Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse of Power

CDA in Practice

Scientific Essay, 2012

33 Pages, Grade: Excellent with honor


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. CDA as Practice

3. Fairclough's Social Analysis
3.1 Terminology and Definitions
3.2 Methodology
3.3 Linguistic Analysis
3.4 Discursive Analysis
3.5 Social Analysis
3.6 Forms, meanings and effects

4. Wodak's Approach: Discourse-Historical Analysis
4.1 Methodology
4.2 The Linguistic and Discursive Model in Discourse-Historical Approach
4.3 Linguistic and Discursive Strategies
4.4 Pragmatic Strategies

5. Van Dijk's Socio-cognitive Approach
5.1 Terminology and definitions
5.2 Methodology
5.3 Action
5.4 context
5.5 Ideology
5.6 Power

6. Conclusion


Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse of Power: CDA in Practice

Power is no blessing in itself, except when it is used to protect the innocent (Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745).

1. Introduction

This paper presents an overview of CDA as a practical approach in the field of discourse analysis. It aims at exposing different approaches of practicing CDA, from which a practical method can be constructed and can be applied to any chosen work. It links discourse with society, granting a CDA as a transdisciplinary approach in general and powerful discourse in particular. Such an approach of practicing CDA has brought mainly upon Fairclough, Ruth Wodak, and van Dijk.

2. CDA as Practice

CDA has provided methods for the empirical study of the relations between discourse and social and cultural developments in different social domains (Jorgensen and Phillips, 2002). This section reviews such methods, presenting the practical approaches of scholars such as Fairclough, Wodak, and van Dijk and their relations to Political Discourse Analysis (PDA).

It is generally agreed that CDA is not a school or a single methodology but rather an approach (Fairclough, 2003; Weiss and Wodak, 2003; van Dijk, 1995, 1997, 2001,2009) which can be understood as a certain set of explicitly or implicitly defined theoretical assumptions which are specifically linked with empirical data, and permits specific ways of interpretation and thus reconnects the empirical with the theoretical field (Meyer, 2001). CDA is a context-sensitive approach to discourse analysis that obtains and maintains its identity by distinguishing itself from other approaches and by constituting itself at different levels of selection: starting from choosing the data under observation, defining some theoretical concepts, and ending with the methods that link theory and observation (Meyer, 2001). For Fairclough (2003), one shouldn't analyze a text on a fixed, standard grammatical framework, but one should use the framework which is the most appropriate to the social issue they are researching and the social theory and discourse theory they are trying to use. Every approach has its method, which is defined as a single set of practices and procedures, derived from theory or theorization of practice.

In general terms, Pennycook (2001, 85-89) pointed out that CDA can be classified into two main types. The first type of analysis deals with the ways in which unequal power is reproduced in conversation. It focuses on issues such as control over topics, interactions, and turn-taking. By doing this kind of analysis, it can be demonstrated, for example, that topics are introduced and changed by the dominant participant in a conversation. This shows how power determines who speaks first, for how long, and about which topic. The second type deals with the content and not with the structure of the text. It concentrates on the ways in which ideologies are reproduced in discourses. The goal of the analysis is to uncover the underlying ideological systems and representations, and to show how they are related to the larger social order. This type of analysis understands an ideology as the hidden views of certain social groups, which they are able to promote as naturalized. These groups can do so because of the power they hold in society. By reproducing their ideology, they are able to reproduce the social relations of power. The most notable approaches concerning CDA have been conducted by Fairclough (1989, 1993, 2003, 2005, 2005b), van Dijk (1993, 1997, 2001), and Wodak (1996, 2001a).

Though CDA varies considerably in technical specification, It shares a common strategy which may be described in Wang's quoted words of Luke:

- CDA involves a principled and transparent shunting back and forth between the microanalysis of texts using varied tools of linguistics, semiotic, and literary analysis and the macroanalysis of social formations, institutions, and power relations that these texts index and construct ( Wei Wang, 2007: 63).

Accordingly, CDA moves beyond text analysis, as it combines micro linguistic analysis with macro social analysis and power relations. Wang (2007) argues that Fairclough's and Wodak's works rely much on a linguistic analysis of texts, beginning with systematic analysis of lexical resources, moving through an analysis of syntactic functions to the analysis of genre and text metafunction, whereas van Dijk's works develop toolkits that are less oriented to lexicosyntactic features of texts and more focused on cultural and social resources and contexts. In the same vein, Michael Meyer (2001: 17-18) pointed out that the approaches to CDA may be summarized in 'a wide variety of theories, ranging from microsociological perspectives (Ron Scollon) to theories on society and power in Michel Foucault's tradition (Norman Fairclough, Ruth Wodak), theories of social cognition (Teun van Dijk) and grammar, as well as individual concepts that are borrowed from larger theoretical traditions.

Thus, there are two major streams of doing a critical discourse analysis. One stream is represented by the works of Fairclough and Wodak. These works are characterized by detailed textual analyses, while the other stream represented by van Dijk, which characterized by a focus on social variables such as action, context, power, and ideology. The following sections show these three approaches of CDA in detail.

3. Fairclough's Social Analysis

3.1 Terminology and Definitions

This section shows the terminology that Fairclough used, then his methodology of analysis is presented. Text, to Fairclough (2003), is any actual instance of language either in written or spoken form with sound and semiotic form, whereas discourse is defined as:

- … ways of representing aspects of the world – the processes, relations and structures of the material world, the ‘mental world’ of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and so forth and, the social world …different discourses are different perspectives on the world, and they are associated with the different relations people have to the world. (Fairclough, 2003, p.124)

Discourse is used in three different ways. The first usage is an uncountable noun or an abstract sense (i.e., semiosis), in which it is seen as a particular view of language in use, and an element of all social processes. Discourse, in this perspective, refers to 'language use as social practice' and it is both constitutive and constituting. In other words, discourse is constituted by existing social practices as well as it is constituting to them. Secondly, discourse is understood as the kind of language used within a specific field, such as political or scientific discourse. The third usage is a countable noun, figuring in three main ways in social practices as ways of representing the world (i.e., discourses), ways of interacting (i.e., genres), and ways of beings or identities (i.e., styles) (Fairclough, 2003: 27). Fairclough (2003) defines genre as discourse which is part of social activity. While genres may be typical patterns of discourse for particular purposes in particular contexts, there are instances when genres are used which are not typical for a particular purpose or context. Fairclough called the latter type a "disembedded genre" (2003: 68), which is lifted out of its usual context, and used for a new purpose in a different context. For example, if the typical genre of advertising a product in a magazine is used to advertise an academic post in a university, such genre has a particular ideological function, and contributes to the representation of learning as commodity.

Social practices of discourse mediate the abstract social structures and concrete social events in stabilized forms of social activities. They are ways of selecting certain structural possibilities and deselecting others, 'e.g., "the book" is possible in English, but "book the" is not' (Fairclough, 2003, p. 25). Fairclough semiotically linked linguistic analysis with social analysis: languages are similar to social structure (i.e., both are abstract), social practices are articulated into networks which constitute social fields, institutions, and organizations (i.e., orders of discourse), and texts are broadly understood as social events (Fairclough, 2003, 2005). Any social change includes change in social structures, social practices, and social events. This change always results from crisis in a state or organization and opens struggles between strategies for such change and differences between strategies are partly discursive. The change in social practices affects how elements are articulated together in practices, how practices are articulated together in networks, and how discourses, genres, and styles are articulated together in orders of discourse. Social practices include action and interaction, social relations, the material world (i.e., persons with beliefs, attitudes, histories, etc.), and discourse. In this perspective, discourse figures in three main ways: genres (ways of acting), discourses (ways of representing), and styles (ways of being) (Fairclough, 2003: 26 -27) .

3.2 Methodology

Fairclough (1989) proposed a three-dimensional framework of analysis, which consists of three interconnected analytical steps to take:

- Description is the stage which is concerned with the formal properties of the text.
- Interpretation is concerned with the relationship between text and interaction – with seeing the text as a product of a process of production, and as a resource in the process of Interpretation.
- Explanation is concerned with the relationship between interaction and social context – with the social determination of the processes of production and interpretation, and their social effects (p. 26). Hence, the description phase is the text analysis, the interpretation is the processing analysis of production and reception, and finally the explanation stage represents the social analysis.

CDA approach is drawn on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) that is based on theories of language, discourse, and society, which particularly associated with Michael Halliday's linguistic theory and analytical method (Halliday 1978). Fairclough pointed out that SFL is suitable for CDA because it emphasizes the connections between texts and social contexts. However, CDA is more transdisciplinary and uses quantitative analysis of texts, besides it may use other approaches than SFL (Fairclough, 2003, p. 7). Therefore, Fairclough criticizes linguistic approaches for concentrating exclusively on textual analysis and for working with a simple and superficial understanding of the relationship between text and society. For him, text analysis alone is not sufficient for the interpretation of discourse, as it does not shed light on the links between texts and societal and cultural processes and structures. An interdisciplinary perspective is needed in which one combines textual and social analysis ((Jorgensen and Phillips, 2002: 66). To Fairclough, discourse analysis is based on three components: description (i.e., linguistic), interpretation (i.e., interdiscursive), and explanation (i.e., social and cultural). Accordingly, CDA may include linguistic analysis of specific texts, interdiscursive analysis (i.e., orders of discourse, seeing texts in terms of different discourses, genres and styles), and social analysis. The following section shows these three dimensions of analysis .

3.3 Linguistic Analysis

Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1993, 1995a, b, c, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) attempts to establish a systematic method for exploring the relationship between text and its social context. He pointed out that there is a dialectical relationship between language and other elements of social life, which necessitates the analyst to combine both textually-oriented discourse analysis with non-textually-oriented discourse analysis. Linguistic analysis entails some form of detailed textual analysis. Such detailed textual analysis includes a combination of linguistic and other forms of semiotic analysis and concerns with their distribution across different parts of the text in such a way that it describes the relationship between the productive and interpretative processes of discursive practice. In doing so, it shows the relationship between discursive practice and social practice.

To Fairclough, linguistic analysis of power depends on showing power in what is said or done in contents, including features of vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, turn-taking, types of speech act, and the directness or the indirectness of the expressions; the relations between subjects, and the social positions they occupy in discourse (Fairclough, 1989, p. 109). In this phase of analysis, Fairclough (2003, p. 14) employed detailed text analysis to gain insight into how discursive processes operate linguistically in specific texts. He showed how the analyst may search for the common features of text that often have certain effects, including:

a) Nominalization (i.e. transforming a clause into a nominal or noun-like entity) that is defined as a linguistic form which hides the agents of actions (verbs): e.g., When ‘change’ is used as a noun (as an active agent in a clause, not human action).
b) Passive verbs: e.g., 'can be made and shipped' (doesn’t say who does the moving/shipping).
c) Passive adjectives: e.g., 'mobile' (doesn’t say who carries it).
d) Intransitive verbs: e.g., 'migrate' (doesn’t say who or what causes the migration to happen).
e) Metaphor: e.g., 'migration' for the way companies move technology around the world.
f) Inanimate nouns (e.g., 'capital') used as grammatical agents in clauses (hiding human action).

Depending on the context, Fairclough (2003) pointed out that these features may be used to deliberately or unconsciously mystify and hide the real agents, but one can get evidence about the context and the influence of such texts by looking at how widely such texts are distributed in the world, who reads them, etc.

3.4 Discursive Analysis

To Fairclough, each discursive or communicative event (i.e., an instance of language use) has three dimensions or facets: it is a spoken or written language text, it is an instance of discourse practice involving the production and interpretation of text and it is a piece of social practice (Fairclough, 1993: 36). The components of any discursive event are showed in figure 1.

Figure 1, the components of a discursive event according to Fairclough

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Here, text is at the core of the analysis. It is analyzed for linguistic evidence for claims made out of the discourse analytical work. It is a part of social events and social reality. It is also a social practice, which is socially shaped and also socially shaping or constitutive. It explores the tension between these two sides of language use, the socially constitutive and socially constituting. In this view, CDA is a type of discourse analysis, which is concerned with language use that is always simultaneously constitutive of social identities, social relations and systems of knowledge and belief.

Every instance of language use is a communicative or discursive event consisting of three dimensions:

- it is a text (speech, writing, visual image or a combination of these);
- it is a discursive practice which involves the production and consumption of texts; and
- it is a social practice

Interdiscursive analysis includes linguistic and semiotic analysis of text features that allow 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, and styles) of texts. For example, Fairclough (2003) uses a wide variety of theories by various social theorists to analyze Language in the New Capitalism to show the role of interdiscursivity in analysis and interpreting different texts.

In discursive analysis, the level of discourse is an intermediate level, a mediating level between the text and its social context (social events, social practices, social structures). Discourses, genres and styles are organized together in interdiscursive relations, in which different genres, discourses and styles may be `mixed', articulated and textured together in particular ways. As social elements, they are articulated together in particular ways in orders of discourse — the language aspects of social practices in which language variation is socially controlled. They make the link between the text and other elements of the social, between the internal relations of the text and its external relations (Fairclough, 2003, p. 38).

3.5 Social Analysis

Fairclough's macro analysis (i.e. social) draws on Jurgen Habermas's social theory (1984); Bob Jessop's political economy (1998, 2000); Pierre Bourdieu's social and cultural theory (1974, 1991); Basil Bernstein's sociology of education (1986, 1990); David Harvey's social and political geography (1990); and Ernesto Laclau and Mouffe 's post-Marxist political theory (1985). In doing so, Fairclough showed that text analysis and social theory can help each other and that all the social theorists that he referred to have some connection to language and discourse, but in his opinion they do not analyze texts closely enough because they are idealist rather than realist (Fairclough, 2003, p. 9). In the same vein, Howarth and Stavrakakis (2000) pointed out that the emergence of the critical theory of discourse has been stimulated by 'a number of perceived weaknesses in existing paradigms of social science research' (p. 5). Fairclough (2003: 37) introduced the proper way of analysis in terms of critical theory, stating that:

- Textual description and analysis should not be seen as prior to and independent of social analysis and critique — it should be seen as an open process which can be enhanced through dialogue across disciplines and theories, rather than a coding in the terms of an autonomous analytical framework or grammar.


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Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse of Power
CDA in Practice
Critical Discourse Analysis
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critical, discourse, analysis, power, practice, Ideology, CDA, Commonsense, Naturalism
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Dr. Anwar Elsharkawy (Author), 2012, Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse of Power, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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