Critical Discourse Analysis

What is ‘critical discourse analysis’?
• “CDA [is]fundamentally interested in analyzing opaque
as well as transparent structural relationships of
dominance, discrimination, power, and control when
these are manifested in language. In other words,
CDA aims to investigate critically social inequality as it
is expressed, constituted, and legitimized by language
use.” (Wodak, 2006)
i. is problem-oriented
ii. is interdisciplinary and eclectic
iii. aims to critique ideologies and power
as conveyed in language and other
semiotic systems
iv. analyzes textual features in light of the
larger social context
v. is openly committed to promoting
social justice while being self-reflective
about this.
(Wodak & Meyer, p. 3)
What are CDA’s roots?
Frankfurt School critical theory
Gramsci, Habermas, Foucault
Hallidayan systemic-functional grammar
Critical Linguistics
Discourse & Society 1990, Amsterdam 1991
Why has CDA been gaining in
• It addresses important contemporary issues
using some familiar tools and concepts from
the humanities and social sciences.
• It provides comprehensive, enlightening
accounts of these issues.
• It is broadly transdisciplinary.
What do we mean by ‘critical’?
• “Critical approaches . . . Treat social practices not just
in terms of social relationships [but] … in terms of
their implications for things like status, solidarity,
distribution of social goods, and power.” --Gee, p. 33
• “Critical social research [including CDA] aims to
contribute to addressing the social ‘wrongs’ of the
day (in a broad sense – injustice, inequality, lack of
freedom, etc.) by analyzing their sources and causes,
resistances to them and possibilities of overcoming
them. We can say that it has both a ‘negative and a
‘positive character.” -- Fairclough, p. 231
Discursive practice?
• The discursive practice approach is grounded
in four insights concerning discourse. One is
the notion that social realities are
linguistically/discursively constructed. The
second is the appreciation of the contextbound nature of discourse. The third is the
idea of discourse as social action. The fourth is
the understanding that meaning is negotiated
in interaction, rather than being present onceand-for-all in our utterances.
How does CDA differ from rhetorical
• “A rhetorical analysis, using rhetoric as a
hermeneutic not a heuristic, usually begins by
characterizing the rhetor, genre, audience,
subject, and occasion of a text.” (Fahnestock & Secor)
• Rhetorical analysis usually aims to show how and
why a text has particular effects or is persuasive
to a certain audience. It does not necessarily
situate the text in its broadest sociopolitical
context and is not necessarily critical.
addresses contemporary societal issues, seeking to show how people are
manipulated by powerful interests through the medium of public discourse.
gives special attention to underlying factors of ideology, power, and resistance.
links together analyses of text, discursive practices, and social context.
combines rhetorical theory and social theory.
takes into account omissions, implicatures, presuppositions, ambiguities, and
other covert but powerful aspects of discourse.
takes note of interpersonal aspects of discourse such as politeness, identity,
and ethos.
unlike other forms of cultural criticism, they ground their analyses in close,
detailed inspection of texts.
encourages political activism, tries to make analyses accessible to the general
public by, for example, minimizing the use of technical jargon and belletristic style.
(Huckin, 2002)
Some terms
• Classification, connotation, definition,
metaphor, presupposition, modality (certitude
and voice), register (style)
• Deletion (e.g. “agentless passive”),
foregrounding, backgrounding, interpersonal
stance (solidarity/distance) intertextuality
• Framing, extended metaphor (root metaphor)
coherence, genre, heteroglossia, etc.
Example: frames in coverage of wmd

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