfurt School, which started with the establishment of the Institute of Social Research in 1923 by Flex Weil in Frankfurt, Germany. Its researches and writings highlight the relationship between the social philosophy and science. Most common proponents were Walter Benjamin (1892- 1942), Herbert Marcuse (1898- 1979), Marx Horkheimer (1895- 1973), Theodor W. Adorno (1903- 1969), and Jürgen Habermas (1929-).

Another line of influence and development goes back to Antonio Gramsci (1891- 1937), and his followers in France and the UK, including most notably Stuart Hall and the other members of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Hall, 1981). Likewise, first in France, later also in the UK and the USA, the influence of the work of Althusser (1971), Foucault (1972), among others, can be traced. Finally, the feminist scholarship has also an exemplary role in the critical approach to language and communication (van Dijk, 1995).

CDA has actually started as a new direction of discourse analysis in the mid -1980s by such works of a group of linguists, such as Fairclough, van Dijk, and Wodak. It is originated to seek the relationship between discourse and society and it was developed as a movement in 1992, at a meeting in Amsterdam with participations by the same group, which were later published as a special issue of "Discourse and Society" in 1993. The group gradually expanded and continued to meet annually from 1992 onward, and since then several influential papers were published and two new journals started to appear from 2004: namely, Critical Discourse Studies and the Journal of Language and Politics (van Leeuwen, 2006).

New concepts and fields of research, accordingly, seem to be prominent such as globalization and marketization issues, gender issues, issues of racism, media discourses, political discourses, organizational discourses or dimensions of identity research (Wodak, 2001a). The notions of "ideology", "power", hierarchy, and gender together with sociological variables were all seen as relevant for an interpretation or explanation of text and the subjects under investigation may differ according to different approaches and scholars who apply CDA.

However, CDA does not primarily aim to contribute to a specific discipline, paradigm, school or discourse theory (van Dijk,1993; Fairclough, 2003; Weiss and Wodak, 2003). It is not a linguistic system like Fredinand de sassure's langue and parole, nor is it a closed theory like Chomsky’s Generative Transformational Grammar, nor is it similar to Michael Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics, because it is not determined by individual choice, but it is determined by social structures and social differentiation (Fairclough, 1989). It is also a changeable system and it never provides one single or specific theory, nor is it considered a specific methodological characteristic of research. It is a multidisciplinary approach to discourse, derived from quite different theoretical backgrounds, oriented towards very different data and methodologies (Wodak, 2007). It is founded on the insight that text and talk play a key role in maintaining and legitimating inequality, injustice, and oppression in society. It uses variable methods of discourse analysis to show how this is done, and it seeks to spread awareness of this aspect of language use in society, and to argue explicitly for change on the basis of its findings (Leeuwen, 2006). It is primarily interested and motivated by pressing social issues, which it hopes to better understand through discourse analysis. Theories, descriptions, methods and empirical work are chosen or elaborated as a function of their relevance for the realization of such a sociopolitical goal. Because of the complexity of social problems, a multidisciplinary approach to discourse and highly sophisticated theories are required to make understanding of such problems is possible.

After introducing the historical background that CDA based and derived from, in the following sections some issues about discourse and CDA should be clarified and answered.

1.2 What is Discourse?

The term ‘discourse’ is used in several ways within the broad field of discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1993). It is defined differently in terms of two main paradigms: structural and functional. Structurally, It is a particular unit of language (above the sentence), and functionally, a particular focus, e.g., on language use (Schiffrin, 1994). Structuralists are concerned mostly with the language form, e.g. grammar, considering language as innate and individual property (Andersen, 1988), whereas functionalists are interested in language use, e.g. content. Differences in paradigms influence definitions of discourse: a definition based on the structuralist paradigm views discourse as language above the sentence (e.g., a type of structure), and a definition derived from the functionalist paradigm views discourse as language use (Shiffrin, 1994).

However, some linguists (e.g., Schiffirin, 1994) study both paradigms of language structure and language function as they complement and feed each other, introducing an alternative discourse definition (i.e., discourse as utterance). Defining discourse as utterances seems to balance both the functional emphasis on how language is used in context and formal emphasis on extended patterns. The functional approach fills the gap that the structural approach left in the linguistic theory. The utterance is the realized meaning(s) to the abstract meaning of a sentence (Lyons, 1977b; Schiffrin, 1994). For example the abstract sentence “I’m cold” can occur in innumerable utterances (acts), e.g., to close the window, to turn the condition on or off, etc. This means that utterances are the sentences in different contexts, and defining discourse as utterances is to analyze discourse in terms of language in context. It is obvious that structural definition focuses on text structure, whereas functional definition focuses on context, and defining discourse in terms of utterances seems to balance the two sides.

Accordingly, discourse is different from text because it includes other linguistic processes (speaking forms, interactions, etc.). In this respect, text is defined as "the instances of linguistic interaction in which people actually engage: whatever said, or written, in an operational context, as distinct from a citational context like that of words listed in a dictionary" (Halliday, 1978, pp. 108: 9). To Halliday (1978), a spoken text is simply what is said in a piece of written discourse and a spoken discourse can be encoded in written text. In other words, written text is an abstract theoretical construct realized by spoken discourse and vice versa (Brown and Yule, 1983; van Dijk, 1977). Then, text is not only the written forms (e.g., registers and genres) of language but it is the spoken ones (e.g., dialects) also; it is ‘the meaning potential’: the selected meaning from the total set of options that constitute what can be meant. However, Stubbs (1983) differentiates between written and spoken languages in terms of text and discourse respectively. Whereas text is written and non-spoken monologue, discourse is spoken and interactive dialogue.

Foucault (1972) introduces a different view of discourse in terms of his concept of knowledge or 'episteme'; he does not think of discourse as a piece of text, but as "practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak" (p. 49). By discourse, Foucault means "a group of statements which provide a language for talking about – a way of representing the knowledge about – a particular topic at a particular historical moment" (Hall, 1981, p. 291). Discourse, Foucault argues, constructs the topic. It governs the way that a topic can be meaningfully talked about. It also influences how ideas are put into practice and used to regulate the conduct of others. This in turn means that discourse (or discourses in the social theoretical sense) can limit and restrict other ways of talking and producing knowledge about it (e.g. discussing working-class crime as an individual problem in the media can marginalize an alternative conception of it being a social problem) (p.8).

CDA develops discourse socially in such a way that it involves social conditions of production (e.g., text) as well as social conditions of interpretation. It is the linguistic form of social interaction that is either embedded in social context of situation or that it interprets the social system that constitutes the culture of institutions or society as a whole. It is a product of its environment and it functions in that environment through the process of interaction and semantic choice. Text is the realization of such environment. It treats discourse as a type of social practice including visual images, music, gestures, and the like that represent and endorse it. On the other hand, texts are produced by socially situated speakers and writers. For participants in discourse, their relations in producing texts are not always equal: there will be a range from complete solidarity to complete inequality. Meanings come about through interaction between readers and receivers and linguistic features come about as a result of social processes, which are never arbitrary. In most interactions, users of language bring with them different dispositions toward language, which are closely related to social status (Fairclough, 1989). In CDA, discourse is defined in terms of social practice.

1.3 Discourse as Social Practice

In CDA, discourse is defined as a type of social practice and the context of language is crucial (Fairclough, 1989, 1993, 2003; van Dijk 1993, 1997, 2001; Gee, 1990; van Leeuwen, 2006; Wodak, 1996, 2000, 2001; Scollon 2001; and Wodak, 2000). Discourse involves both written and spoken language as a form of social practice (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997, p. 35). Following Fairclough (1995), Reisigl and Wodak (2000) consider discourse as "a way of signifying a particular domain of social practice from a particular perspective". In seeing discourse as a social practice, Fairclough (1989) shows that a critical analyst is not only concerned with analyzing texts, but with analyzing the relationships between texts, processes, and their social conditions. In doing so, three dimensions of critical discourse analysis arise accordingly: description that concerns the formal properties of the text that concerns with what a text says, interpretation that concerns the relationship between text and interaction, and explanation that concerns the relationship between interaction and social context, (Fairclough, 1989). There is a dialectical relationship between particular discursive practices and the specific fields of action (including situations, institutional frames and social structures) in which they are embedded. Social settings affect and are affected by discourse. In other words, discourse shape social settings and it is shaped by them (Wodak, 2007). Social structures as well as social events are parts of social reality and the relationship between social structures and social events depends upon mediating categories, which Fairclough called ‘social practices’, the forms of social activities, which are articulated together to constitute social fields, institutions, and organizations (Fairclough, 2003).

In this sense, discourse is a particular type of social structure which creates social practices within the social network. Following Focault (1985b), Faiclough (1992, 2003), calls this social network "orders of discourse", the semiotic specific system of every field (i.e., political, educational, governmental, etc.). In social network, the relationship between discourse and society is interdependent: it is socially shaped and also socially shaping. The task of CDA is to explore the tension between these two sides of practice, the socially shaped and socially shaping. It has the role to make those involved in the discourse who may not be aware of the intertwined relations of certain discourse understand its hidden meanings and relations. Social practice is a part of discourse that shapes matters of meaning that depend on matters of social relationship. Matters of meaning and matters of social relationships are interdependent as well, so we must understand both to understand either. CDA is characterized by a realist social ontology; it regards both abstract social structures and concrete social events as parts of social reality (Fairclough, 1993). Similarly, Michael Meyer (2001, p. 28) shows that many modern theories of CDA imply some kind of circularity between social action and social structure, since they concern two levels of interpretation. The first concerns general social theories, often called 'grand theories', which conceptualize relations between social structure and social action, providing top-down explanations (i.e., social structures interpret action). The second concerns bottom-up explanation (i.e., actions interpret structure), which links micro- and macro-sociological phenomena together. However, van Dijk (1993, p. 251) argues that CDA 'prefers to focus on the elites and their discursive strategies for the maintenance of inequality' through studying top down relations of dominance than to bottom-up relations of resistance, compliance and acceptance. To him, this will often be effective and adequate, because it is easy to assume that directive speech acts such as commands or orders may be used to enact power, and hence also to exercise and to reproduce dominance. Similarly, it is easy to examine the style, rhetoric, or meaning of texts for strategies that aim at the concealment of social power relations, for instance by playing down, leaving implicit or understating responsible agency of powerful social actors in the events represented in the text. CDA, hence, studies the relation between society, discourse and social cognition, which is the necessary theoretical and empirical interface that should be examined in detail. Social cognition is the missing link between discourse and dominance, a feature that distinguishes CDA from other non-critical approaches.

In CDA, discourse involves social conditions of production (e.g., text) as well as social conditions of interpretation. It is the linguistic form of social interaction that is either embedded in social context of situation or that it interprets the social system that constitutes the culture of institutions or society as a whole. It is a product of its environment and it functions in that environment through the process of interaction and semantic choice. Text is the realization of such environment. CDA treats discourse as a type of social practice including visual images, music, gestures, and the like that represent and endorse it. Texts are produced by socially situated speakers and writers. For participants in discourse, their relations in producing texts are not always equal: there will be a range from complete solidarity to complete inequality. Meanings come about through interaction between readers and receivers and linguistic features come about as a result of social processes, which are never arbitrary. In most interactions, users of language bring with them different dispositions toward language, which are closely related to social status (Fairclough, 1989).

1.4 Text, Discourse, and Semiosis

Fairclough (2005) uses text in a generalized sense for the discoursal element of social events (i.e., not just written but also spoken interaction). Texts are understood in the light of their relation to other elements of social events and social structures, as well as of their relation to social practices, the mediating forms between social events and social structures and the forms of social activity, which include social relations, social identities, and social subjects. He also uses the term 'semiosis' rather than ‘discourse’ to refer in a general way to language and other semiotic modes such as visual image, and the term ‘text’ for semiotic elements of social events (i.e., written, spoken, or combined as in the case of television texts).

Faiclough (1989) defined text as a product rather than a process; and discourse in the whole is the process of social interaction. Elsewhere (2003, 2005), he uses the term ‘discourse’ for linguistic and other semiotic elements (such as visual images and ‘body language’) of the social, and considers text as the linguistic/semiotic elements of social events, analytically isolable parts of the social process. It is a particular way of representing certain parts or aspects of the (physical, social, psychological) world; for instance, there are different political discourses (liberal, conservative, social-democratic etc) which represent social groups and relations between social groups in a society in different ways. To him, text is any actual instance of language in use, whereas discourse can be used in either a general or a particular way: (a) general meaning: language in use as an element of social life which is closely interconnected with other elements and (b) particular meaning, such as New Labour ‘Third Way’ discourse (Fairclough, 2003). He also differentiates between discourse, genre, and style. A genre is a particular way of acting socially, which means acting together, i.e., interacting; for instance, there are different genres for consulting, discussing or interviewing. A style is a particular way of being, i.e., a particular identity; for instance, there are distinguishable ways of managing or ‘leading’ in organizations which can be characterized as different styles. For Fairclough, the social world consists of abstract social structure and concrete social events. Social practices are the mediating parts between the two elements. Social structure is represented generally by language, social practices are represented by orders of discourse, and social events are represented in texts. Semiosis is an element of the social at all levels. Semiosis figures in three main ways of social practice. It is figured in genres (ways of acting), discourses ( ways of representing), and Styles (ways of being) (Fairclough, 2003). Texts, which represent the social concrete events, are the social resources of discourses, genres, and styles. They do not simply reflect discourses, genres, and styles, but they actively rework and articulate them together in distinctive and potentially novel ways. The analysis of texts in this respect, according to Fairclough (1992), shows how texts articulate different discourses, genres and styles together, potentially drawing from diverse orders of discourse, and of social agents to use existing social resources in innovative ways potentially showing the capacity which, subject to certain conditions, may contribute to changing the character of and relations between social practices. The causal powers of social agents in social events are thus conditional upon pre-structured properties of social life, knowledge of which can only be produced by abstraction, and knowledge of which is necessary for analyses of concrete events which can show the socially transformative and constructive powers of social agents.

Here, CDA stepped forward Foucault's approach that argued that the analysis of discourse rigorously ignores any fundamental dependence on anything outside of discourse itself; discourse is never taken as a record of historical events, an articulation of meaningful content, or the expression of an individual or collective psychology. Instead, it is analyzed not only at the level of 'things said,' (i.e., linguistic analysis), the level at which statements have their 'conditions of possibility' and their conditions of relation to one another but at the level of semiotic features (Foucault, 1972). Thus, discourse is not just a set of articulated propositions, nor is it the trace of an otherwise hidden psychology, spirit, or encompassing historical idea; it is the set of relations within which all of these other factors gain their sense. Fairclough (2003) called such analysis of text as 'Interdiscursive', which includes linguistic and semiotic analysis of text features that allows the analyst to assess the relationship and tension between the causal effects of agency in the concrete event and the causal effects of practices and structures, and to detect shifts in the relationship between orders of discourse and networks of social practices as these are registered in the interdiscursivity (mixing of genres, discourses, styles) of texts.

In sum, semiosis is the social aspect of discourse, whereas text is a product and process of discourse. It is a product because it can be stored, retrieved, bought and sold, cited and summarized and so forth, and it is a process because it is grasped through regarding what we might call ‘texturing’ (Fairclough 2003). In other words, texts are instances and representations of social actions, of social production, or makings of meanings, understandings, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, social relations, social and personal identities. The role of critical discourse analyst is to analyze relations between discourse and other elements of the social, and to analyze relations between linguistic/semiotic elements of social events and linguistic/semiotic facets of social structure and social practice (Fairclough, 1993). All linguistic forms, including language use, text, talk, and every kind of verbal and written communication, form what we call 'discourse': a form of social practice (Fairclough, 1992, 2001, and 2003), a part of communicative event (van Dijk, 1997), and a form of knowledge and memory, whereas text illustrates concrete oral utterances or written documents (Reisigl and Wodak, 2001).


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What is Critical Discourse Analysis?
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Anwar Elsharkawy (Author), 2013, What is Critical Discourse Analysis?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/349819


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