Critical Discourse Analysis An IntroductionPID/DIP – Magistrale November 2012 Francesca Helm
Presenting information• The way we choose to present information highlights different aspects• Whose interest is being served by the choice of words and/or information?• Our words are never neutral!
Language• Language is an irreducible part of social life, dialectically interconnected with other elements of social life• Language-in-use is everywhere and always “political”
• When we speak or write we always take a particular perspective on what the “world” is like. This involves us in taking perspetives on:• what is “normal” and not;• what is “acceptable” and not;• what is “right” and not;• what is “real” and not;• what is the “way things are” and not;• what is the “way things ought to be” and not;• what is “possible” and not;• what “people like us” or “people like them” do and don’t do; and so on and so forth • (Gee 1999)
What is CDA?• CDA can be seen as a loosely grouped collection of work which attempts to develop a theory of the interconnectedness of discourse, power, ideology and social structure.• Critical Discourse Studies (Teun A. van Dijk) is “an academic movement of a group of socially and politically committed scholars, or, more individually, a socially critical attitude of doing discourse studies” http://www.discourses.org/resources/teachyourself/Unlearn%20misconceptions.html .• Many different methods of analysis can be used in CDA, it is cross- disciplinary• Key theorists are Norman Fairclough, Ruth Wodak and Teun van Dijk but many others, bringing together many approaches• They share a common view of language as a means of social construction: language both shapes and is shaped by society.
Main tenets of CDA• Discourse is a form of social action or social practice• Discourse does ideological work• Power relations are created and maintained through discourse• Discourse is intertextual and historical• Discourse must always be analysed in context• The link between text and society is ‘mediated’ through a range of institutional practices• CDA is interpretive and explanatory• CDA is a form of social action, CD analysts are socially- committed
CDA and other disciplines• CDA shares interests, and methods at times with other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, ethnography, communications …• It can involve the analysis of text and talk in virtually all disciplines of the humanities and social sciences• CDA has been applied by historians, business institutions, lawyers, politicians, medical professionals … to investigate social problems in their work
Key themes addressed in CDA• Language and power• The discourse of institutions and organizations• Gender• Discrimination and racism• The law• Advertising• Politics• Environment• Capitalism
What can CDA do?• CD analysts identify and study specific areas of injustice, danger, suffering, prejudice, and so on, even though the identification of such areas can be contentious.• It is now generally accepted that many social problems arise from the injudicious use of language but it is an open question how far beneficial effects can result from intervention in discourses alone.• CDA can raise awareness and point people in the direction of change
Linguistics vs CDA• Linguists, in general, are concerned with the way in which language ‘works’, and their interest is in language for its own sake, not language in context.• Discourse analysts are concerned with the study of ‘language in use’ which also entails the context of meaning making and undersanding.• Critical discourse analysts are interested in the way in which language and discourse are used to achieve social goals and in part this use plays in social maintenance and change.
Text• This dimension involves the analysis of the language of texts and includes features such as• Lexis (choice of words, patterns in vocabulary, metaphor)• Grammar (eg. Use of passive as opposed to active, use of modal verbs, nominalization)• Cohesion (eg. Use of conjunctions, use of synonyms) and text structure (eg. Problem – solution, cause – effect, turn-taking in conversation)
Linguistic Theory• Many CD Analysts base their text analyses on Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday), a method of analysis oriented to the social nature of texts – Texts simultaneously have ‘ideational’, ‘interpersonal’ and ‘textual’ functions – ie they simultaneously represent aspects of the world (physical, social and mental), enact social relations between participants in social events and the attitudes, desires and values of participants, and coherently and cohesively connect parts of text together and connect texts with their situational contexts.
Discursive practice• This refers to the process of text production, distribution and consumption in society. Looking at discourse in this way means paying attention to intertextuality, which links a text to other texts, and to its context and interdiscursivity, when texts are made up of heterogeneous elements or various discourse types, such as a mix of formal and informal language in newspaper articles
Social Practice• This dimension deals with issues important for social analysis – power relations and ideological struggles that discourses (re)produce, challenge or transform in some way• Notion of hegemony – not simply dominating subordinate groups but integrating them through their consent to the moral, political and cultural values of the dominant groups (Gramsci 1971 in Faircough 1992)
An unusual community• The Amish live in Pennsylvania, USA. They came from Switzerland and Germany in the eighteenth century and live together on farms. Although they live just 240 kilometres from New York City, their lifestyle hasnt really changed in the last 250 years. Theyve turned their backs on modern materialism: cars, high technology, videos, fax machines, etc. and they have very strict rules which they all have to follow.• They cant use electricity, so they have to use oil lamps to light their houses. They are allowed to use banks and go to the doctors but they cant have phones in their houses. They use horses for transport because they arent allowed to fly or drive cars or tractors. They can play baseball and eat hot dogs but they cant have TVs, radios, carpets, flowers, or photos in their houses. Although the Amish dont have churches they are very religious.• http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/60/4/336.full
Social practice• 1 Are the Amish typical American people? Why?• 2 In your opinion, who wrote the text? An Amish or a non-Amish person? Try to justify your answer.• 3 What do you think of the Amish after reading the text? Would you like to be an Amish?
Discourse practice• 4 Where can you find a text like this? What kind of readers is it addressed to? Is it written for Amish or non-Amish people?• 5 What is the ‘point’ of the text? What is the author trying to tell us? What do you remember from the Amish after reading the text?• 6 What do you know about New York or the USA? The Amish live near New York. Are they really ‘an unusual community’? How does the author of the text try to show us that they are ‘unusual’?
Textual practice• 7 What linking words connect the following ideas in the text? – Living near New York < > Lifestyle of the Amish – Using banks and going to the doctors < > Having phones – Playing baseball and eating hot dogs < > Having TVs, radios, carpets … – Having churches < > Being very religious• 8 Are the ideas on both sides presented as paradoxical or contradictory?• 9 Look for examples in the text containing the verb can/cant. What can the Amish do? What can the Amish not do? Next look for examples containing the verbs have to and allow, expressing obligation. What are the Amish obliged to do?• 10 Fill in the ‘you’ column in the table below and say in each case if the word/phrase in question has a positive (+) or a negative (–) meaning for you. When you have finished, do the same to fill in the ‘Amish’ column according to what the text says.• YouAmishChangeHigh technology, videosStrict rulesTravel by planeFlowersBeing very religious• 11 How often do you have the same symbol in both columns? What conclusions can you make?• Previous SectionNext Section