Critical Discourse Analysis or CDA scrutinizes discourse in its social context. It is increasingly becoming an important area in linguistics. Recently, researchers have shown an increased interest in boosting the field as an interdisciplinary approach to critical applied linguistics (Fairclough 1992, 1998. Van Dijk 1998a, 1998b & Wodak 2001, 2002). In this respect, Wodak (2002) believes that the roots of CDA lie in classical rhetoric, semiotics, and sociolinguistics, as well as applied linguistics and pragmatics.
1. What is Critical Discourse Analysis?
According to Bell and Garret (1998), “CDA is best viewed as a shared perspective encompassing a range of approaches rather than just one school” (p. 7). The chief aim of CDA is to unearth ideological and power relations in the discourse or discourses.
To begin with, it is mandatory to provide a precise explanation of what CDA is. Wodak and Meyer (2001) provide a gratifying definition of CDA by stating that:
“CDA may be defined as fundamentally concerned with analyzing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power, and control as manifested in language. In other words, CDA aims to investigate critically social inequality as it is expressed, signaled, constituted, and legitimized, and so on by language use (or in discourse).” (p. 2)
Wodak and Meyer show that any language use consists of hidden discourses and CDA’s role is to primarily locate them, and provide a sound examination. It also attempts to bridge the gap between the linguistic, on the one hand, and the social, political, cultural, and historical analyses of texts, on the other. Furthermore, Wodak and Meyer (2001) explain that CDA emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary work in order to gain an appropriate understanding of how language plays a significant role in shaping, transmitting, spreading knowledge, organizing social institutions, and exercising power.
See Also : Media Discourse and Critical Discourse Analysis
Critical Discourse Analysis and Ideology
Van Dijk’s Framework of Critical Discourse Analysis
Fairclough’s Framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)
CDA is an important theoretical framework of analysis because it investigates both written and spoken text. From the socio-cognitive perspective, Van Dijk (1998a) defines CDA as a field that is chiefly concerned with scrutinizing written and spoken texts to uncover the discursive sources of power, dominance, inequality, and bias in the social and political context. This has been done through stipulating a concise and thorough description, explanation, and critique of how writers ‘naturalize’ discourses by applying textual strategies that suit their aims.
Moreover, Van Dijk strongly believes that it is the socio-cognition and personal cognition that mediate between society and discourse. Within our minds, we give meaning to what is going on in the world. Van Dijk (1991) alternatively prefers to use ‘Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) as an umbrella term to suggest that it is not only a form of analysis but also a ‘critical theory’ with ‘critical applications’. Fairclough (1995), as one of the founders of CDA, accounts for CDA as:
“By CDA I mean 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.” (pp. 132-133)”
Based on the above-mentioned definition, we infer that CDA is concerned with how power relations, dominance, and discursive practices are exercised through language. In addition to power and domination mentioned by Wodak and Van Dijk, Fairclough (1992) argues that the emancipatory agenda of CDA is to unveil the embedded ideologies through analyzing power relations in the text.
CDA also tries to locate the different representations of ideology and how it is operated by people in society. CDA, moreover, aims at examining and criticizing the mechanisms that lead to the emergence of the dominant culture in society. The dominant culture exercises supremacy through language power and inequality. On the basis of the previous claim, language is thus considered an influential means through which specific identities, ideologies, and cultures become dominant in a society.
To conclude, CDA incorporates ideological critique, cognitive, psychological and most importantly linguistic analysis. Additionally, Fairclough and Wodak (1997) provide four fundamental principles of CDA: First, CDA addresses social problems. Second, it does ideological work. Third, it constitutes society as well as culture. Finally, discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory. As a result, the same communicative event-like text might be construed in various ways by readers and viewers of that particular text relying on their personal experiences, social contexts, and background knowledge. To make it clear, any piece of news, be it spoken or written, is produced and articulated from a rigid ideological framework that is formed by a combination of economic, cultural, and political forces.
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Bell, A., & Garrett, P. (1998). Approaches to media discourse. Oxford ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. London: Longman. Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social change. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Fairclough, N. (1995a). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. Harlow, UK: Longman. Fairclough, N. (1995b). Media Discourse. London: Arnold
Van Dijk, T.A (1998a). Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: Sage.
Van Dijk, T. A. (1988). What is critical discourse analysis? In D. Tannen, D. Schiffrin & H. Hamilton (Eds.), Handbook of Discourse Analysis. (pp. 352-371). Oxford: Blackwell
Van Dijk, T. A. (2009). News, discourse and ideology. Wahl-Jorgensen, K., & Hanitzsch, T. (2009), The handbook of journalism studies (pp. 191-230). New York: Routledge.
Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2001). Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: SAGE.
Wodak, R. (2002). What CDA Is about: A summary of its history, important concepts and its developments. In Wodak, R. and Meyer, M. (Eds.). Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.