Critical Discourse Analysis

1 January 2017

In CDA, the concept of ‘critical’ is applied to the engagement with power relations. In this sense the role of CDA is to uncloak the hidden power relations, largely constructed through language, and to demonstrate and challenge social inequities reinforced and reproduced. The term ‘discourse’ is used to talk about language in use, or the way language is used in a social context to ‘enact’ activities and identities (James Gee 1990).

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In terms of analysis, the critical discourse analyst’s job is not to simply read political and social ideologies onto a text but to consider the various ways in which a text could have been written and what these alternatives imply for ways of representing and understanding the world and to consider the social actions that are determined by these ways of thinking.

Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are reproduced in text and talk. (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Critical_discourse_analysis) CDA regards `language as social practice’ and takes consideration of the context of language use to be crucial (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Wodak, 2000c; Benke, 2000). Huckin (1997) defines CDA as “a relatively new approach to analyzing language or texts available to the second language teacher and researcher”.

For Van Dijk (1998), CDA is “a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context”. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999) argued that CDA needs to be understood as both a theory and a method that offers “not only a description and interpretation of discourses in social context but also offers an explanation of why and how discourses work”.

Before engaging in CDS, it is useful to pay attention to a frequent misconception about CDA which considers CDS as a method of analysis or research. Rather, CDS is: an academic movement of a group of socially and politically committed scholars, or, more individually, a socially critical attitude of doing discourse studies. Thus, discourse analysis is NOT a method of research, but rather a (cross-) discipline. It is no more than the general academic activity of studying discourse. Such a study can be carried by a large number of different methods.

Another important point needs to be mentioned here is that CDA is not yet a complete approach, so it cannot by itself produce a complete comprehensive analysis of a text. Fowler (1996) argued that: if linguistic criticism now enjoys a certain academic standing, it is not to say that it is completed as a theory of language or an instrumentality of linguistics or even half-way satisfactory. Van Dijk (1996) also claimed that “since CDA is not a specific direction of research, it does not have a unitary theoretical framework”.

Dijk (1998) also argued that the ideas or tools found in CDA may be found in other disciplines and that CDA is like any analysis depends on our purposes and aims, but what is different about CDA is that “it aims to offer a different ‘mode’ or ‘perspective’ of theorizing, analysis and application throughout the whole field of discourse studies”. Huckin (1997) agreed with Fowler and Dijk as for him CDA is not a linguistic theory and therefore it does not provide a complete grammar of syntactic, phonological, or other linguistic elements for any particular language.

Nor does it aim to describe any particular text in exhaustive detail. Instead, it tries to point out those features of a text that are most interesting from a critical perspective. Huckin (1997) also believes that there are no specific tools for doing a critical discourse analysis of a certain text or speech, rather language critics have to choose from the linguistic textbooks or the books of discourse analysis the tools that would help them to reach their critical goals. 2. 1. 3. The functions and aims of CDA:

Van Dijk (1993) argued that “CDA deal primarily with the discourse dimensions of power abuse and the injustice and inequality that result from it”. He (1993) added that CDA criticize “the power elites that enact, sustain, legitimate, condone or ignore social inequality and injustice” and that CDA focuses on “real problems, that is the serious problems that threaten the lives or well-being of many”. Such a critique of discourse “implies a political critique of those responsible for its perversion in the reproduction of dominance and inequality”.

He (1996) also clarified that: one of the crucial tasks of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is to account for the relationships between discourse and social power. more specifically, such an analysis should describe and explain how power abuse is enacted, reproduced or legitimized by the text and talk of dominant groups or institutions. Huckin (1997) pointed out that “the primary activity of critical discourse analysis is the close analysis of written or oral texts that are deemed to be politically or culturally influential to a given society”.

Carter (1997) argued that the major aim of CDA is to “uncover the insinuation of ideology and the imposition of power into texts through uses of language which ordinarily readers of texts do not notice. ” (Quoted in Farag, 2003, p. 117). CDA aims to illuminate the ways in which the dominant forces in a society construct versions of reality that favour their interests. By unmasking such practices, CDA scholars aim to support the victims of such oppression and encourage them to resist and transform their lives (Foucault, 2000).

The aim of CDA is to investigate hidden power relations in a text and have an especial interest in uncovering inequalities, power relations, injustices, biases, etc. (Corson, 2000). CDA aims at investigating “the subtle ways in which unequal power relations are maintained and reproduced through language use” (Weninger 2008:145). 2. 1. 4. The main tenets of CDA: Van Dijk (2001) clarified that critical research on discourse needs to satisfy a number of requirements in order to effectively realize its aims: 1. CDA research has to be “better” than other research in order o be accepted.

It focuses primarily on, social problems and political issues, rather than on current paradigms and fashions. 3. Empirically adequate critical analysis of social problems is usually multidisciplinary. 4. Rather than merely describe discourse structures, it tries to explain them in terms of properties of social interaction and especially social structure. 5. More specifically, CDA focuses on the ways discourse structures enact, confirm, legitimate, reproduce, or challenge relations of power and dominance in society.

He (2001) mentioned that the typical vocabulary of many scholars in CDA will feature such notions as “power,” “dominance,” “hegemony,” “ideology,” “class,” “gender,” “race,” “discrimination,” “interests,” “reproduction,” “institutions,” “social structure,” and “social order,” besides the more familiar discourse analytical notions. ‘ He (2001) also referred to Fairclough and Wodak’s summary of the main tenets of CDA: 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. While Fairclough (2000) identifies three central tenets of CDA namely, ‘social structure’ (class, status, age, ethnic identity and gender); ‘culture’ (the generally accepted norms of behavior in the society); and ‘discourse’ (the words we use). The goal of CDA is to determine the relationship between these three central tenets.

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