Institutional discourse

Critical discourse analysis

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Critical discourse analysis

Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse, or put simply talk and text, that views language as a form of social practice. Scholars working in the tradition of CDA generally argue that (non-linguistic) social practice and linguistic practice constitute one another and focus on investigating how societal power relations are established and reinforced through language use. In this sense, it differs from discourse analysis in that it highlights issues of power asymmetries, manipulation, exploitation, and structural inequities in domains such as education, media, and politics.

Critical discourse analysis emerged from 'critical linguistics' developed at the University of East Anglia by Roger Fowler and fellow scholars in the 1970s, and the terms are now often interchangeable. Research in the field of sociolinguistics was paying little attention to social hierarchy and power. CDA was first developed by the Lancaster school of linguists of which Norman Fairclough was the most prominent figure. Ruth Wodak has also made a major contribution to this field of study.

In addition to linguistic theory, the approach draws from social theory — and contributions from Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu—in order to examine ideologies and power relations involved in discourse. Language connects with the social through being the primary domain of ideology, and through being both a site of, and a stake in, struggles for power. Ideology has been called the basis of the social representations of groups, and, in psychological versions of CDA developed by Teun A. van Dijk and Ruth Wodak, there is assumed to be a sociocognitive interface between social structures and discourse structures. The historical dimension in critical discourse studies also plays an important role.

Although CDA is sometimes mistaken to represent a 'method' of discourse analysis, it is generally agreed upon that any explicit method in discourse studies, the humanities and social sciences may be used in CDA research, as long as it is able to adequately and relevantly produce insights into the way discourse reproduces (or resists) social and political inequality, power abuse or domination. That is, CDA does not limit its analysis to specific structures of text or talk, but systematically relates these to structures of the sociopolitical context. CDA has been used to examine political speech acts, to highlight the rhetoric behind these, and any forms of speech that may be used to manipulate the impression given to the audience. However, there have been flaws noted with CDA. For example, it has been said that it is simultaneously too broad to distinctly identify manipulations within the rhetoric, yet is also not powerful enough to appropriately find all that researchers set out to establish.

Norman Fairclough discussed the term CDA in his book Language and Power. Fairclough introduced the concepts that are now viewed as vital in CDA such as "discourse, power, ideology, social practice and common sense."[12] He argues that language should be analyzed as a social practice through the lens of discourse in both speaking and writing.

Fairclough developed a three-dimensional framework for studying discourse, where the aim is to map three separate forms of analysis onto one another: analysis of (spoken or written) language texts, analysis of discourse practice (processes of text production, distribution and consumption) and analysis of discursive events as instances of socio-cultural practice. Particularly, he combines micro, meso and macro-level interpretation. At the micro-level, the analyst considers various aspects of textual/linguistic analysis, for example syntactic analysis, use of metaphor and rhetorical devices.[clarification needed] The meso-level or "level of discursive practice" involves studying issues of production and consumption, for instance, which institution produced a text, who is the target audience, etc. At the macro- level, the analyst is concerned with intertextual and interdiscursive elements and tries to take into account the broad, societal currents that are affecting the text being studied.

Teun A. van Dijk's approach to Critical Discourse Analysis combines cognitive theories with linguistic and social theories. Van Dijk uses cognition as the middle layer of a three-layer approach consisting of discourse, cognitive and society. By integrating a cognitive approach, researchers are better able to understand how larger social phenomenon are reinforced through popular, everyday discourse. Critics of this practice point out that his approach focuses on the reproduction of ideologies rather than the transformation.

Ruth Wodak has developed a framework based on the systemic collection of sample texts on a topic to better understand the interrelationship of discourses that exist within the field. This framework allows for the discussion and analysis of ideologies involved in a set of discourses. The macro level of analysis is helpful in understanding how macro-structures of inequality persist through discursive processes across multiple sites and texts.
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