Critical Discourse Analysis

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  • Topic: Sociology, Discourse analysis, Linguistics
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2.1. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA):

2.1.1. What is CDA? Critical, discourse and analysis

Before beginning to address what CDA is, it is important to be clear about what is meant by the concepts of critical, discourse, and analysis:

The notion of ‘critical’ is primarily associated with the critical theory of the Frankfurt School where social theory should be oriented towards critiquing and changing society. 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).

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 (Rogers 2004: 3-8). Definitions of CDA

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. (

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” (Rogers 2004:2).

2.1.2. Some perspectives concerning CDA

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...
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