What is Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)?
*Anwar El-Said El-Sharkawy
Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation
Lecturer of English, Afif College of Education- English
Department, Shaqra University,
*A Ph. D. holder of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), lecturer of English and
translator, faculty of education, Shaqra University, interested in linguistic, discursive,
and pragmatic writings and researches. Email: email@example.com
Table of Contents
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)
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,
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
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
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).
1.5 What is CDA?
To Fairclough (1993), CDA is defined as a branch of discourse analysis, which
is concerned with analyzing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of
dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language as he wrote:
- discourse analysis which aims to systematically explore often opaque relationships of
causality and determination between (a) discursive practices, events and texts, and (b)
wider social and cultural structures, relations and processes; to investigate how such
practices, events and texts arise out of and are ideologically shaped by relations of
power and struggles over power; and to explore how the opacity of these relationships
between discourse and society is itself a factor securing power and hegemony. (p. 135)
In a similar vein, van Dijk (1998) argued that CDA is a field that is concerned
with studying and analyzing written and spoken texts to reveal the discursive sources
of power, dominance, inequality and bias. It examines how these discursive sources
are maintained and reproduced within specific social, political and historical contexts.
In other words, CDA aims to investigate critically social inequality as it is expressed,
signaled, constituted, legitimized and so on by language use (or in discourse). Jaffer
Sheyholislami (2001, p. 1) put it as simple as that "CDA aims at making transparent
the connections between discourse practices, social practices, and social structures,
connections that might be opaque to the layperson".
However, CDA isn't based on a single theory or method which is uniform and
consistent (Fairclough 2003 ; Meyer, 2001;Weiss and Wodak, 2003). Instead, it
involves linguistic and social approaches, which would endorse Habermas's claim that
language is a medium of domination and social force in such a way that it serves to
legitimize relations of organized power. Weiss and Wodak (2003, p. 6) suggest that
“the whole theoretical framework of CDA seems eclectic and unsystematic”. Whereas
linguistics traditionally focused on the micro analysis of texts and interactions, social
science was traditionally concerned with social practice and social change. In CDA
the analysis of social life requires investigation of a combination of the interactional
and the structural (Fairclough 1995a). In CDA, texts do not only provide facts, but
they provide many instances of the facts because it does not only concern with what a
text says, but also how that text portrays facts in various ways in which each and
every text becomes a unique creation of a unique creator. Texts also do not describe
facts, but they propose problems that the analyst tries to solve.
Unlike non-critical approaches (i.e., linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics,
etc.), which are satisfied with recognizing what a text says and restating the key
remarks of the text, CDA goes two steps further. First, it recognizes what a text says
and it reflects on what the text does. Second, it gives instances of interpretations to
what the text, as a whole, means from both what it says and what it does. Meyer
(2001) argues that CDA is differentiated from other sociolinguistic approaches
because it is concerned with different problems in nature and in research questions, as
well as it advocates the role for groups who suffer from social discrimination and
Many theorists in CDA present the general principles of CDA in their own
terms (van Dijk, 1993; Wodak, 1996; Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). Fairclough and
Wodak (1997: 271-80) summarize the main tenets of CDA as follows:
1. CDA addresses social problems
2. Power relations are discursive
3. Discourse constitutes society and culture
4. Discourse does ideological work
5. Discourse is historical
6. The link between text and society is mediated
7. Discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory
8. Discourse is a form of social action.
The first principle is that CDA addresses social problems. CDA not only
focuses on language and language use, but also on the linguistic characteristics of
social and cultural processes. CDA follows a critical approach to social problems in
its endeavors to make explicit power relationships which are frequently hidden. It
aims to derive results which are of practical relevance to the social, cultural, political
and even economic contexts (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). In CDA, social cognition
is the missing link between discourse and society. Van Dijk (1993, p.252) argues that:
in order to relate discourse and society, and hence discourse and the reproduction of
dominance and inequality, we need to examine in detail the role of social
representations in the minds of social actors. More specifically, we hope to show that
social cognition is the necessary theoretical (and empirical) interface , if not the
missing link , between discourse and dominance. In our opinion, neglect of such social
cognitions has been one of the major theoretical shortcomings of most work in critical
linguistics and discourse analysis.
Here, CDA stepped beyond Critical Linguistics and Discourse Analysis since
it concerns most with social cognition in van Dijk's terms or the orders of discourse
and social practice in Fairclough's. The second principle of CDA is that power
relations are discursive. That is CDA explains how social relations of power are
exercised and negotiated in and through discourse (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). The
third principle is that discourse constitutes society and culture. This means that every
instance of language use makes its own contribution to reproducing and transforming
society and culture, including relations of power (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). The
fourth principle is that discourse does ideological work. In other words, ideologies are
often produced through discourse. To understand how ideologies are produced, it is
not enough to analyze texts; the discursive practice (how the texts are interpreted and
received and what social effects they have) must also be considered (Fairclough and
Wodak, 1997). The fifth principle is that discourse is historical. Thus discourses can
only be understood with reference to their historical context. In this perspective, CDA
refers to extralinguistic factors such as culture, society and ideology in historical
terms (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Wodak, 1996, 2001). The sixth principle is that
discourse is mediated between text and society. CDA is not a deterministic approach,
but invokes an idea of mediation (Fairclough, 1993). Fairclough studies this mediated
relationship between text and society by looking at ‘orders of discourse’ (Fairclough,
1989; 1993). Van Dijk (1997) introduces a ‘sociocognitive level’ to his analysis, and
Scollon studies mediation by looking at ‘mediated action’ and ‘mediational means’
(Scollon, 2001). The seventh principle is that CDA is interpretative and explanatory.
CDA goes beyond textual analysis. It is not only interpretative, but also explanatory in
intent (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Wodak, 1996, 2001). These interpretations and
explanations are dynamic and open, and may be affected by new readings and new
contextual information. The eighth principle is that discourse, from the point of view
of CDA, is a form of social action. The principal aim of CDA is to uncover
opaqueness and power relationships. CDA is a socially committed scientific
paradigm. It attempts to bring about change in communicative and socio-political
practices (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). Van Dijk (1995, pp.17-18) adds features and
criteria that CDA generally characterizes, summarized in the following:
- It is problem- or issue-oriented, rather than paradigm-oriented.
- It does not characterize a school, a field, or a sub-discipline of discourse
analysis, but rather an explicitly critical approach, position or stance of
studying text and talk.
- It is multidisciplinary approach, focusing on the relations between discourse
- It may pay attention to all levels and dimensions of discourse( i.e., those of
grammar, phonology, syntax, semantics, etc.), style, rhetoric, schematic
organization, speech acts, pragmatic strategies, and those of interaction,
- Many studies in CDA are however not limited to these purely “verbal”
approaches to discourse, but also pay attention to other semiotic dimensions
(pictures, film, sound, music, gestures, etc.) of communicative events.
- When studying the role of discourse in society, CDA especially focuses on
(group) relations of power, dominance and inequality and the ways these are
reproduced or resisted by social group members through text and talk.
- Much work in CDA deals with the discursively enacted or legitimated
structures and strategies of dominance and resistance in social relationships of
class, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, language, religion, age,
nationality or world-region.
- Much work in CDA is about the underlying ideologies that play a role in the
reproduction of or resistance against dominance or inequality.
- Among the descriptive, explanatory and practical aims of CDA studies is the
attempt to uncover, reveal or disclose what is implicit, hidden or otherwise not
immediately obvious in relations of discursively enacted dominance or their
underlying ideologies. That is, CDA specifically focuses on the strategies of
manipulation, legitimation, the manufacture of consent and other discursive
ways to influence the minds (and indirectly the actions) of people in the
interest of the powerful.
Van Dijk shows that CDA pays more attention to issues and problems,
particularly concerned with top down relations of dominance than to bottom-up
relations of resistance, compliance and acceptance. Van Dijk (2001, 2009) claimed
that CDA is concerned with social problems, representing it as discourse analysis with
an attitude, a critical perspective, position, or attitude. In this view CDA emphatically
opposes those who abuse text and talk in order to establish, confirm, or legitimate
their abuse of power: "CDA does not deny, but explicitly defines and defends its own
sociopolitical position. That is, CDA is biased – and proud of it" (van Dijk, 2001, p.
96). This does not mean that power and dominance are not merely seen as unilaterally
imposed on others, but they may seem jointly produced, e.g. when dominated groups
are persuaded, by whatever means, that dominance is natural or otherwise legitimate.
To van Dijk, although an analysis of strategies of resistance and challenge is crucial
for understanding of actual power and dominance relations in society, and although
such an analysis needs to be included in a broader theory of power, counter-power and
discourse, critical approach prefers to focus on the elites and their discursive
strategies for the maintenance of inequality. In doing so, the relations between
discourse structures and power structures should be studied, for instance the usage of
directive speech acts such as commands or orders may help understand how power is
enacted and how dominance is reproduced. Moreover, the style and the rhetoric of the
text that create different strategies that aim at the concealment of social power
relations and how such strategies are represented are crucial to CDA. To van Dijk,
CDA is a complex, multidisciplinary domain of study which concerns with the
relations between discourse, power, dominance, social inequality. It concerns with the
role of discourse in the (re) production and challenge of dominance, the exercise of
social power by elites, institutions or groups, that results in social inequality,
including political, cultural, class, ethnic, racial and gender inequality. It reveals and
analyzes how power relations are presented, legitimized, denied, concealed among
participants. The position of the discourse analyst in such social relationships is to
investigate and show what structures, strategies, or other properties of text, talk,
verbal interaction or communicative events that play a role in achieving power and
dominance (Van Dijk, 1993).
Wooffit (2005, p. 145) outlined the principles of CDA approach as
summarized in the following points:
• Critical discourse analysis examines the role of discourse in the
(re)production of social inequalities.
• It is argued that analysis should have an emancipatory goal: to uncover how
discourse disadvantages minority or relatively powerless groups.
• It draws from linguistic analysis, and tries to link linguistic features to wider
contexts of social, political and economic structures.
• To CDA, it is necessary to draw from wider social and political contexts to
fully understand how language works.
Thomas Huckin (2002, p. 2) argues that critical approaches to language,
including critical discourse analysis, social linguistics, and social semiotics, are
context-sensitive forms of discourse analysis, and all share the following
1. They address contemporary societal issues, seeking to show how people are
manipulated by powerful interests through the medium of public discourse.
2. They give special attention to underlying factors of ideology, power, and resistance.
3. They link together analyses of text, discursive practices, and social context.
4. They combine rhetorical theory and social theory.
5. They see genres as key structural elements.
6. They incorporate intertextuality, interdiscursivity, and other poststructural
conceptions of discourse.
7. They take into account omissions, implicatures, presuppositions, ambiguities, and
other covert but powerful aspects of discourse.
8. They take note of interpersonal aspects of discourse such as politeness, identity, and
9. Unlike other forms of cultural criticism, they ground their analyses in close,
detailed inspection of texts.
10. To encourage political activism, they try to make their analyses accessible to the
general public by, for example, minimizing the use of technical jargon and
belletristic style. He claims that such critical approaches, including CDA, embody
the generic features that share the critical spirit that is held in common among the
divergent perspectives of Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, and Foucault, and
serve a demystifying function by demonstrating the different ways in which
rhetoric conceals as much as it reveals through its relationship with power and
knowledge. They are also not detached and impersonal, but rather have as their
object something which they are "against"; and they have “consequences” in the
sense that they “identify the possibilities of future action available to the
participants” (p. 2).
However, CDA is different from all context-sensitive approaches and cultural
studies as it puts more emphasis both on the fine-grained details of text and on the
political aspects of discursive manipulation and on its heavy emphasis on contextual
knowledge and including discursive practices in the analysis. The objective of critical
discourse analysis, on this view, is not simply analysis of discourse, but analysis of
the relations between discourse and non-discoursal elements of the social, in order to
reach a better understanding of these complex relations (including how changes in
discourse can cause changes in other elements of social structures) (Huckin, 2002).
Fairclough (2003; 2005) argues that both abstract social structure and concrete
social events are two parts of the social world, and the relation between what is
structurally possible and what actually happens is complex. Social practices are the
ways of controlling the selection of certain structural possibilities, the exclusion of
others, and the retention of these selections over time, in particular areas of social life.
Social practices meditate between social structures and social events. The following
relations can be drawn:
- Social structures: languages
- Social practices: orders of discourse
- Social events: texts (Fairclough, 2005)
Fairclough develops his argument to systematize discourse in terms of social
structure, which is represented in more abstract element of languages. On the other
hand, social practices are represented in orders of discourse, and social events are
realized in texts. Discourse analysis, in this view, has a doubly relational character: it
is concerned with relations between discourse and other social elements (i.e., text
analysis), and relations between texts as discoursal elements of events and ‘orders of
discourse’ as discoursal elements of networks of social practices. Semiosis
incorporates discourse analysis into social and organizational research that includes
the claim that such research should include detailed analysis of texts.
In sum, CDA is a type of discourse analysis, which has been developed in
connection with transdisciplinary research on social change. It contributes to social
research a focus on how discourse figures in relation to other social elements in
discourse as an element of social processes and social events, and also an element of
social practices. It encompasses other forms as well as text, such as visual images and
body language, and texts with different semiotic forms (Fairclough, 2005).
1.6 What is Critical in Discourse Analysis?
The term 'critical' may relate in the work of some 'critical linguists' and could
be traced to the influence of the Frankfurt School or Jürgen Habermas (Thompson,
1984). In language studies, the term ‘critical’ was first used to characterize an
approach that was called Critical Linguistics (Fowler et al., 1979). Among other ideas,
those scholars held that the use of language could lead to a mystification of social
events which systematic analysis could elucidate (Wodak, 2001).
In CDA, Adam Lodges and Chad Nilep (2007, p. 4) explained what they mean
by 'critical' in their type of discourse analysis in relation to the analyst:
- By “critical”, we mean to imply a broad understanding of critical scholarship. On a
general level, such scholarship is characterized by careful analysis of empirical data.
Moreover, it entails a certain amount of distance from the data in order to examine the
issues from a wide, considered perspective.
Lodges and Nilep here showed that the position of the analyst as a scholar
should be taken into account in such a way that it makes critical scholarship be
motivated not only to study society for what it is, but for what it might become. In this
way, critical scholarship desires to expose existing wrongs in society in an effort to
shape a better world. Critical approaches, therefore, take a keen interest in
understanding the workings of power in an effort to counter abuses of power.
Fairclough (1992, p. 9) argued that the present form of CDA 'implies showing
connections and causes that are hidden’ in its critical approach in such a way that the
operations of discursive patterns of ideology that can conceal features of the social
world can be decoded and uncovered. To Fairclough (1992a, 1995), critical means
unsystematic in approach, and to be critical means to make opaque ideologies and
interconnectedness of things visible through analysis, and to criticize connections
between properties of texts and social processes, and power relations, which are not
obvious to people who produce and interpret texts. CDA is critical because it doesn't
only describe, but it also interprets and explains the relationship between the form
(i.e., grammar, , morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics) and the function
(i.e., how people use language in different situations to achieve an aim.) of language.
In doing so, the critical discourse analyst is not neutral, but explores hidden power in
discourse in relation to wider social and cultural formations (Rogers, 2004).
In the same vein, Ruth Wodak (2001, p. 1), following van Dijk (1986),
distinguished critical science from non-critical sciences as the former asks further
questions than the latter, such as those of responsibility, interests, and ideology.
Instead of focusing on purely academic or theoretical problems, CDA starts from
prevailing social problems and chooses the perspectives of those who suffer most, and
critically analyzes those in power, those who are responsible, and those who have the
means and the opportunity to solve such problems. To Wodak (2001), to be critical is
to have a 'distance to the data, embedding the data in the social, taking a political
stance explicitly, and a focus on self-reflection as scholars doing research' (p.9). This
means researchers should be objective in their analysis and subjective to their results
and findings that should be put in practical seminars for teachers, doctors and civil
servants, or in writing expert opinions, or in devising school books. To Wodak, critical
theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity (i.e.,
discourse-historical approach) and it should improve the understanding of society by
integrating all the major social sciences, including economics, sociology, history,
political science, anthropology and psychology.
Billig (2002. pp. 36-40) shows crucial features that differentiate the recent
critical approaches, including CDA, from previous ones, such as Kant (1781, 1964),
Karl Popper (1976), and Jean Piaget (in Erica Burman,1996). He gave particular
meanings to the current use of being critical, summarized as follows: First, critical
approaches claim to be critical of the present social order, namely their targets are
power elites that sustain social inequality and injustice (van Dijk, 1997). Therefore,
critical discourse analysts do not see themselves as conventional discourse analysts
who happen to have radical or progressive views, as if social or political criticism
were something additional to their academic work. Instead, CDA is seen to be a
means of criticizing the social order. Therefore, CDA is distinguished from previous
critical theories of Kant, Popper, and Piaget.
Second, as committed radical critique, CDA positions itself as being critical of
other academic approaches that are not primarily addressed to the critique of existing
patterns of dominance and inequality (i.e., traditional linguistics and conversation
analysis). For example, Fairclough (1992a, p. 12) writes that ‘critical approaches
differ from non-critical approaches in not just describing discursive practices, but also
showing how discourse is shaped by relations of power and ideologies’. To Fairclough
(1993), Critical discourse analysis is ‘critical’ in the sense that it aims to reveal the
role of discursive practice in the maintenance of the social world, including those
social relations that involve unequal relations of power, and its aim is to contribute to
social change along the lines of more equal power relations in communication
processes and society in general. Therefore, CDA is not neutral or an objective, but
critical in the sense to be committed to social change. Third, CDA is transdisciplinary
approach because it implies that it is insufficient merely to study discourse as linguists
have traditionally done. Linguistic analysis needs to be augmented by critical social
analysis and the tools of social analysis should be directed to studying conventional
linguistics as a discipline.
Similarly, McKerrow (1989) believes that critical discourse analysis, social
semiotics, and social linguistics embodied the generic features that any critical must
satisfy: they share the same critical spirit that is held in common among the divergent
perspectives of Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, and Foucault; they "serve a
demystifying function . . . by demonstrating the silent and often non-deliberate ways
in which rhetoric conceals as much as it reveals through its relationship with
power/knowledge"; they are "not detached and impersonal, but rather have as their
object something which they are ‘against"; and they have "consequences" in the sense
that they "identify the possibilities of future action available to the participants" (p.
Jorgensen and Phillips (2002, p. 2) also argue that critical approaches "have in
common the aim of carrying out critical research, that is, to investigate and analyze
power relations in society and to formulate normative perspectives from which a
critique of such relations can be made with an eye on the possibilities for social
change… though each perspective has a range of distinctive philosophical and
theoretical premises, including particular understandings of discourse, social practice
and critique, which lead to particular aims, methods and empirical focal points." The
critical part in CDA seeks to create awareness in agents of their own needs and
interests. One of the aims of CDA is to demystify discourses by deciphering
ideologies (Weiss and Wodak, 2000, p. 14). Gee (2005) states that 'approaches to
discourse analysis that avoid combining a model of grammatical and textual analysis
(of whatever sort) with sociopolitical and critical theories of society and its
institutions not forms of critical discourse analysis.'
Hence "critique" is essential in CDA approach since it makes visible the
interconnectedness of things. Fairclough (1989) argued that the importance of critical
language study arises from the answers it introduces to questions of how and why
rather than just to answer what questions that focus on description and statement of
facts. He also shows that CDA is critical because it is used in special sense of aiming
to show up connections which may be hidden from people – such as the connection
between language, power, and ideology and it analyses social interactions focusing
upon their linguistic elements.
1.7 Intertextuality and (Inter) disciplinarity
Whereas intertexuality is the communication between different texts and
resources and interdiscursivity is the communication between different discourses,
interdisciplinarity is the communication between different disciplines, branches of
different or same science, or methodologies. These three processes are features of
CDA and are used to help the analyst understand, explain, and analyze the complexity
of intertexual and interdiscursive texts. They are also interconnected and dependent
on each other and the following section explores their meanings as used and referred
According to Fairclough (1992, p.270), intertextuality “points to how texts can
transform prior texts and restructure existing conventions (genres, discourses) to
generate new ones”. He developed a three-dimensional framework for analyzing
intertextuality: the analysis of ‘discourse representation’, generic analysis of discourse
types, and analysis of discourses in texts (Fairclough, 1995b). For Fairclough (1992,
1995), discourse representation is a form of intertextuality in which parts of
previously encountered texts are incorporated into a new text and are usually, but not
always, explicitly marked with devices such as quotation marks and reporting clauses.
He argues that linguistic means such as quotation and verbs of reporting are on a
continuum with presupposition, hedging, metaphor and perhaps an ultimately infinite
number of ways of representing discourses with discourse. All of this representation
of previously encountered discourse is called discourse representation. In media
discourse, discourse representation accounts for a major part of what news is:
representations of what newsworthy people have said. In a more detailed study,
Bazerman (2004, p. 3) defined intertexuality as:
- The explicit and implicit relations that a text or utterance has to prior, contemporary
and potential future texts. Through such relations a text evokes a representation of the
discourse situation, the textual resources that bear on the situation, and how the
current text positions itself and draws on other texts.
For the purpose of analysis, Bazerman distinguishes such implicit and explicit
relations in different levels of a text at which it invokes another text and relies on the
other text as a resource. He identifies six levels of intertextuality that emerge in a text.
1- prior text as a source of meaning to be used at face value,
2- explicit social dramas of prior texts engaged in discussion,
3- background, support, and contrast,
4- beliefs, issues, ideas, statements generally circulated,
5- recognizable kinds of language, phrasing and genre, and
6- resources of language’ (i.e., using language and language forms).
He pointed out that such levels of intertexuality can be recognized through
certain techniques that represent the words and utterances of others, starting with the
a) direct quotation.
b) indirect quotation.
c) mentioning of a person, document or statements.
d) comment or evaluation on a statement, text, or otherwise invoked voice.
e) using recognizable phrasing, terminology associated with specific people or groups
of people or particular documents.
f) using language and forms that seem to echo certain ways of communicating,
discussions among other people, types of documents.
The intertextual analysis examines how writers draw on other sources for the
writing of their texts. It explores how the writers include other sources in their texts,
what types of sources the writers used, how the writers used these sources, and how
the writers positioned themselves in relation to other sources to make their own
statements. Bazerman (2004) proposes the following procedures for analysing
1. Underline or highlight each reference in the text and then create a list of all
2. List how such reference is expressed whether through a direct quotation, indirect
quotation or just paraphrase or description;
3. Make comments on how or for what purpose the intertextual element is being used
in the new text;
4. Make observations and interpretations by considering the reference in relation to
the context of what the author is saying.
5. look for a pattern from which you start developing conclusions, which again would
depend on the purpose of your examination.
In the same vein, following White (2002a), Wei Wang (2007) introduced a
framework for linguistically analyzing intertexuality in terms of the writer's
'engagement', which is divided into intra-vocalization and extra-vocalization. ‘Intra-
vocalisation’ is concerned with the internal voice of the writer or speaker which
proclaims or disclaims, while ‘extra-vocalisation’ is concerned with resources which
involve the inclusion in the text of some explicitly external voice. Intra-vocalisation is
considered under the resources of ‘modality, proclaims and disclaims’, whereas extra-
vocalisation is considered under the resources of ‘attribution’ (i.e., quoting or
referencing the statements or points of view of the external text).
Following Bazerman (2004), Wang (2007, p.135) developed the following
analytical framework of intertexuality to examine how writers draw on outside
sources for the writing of their own texts:
1. Intertextual representation (How writers include outside sources in a text) –
•Direct quotation Inserted
2. Source type (What types of sources writers use) –
•Personal or impersonal
•Identified or unidentified
•Specific or generic
•Singular or plural
•Status neutral or high/ low status
•Mentioning of a person, document, or statements
•Comment or evaluation on a statement, text, or otherwise invoked voice
•Implicitly recognizable language and forms
3. Source function (What writers use outside sources for) –
•Beliefs, ideas, issue circulated
4. Endorsement (How the writers position themselves as writers in relation to outside
•Non-endorsement (neutral) (responsibility delegated)
•Endorsement (positive) (responsibility reclaimed/shared)
•Disendorsement (negative) (responsibility delegated)
To examine attribution, an analyst should simultaneously consider the outside
source in terms of textual integration, source type, and endorsement. This framework
covers the explicit intertextual presentation (i.e., direct and indirect quotation,
paraphrasing, and description) in a hierarchy from inserted into assimilated materials.
‘Textual integration’ indicates the degree of integrating the material by the use of
paraphrase or by direct quoting. ‘Source type’ refers to the source in more or less
personalized, named, specific or authoritative ways; and ‘endorsement’ indicates
various degrees of support for material (White, 2002a; Wang 2007, p. 133).
Historically, van Leeuwen (2005) sketched three approaches of
interdisciplinarity: the centralist, the pluralist, and the integrationist. He pointed out
that a centralist model of interdisciplinarity is essentially a model of the relation
between different autonomous disciplines, each of which sees itself as the center of
the universe of knowledge, and charts its relations to other disciplines. The core of
each discipline is formed by its theories, methods and central subject matters.
Relations to other disciplines primarily concern overlapping subject matter, specialist
theoretical frameworks, and methodologies.
The pluralist model brings all disciplines together as equal partners and as
autonomous and self-sufficient in the way they operate without affecting their
identities nor their values. Like the pluralist model, the integrationist model focuses
on problems rather than methods and brings together researchers from different
disciplines. In this view, no single discipline can satisfactorily address any given
problem on its own. As a result disciplines are seen as interdependent, and research
projects involve team work with specific divisions of labor and specific integrative
principles. Disciplines can no longer function as traditional professions, with the
autonomy to define what will count as a research problem and how it will be
addressed, with their own professional associations and boundary maintenance
mechanisms (e.g. through specialist terminologies), and with distinct perspectives and
professional identities. The idea of “discipline” is in effect narrowed down to “skill”
that can contribute in specific ways to integrated projects. In such a context the
linguist, for example, is not just a linguist but one who is skillful in linguistics and
knows how to do certain types of linguistic research and can therefore make a specific
and useful contribution to interdisciplinary research projects in such a way that brings
together the perspectives of different disciplines on a given research problem in such
projects that are interdisciplinary as a whole, but without affecting other contributing
disciplines, or their status and identity as autonomous research professionals.
Interdisciplinarity is different from intertexuality, interdiscursivity, and
recontextualization. Interdisciplinarity concerns with the communication of different
disciplines (i.e., sociology and linguistics), and intertextuality concerns with the
relations between one text and other texts in one hand and to other social practices
and activities on the other. Interdiscursivity of a text refers to the presence within it
other genres and styles of other texts. A single text may incorporate more than one
genre or style, and may refer to and adopt genres and styles which relate to other
texts. The concept of recontextualisation is particularly useful as it allows analysis of
the shift of meanings either within a single genre or across genres. In the process of
recontextualisation meanings are transformed, as discourse is reshaped and repeated
in modified form and/or in different contexts. Blackledge (2005, p. 6) summarized
that CDA is fundamentally "political in its orientation, interdisciplinary in its
scholarship, and diverse in its focus."
An important perspective in CDA is that it is very rare for a text to be the work
of any one person . In this perspective, texts are sites of struggles as they
involve traces of differing discourses and ideologies (Wodak, 2001, Leeuwen, 2001).
Moreover, CDA approach mediates between social theories and linguistic theories
(Fairclough, 1992, 3003, Van Dijk, 1997, 2002; Wodak, 2002; Weiss and Wodak,
2002). Therefore, the CDA proponents believe that the complex interrelations
between discourse and society cannot be analyzed adequately unless linguistic and
sociological approaches are combined. Such communication with other disciplines of
discourse analysis makes CDA transdisciplinary (as opposed to merely
interdisciplinary), so the term transdisciplinary has recently been preferred to
interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary (Blackledge, 2005). In other words, the
theoretical constructions of discourse which CDA tries to 'operationalise' can come
from various disciplines, and the concept of ‘operationalisation’ entails working in a
transdisciplinary way where the logic of one discipline (i.e., sociology) can be ‘put to
work’ in the development of another (i.e., linguistics)' (Chouliaraki and Fairclough,
Therefore, CDA emphasizes the need for transdisciplinary work in order to
gain a proper understanding of how language functions in constituting and
transmitting knowledge, in organizing social institutions or in exercising power
(Weiss and Wodak, 2002). Therefore, CDA involves a theoretical synthesis of
conceptual tools developed in different theoretical schools, for example, Foucault’s
discursive formations, Bourdieu’s habitus, or register and code as defined by Halliday
and Bernstein were borrowed into CDA (Weiss and Wodak, 2002). This heterogeneity
of methodological and theoretical approaches that can be found in this field of
linguistics would tend to confirm van Dijk’s point that CDA and Critical Linguistics
(CL) ‘are at most a shared perspective on doing linguistic, semiotic or discourse
analysis’ (van Dijk, 1993, p. 131). CDA sees ‘language as social practice’ (Fairclough
and Wodak, 1997), and considers the context of language use to be crucial. This form
of cooperation is used to treat different subjects within a framework of a
transdisciplinary design. This means that discourse analysis in this view involves
working in dialogue with particular bodies of social theory and approaches to social
research, identifying specific research questions for discourse analysis within the
object of research, seeking to ensure that relations between discourse and other social
elements are properly addressed.
However, transdisciplinarity, in this view, is not opposite to specialization, but
disciplines complement each other and they coexist in a form of cooperation, which
helps to treat a subject from differing disciplinary perspectives. Such cooperation
leads to a bundling or clustering of problem-solving approaches rooted in different
disciplines and drawing on a pool of theories. (Weiss and Wodak, 2002, p.18).
1.8 The critique of CDA
CDA is often critiqued from its most controversial paradigm of Conversational
Analysis (CA) in the following points (Rebecca Rogers, 2004). First, political and
social ideologies are projected onto the data rather than being revealed through the
data. This means that the critic analyst enters his/her analysis with predefined criteria
or patterns to apply to chosen parts of the text (i.e., the target data of analysis).
Second, there is no balance between social theory and linguistic method. Third, many
discourse analyses are extracted from social contexts. This implies that what
Schegloff (1999) pointed out that many linguists working in CDA invoke many
concepts from social theory, such as 'power differences or hegemony', when it is not
always so clear how the participants are linguistically indexing something like what'
power' or even what power means. Fourth, there is no consistent or rigorous
methodology of CDA application and analysis. Schegloff (1999) asks proponents of
CDA that what standards are being used to ground interpretation.
For the first point, Fairclough and Wodak (1997) argue that CDA is not seen a
holistic or a closed paradigm of specific set of principles but an approach or a point of
view that may change over the years. Similarly, Van Dijk (1993) pointed out that CDA
does not primarily aim to contribute to a specific discipline, paradigm, school, or
discourse theory. Rather, it is interested and motivated by pressing social issues,
which it hopes to better understand through discourse analysis. For the second, Van
Dijk (1993) shows that theories, descriptions, methods and empirical work are chosen
or elaborated as a function of their relevance for the realization of the relative
sociopolitical goal because it is impossible to analyze the whole data in details. For
the third, CDA is trasdisciplinary approach (Fairclough, 1995, 2003; van Dijk, 1997,
1993; Wodak, 2002) due to the difficulty and complexity of its task (uncovering social
inequality and power abuse). Discourse analysis here involves a political critique of
those responsible for its perversion in the reproduction of dominance and inequality.
In doing so, critical discourse analyst should be aware of social and political issues.
This means that CDA is ideological since 'any critique by definition presupposes an
applied ethics' van Dijk, 1993.
Billig (2002) argues that analysts should not have to wait until "power" or
"abuse" are actually brought up or attended to before the analyst can invoke them.
Invoking them need not be an imperialistic move, but rather an informed and
cautionary attempt to fill-out the social and cultural forces which have come to make
possible the encounter in the first place. Billig (2002) basically argues that CA should
become more ideological in its fine-grained efforts and less neutral. Because Billig
believes that a non-ideological analysis is impossible, he wants to argue that CA
should aim less for pure empiricism and more for an open and reflexive ideological
presentation of its assumptions and motives.
Silverman (2001) concluded that both CDA and CA have different analytic
agendas and starting points and each orientation is operating at a different level of
analysis. CA, for example, is simply designed to reveal how things like pronomial
self-repair strategies are accomplished during question-and-answer exchanges while
CDA is designed to uncover something like the ideological workings of hegemonic
language practices (Firclough, 1989, van Dijk, 1997, 2003). The debate isn't that CA
is completely lacking of the larger socio-political contexts or that CDA is altogether
ignorant of detailed linguistic patterns and micro-discursive constructions. The debate
is really about when and how things like "context" and "participant orientation" are
brought into the analytic discussion, and how they ground claims-making (Silverman,
2001, p. 19).
Fairclough and Wodack (1997) suggest that such critiques exist because of the
absence of references of researchers, that is any criticism of CDA should specify
which research or researcher they relate to because CDA as such cannot be viewed as
a holistic or closed paradigm and such program or set of principles has changed over
Philo (2012, p. 17) argued that "critical discourse analysis would be more
powerful if it routinely included a developed account of alternatives", claiming that
CDA which remains text-based analysis encounters a series of problems specifically
in its inability to show the relationships between a text and social interests; the
existence of the diversity of social accounts compared to what is present (and absent)
in a specific text; and the impact of external factors such as professional ideologies on
the manner in which the discourses are represented as well as the fact that the text
actually has different meanings to different types of receivers. He also claimed that
such analysis, in certain cases, may affect the accuracy of representation of texts as
well as some participants (i.e., politician speakers) may exaggerate what they are
saying or may speak of things they want to happen as if they are already happening,
and this may create misinterpretation of discourse. To handle such problems, Philo
suggests that CDA-analysts must fill the gap between text and reality, or between
what is in text and what is outside text.
This chapter has given a background view about discourse in general and
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in particular. It shows that CDA is originally
developed from the theory formerly identified as Critical Linguistics (CL), regarding
language (i.e., discourse) as social practice (Wodak, 2001; Fairclough and Wodak,
1997). It takes into consideration the context of language use to be crucial (Wodak,
2000). CDA takes particular interest in the relation between language and power and
its research area is specifically about institutional, political, gender and media
discourses; its orientation is concerned with political issues, and its focus is extensive
to be diverse in focus and interdisciplinary in scholarship (Blackledge, 2005). In
CDA, text is used to refer to the larger discursive unit that represents the basic unit of
communication, whereas discourse perceived as social practice in which it is
examined as part of broader movements in society to understand why text is produced
and to see its interaction with social structure.
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