Critical Discourse Studies

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Critical Discourse Studies: A Sociocognitive Approach
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Teun A. van Dijk

Terrninology and definítions The discourse-cognition-society triangle The example: the defense of capitalism Topics: semantic macrostructures Local meanings The relevance of subtle 'formal' structures Relating text and context: context models Discourse semantics: event models Social cognition Social situations Societal structures Appendix

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Terminology and definitions

Although critical approaches to discourse are commonly known as Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), I prefer to speak of Critical Discourse Studies (CDS).This more general term suggests that such a critical approach not only involves critical analysis, but also critical theory, as well as critical applicatíons.The designation CDS may also avoid the widespread misconception that a critical approach is a method of discourse analysis. For the same reason, I favour the term Discourse Studies (DS), rather than Discourse Analysis, to designate a multidisciplinary field of scholarly activities that are obviously not limited to the analysis of text and talk. Moreover, as a discipline, DS has many types and methods of analysis: it is not 'a' method among others within the humanities and the social sciences. CDS is not a method, but rather a critical perspective, position or attitude within the discipline of multidisciplinary Discourse Studies. Critical

CRITICAL DISCOURSE STUDIES

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research makes use of a large number of methods, both from Discourse Studies itself, as well as from the humanities, psychology and the social sciences. The critical approach of CDS characterizes scholars rather than their methods: CDS scholars are sociopolitically committed to social equality and justice. They also show this in their scientific research, for instance by the formulation of specific goals, the selection and construction of theories, the use and development of methods of analysis and especially in the application of such research in the study of important social problems and political issues. CDS scholars are typically interested in the way discourse (re)produces social domination, that is, the power abuse of one group over others, and how dominated groups may discursively resist such abuse. CDS is not just any social or political research, as is the case in all the social and political sciences, but is premised on the fact that some forms of text and talk may be unjust. One of the tasks of CDS is to formulate the norms that define such `discursive injustice'. CDS aims to expose and help to combat such injustice. It is problem oriented rather than discipline- or theory-oriented. Such a research policy presupposes an ethical assessment, implying that discourse as social interaction may be illegitimate according to some fundamental norms, for instance those of international human and social rights.At the same time, critical analysis should be aware of the fact that such norms and rights change historically, and that some definitions of `international' may well mean `Western'. As a criterion, we thus call any discourse unjust if it violates the internationally recognized human rights of people and contributes to social inequality.Typical examples are discourses that ultimately (re)produce inequalities of gender, race or class. Finally, socially committed research should be carried out in close collaboration and solidarity with those who need it most, such as various dominated groups in society.This also means, not least for students, that CDS research and especially its practical applications should be accessible, and avoid an esoteric style. In that and many other censes, CDS researchers are profoundly aware of the role of scholarly activities in society. -

What are Critical Discourse Studies (CDS)? Although it is virtually impossible to briefly and adequately define a type of scholarly investigation, critical studies of discourse typically have...
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