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© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

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A Guide to Methodology

6. Conversation and discourse analysis

6.1 Introduction to discourse analysis
6.2 Conversation analysis
6.3 Genre analysis
6.4 Pragmatics
6.5 Discursive psychology
6.6 Interactional sociolinguistics
6.7 Ethnography of communication/speaking
6.8 Narrative analysis
6.9 Critical discourse analysis

6.9.1 Introduction
6.9.2 Linguistic and social resources
6.9.3 Major areas of critical discourse analysis Gender inequality Racism Political discourse Media discourse

6.9.4 Criticisms and comparisons of critical discourse analysis with other forms of discourse analysis
6.9.5 Conclusion

6.10 Summary and conclusion

6.9 Critical discourse analysis

6.9.1 Introduction

Critical discourse analysis aims to uncover ideology and power in discourse by understanding the relationship between textual features and larger social practices. It explores how conversations and language perpetuate social and political inequalities through different strategies, tactics and structures.

Norman Fairclough's books, Language and Power (1989) and Critical Discourse Analysis (1995), which sets out an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of discourse, are considered to be the source of the term critical discourse analysis.

It is an approach that is guided by a critical perspective rather than a specific method.

According to Tuen van Dijk (2015):

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social-power abuse and inequality are enacted, reproduced, legitimated, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context. With such dissident research, critical discourse analysts take an explicit position and thus want to under- stand, expose, and ultimately challenge social inequality. This is also why CDA may be characterized as a social movement of politically committed discourse analysts.

One widespread misunderstanding of CDA is that it is a special method of doing discourse analysis. There is no such method: in CDA all methods of the cross-discipline of discourse studies, as well as other relevant methods in the humanities and social sciences, may be used (Wodak and Meyer 2008; Titscher et al. 2000). To avoid this misunderstanding and to emphasize that many methods and approaches may be used in the critical study of text and talk, we now prefer the more general term critical discourse studies (CDS) for the field of research (van Dijk 2008b). However, since most studies continue to use the well-known abbreviation CDA, this chapter will also continue to use it.

As an analytical practice, CDA is not one direction of research among many others in the study of discourse. Rather, it is a critical perspective that may be found in all areas of discourse studies, such as discourse grammar, Conversation Analysis, discourse pragmatics, rhetoric, stylistics, narrative analysis, argumentation analysis, multimodal discourse analysis and social semiotics, sociolinguistics, and ethnography of communication or the psychology of discourse-processing, among others. In other words, CDA is discourse study with an attitude.

In essence critical discourse analysis is about the critical deconstruction of messages (from the powerful [defined below] to the less powerful) to show how they legitimate or reproduce a dominant ideological perspective. It is less concerned than other forms of discourse analysis with the close analysis of text and its delivery but rather focuses on the macro context in which the message is delivered. Critical discourse analysis seeks the meaning that lies beyond the grammatical structure including the social, political and economic context of language use. Such a contextual analysis involves analysing purpose, location, date and time, role of participants and their knowledge, attitudes and opinions as well as who controls the exchange.

More specifically, such control may focus on the subjective definition of the communicative situation -- that is, the context models of the participants -- because it is the context model that in turn controls the pragmatic appropriateness of the of discourse (van Dijk 2008a, 2009).... Thus, professors and not students control the setting (time and place) of an exam, and who qualify as participants. Police officers or judges define the overall communicative situation of an interrogation, and who may ask questions or who must reply.... Institutional speakers may abuse their power in such situations -- for example, when police officers use force or threats to get a confession from a suspect...or when male editors exclude women from writing economic news...(van Dijk, 2015, p. 471)

Simon Moss (2008, np) suggested that critical discourse analysts are concerned to reveal how public discourse perpetuates inequalities. He illustrated this with a hypothetical example of a speech in the United Kingdom Parliament demanding recipients undertake (community) work for unemployment benefit and making derogatory comments about those who oppose the idea. Moss suggested that critical discourse analysis would attempt to 'uncover the features of speech that preserve and bolster the prevailing hierarchy'. The setting, he suggested, 'is adorned with symbols that epitomize authority, all of which underscore the power of this speech'. Furthermore, few individuals are granted the right to speak in this setting, which 'imbues the speech with importance'. The communicative acts within the speech attempt to equate opponents with terms imbued with negative connotations. Further, the speaker chooses the topic and, in this case, refers to work ethic, 'which favors the espoused position', while avoiding issues such as equity, which 'might not favor that position'. Examination of linguistic and grammatical features, such as the use of rhetorical questions, intended to distinguish the in-group, (reasonable people would expect benefit recipients to work for their pay) from the out-group. Finally, Moss suggested:

Fifth, scholars might examine the extent to which the language, including both the words and the pronunciation, correspond to hierarchies of power. For example, as Fairclough (1989) has shown, a merchant class of England defined their mode of speech as the standard, acceptable way of speaking in English. For example, they referred to other pronunciations as regional accents, implying their own form is more universal. Hence, their own accents became recognized as more acceptable, ultimately facilitating the power and authority of this class. Individuals who did not speak with their accent were disadvantaged in job interviews, for example.

Moss suggested that critical discourse analysis, despite its variations of approach, are (a)  underpinned by an overt political stance (b) focuses on how the dominant parties maintain their power (c) attempts to uncover the ideologies that underpin discourse.

Fairclough and Wodak (1997) listed the main tenets of critical discourse analysis as:

  1. CDA addresses social problems.
  2. Power relations are discursive.
  3. Discourse constitutes society and culture.
  4. Discourse does ideological work.
  5. Discourse is historical.
  6. The link between text and society is mediated.
  7. Discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory.
  8. Discourse is a form of social action.

Van Dijk (2015, p. 467) elaborated the first tenet explaining that the primary focus is on 'social problems and political issues rather than the mere study of discourse structures outside their social and political contexts'. Furthermore,  the 'critical analysis of social problems is usually multidisciplinary'. Critical discourse analysis, he states, is not interested in just describing discourse structures, it tries to explain them through an examination of  'social interaction and especially social structure'. More specifically, 'CDA focuses on the ways discourse structures enact, confirm, legitimate, reproduce, or challenge relations of power abuse (dominance) in society'.

Critical discourse analysis has its roots in the philosophy of Karl Marx, the ideological analysis of Antonio Gramsci, the structuralism of Louis Althusser, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School of social research, as well as the later analyses of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. It also draws on  critical developments in sociolinguistics, stylistics, pragmatics and psychology including Halliday's systemic functional linguistics.


6.9.2 Linguistic and social resources

Critical discourse analysis takes as axiomatic the idea that there is unequal access to institutionally controlled linguistic and social resources. Van Dijk (2015, p. 468) puts it thus:

A central notion in most critical work on discourse is that of power, and more specifically the social power of groups or institutions...This ability presupposes a power base of privileged access to scarce social resources, such as force, money, status, fame, knowledge, information, "culture," or indeed various forms of public discourse and communication (Mayr, 2008).... Different types of power may be distinguished according to the various resources employed to exercise such power: the coercive power of the military and other violent people will rather be based on force; the rich will have power because of their money; the more or less "persuasive power" of parents, professors, or journalists may be based on knowledge, information, or authority.... The power of dominant groups may be integrated in laws, rules, norms, habits, and even a quite general consensus, and thus take the form of what Gramsci called hegemony (Gramsci, 1971). Note also that power is not always exercised in obviously abusive acts of dominant group members, but may be enacted in the myriad taken-for-granted actions of everyday life (Foucault, 1980), as is typically the case in the many forms of everyday sexism or racism (Essed, 1991).

A primary resource for critical discourse analysis is access to, and control of, public discourse. Most people control their private everyday discourse with friends, family or work colleagues. What most people have little control over is public discourse, to which they are passive recipients, albeit social media potentially provides a mechanism to confront public discourse (As yet, though social media has yet to be used democratically to confront significant issues, being mostly responsive and reactive or, indeed, manipulated by politicians, as for example in the US and British elections of 2017. The 2018 campaign against sexual harassment may provide an exemplar of how social media might aid the subversion of control of public discourse.) Passivity in the face of public discourse is evident in how the elements of the ideological state apparatus (see Social Research Glossary:Althusser) (the mass media, the church, the courts, teachers, police, social workers, psychologists, bosses, politicians among other) tell people what to believe and how to act in one-way communications.

On the other hand, members of more powerful social groups and institutions, and especially their leaders (the symbolic elites), have more or less exclusive access to, and control over, one or more types of public discourse. Thus, professors control scholarly discourse, teachers educational discourse, journalists media discourse, lawyers legal discourse, and politicians policy and other public political discourse. Those who have more control over more-- and more influential--genres of discourse (and more discourse properties) are by that definition also more powerful. In other words, we here have a discursive definition (as well as a practical diagnostic) of one of the crucial constituents of social power (van Dijk 1996, 2008b).

These notions of discourse access and control are very general, and it is one of the tasks of CDA to spell out these forms of power and especially their abuses--that is, forms of domination. Thus, if discourse is defined in terms of complex communicative events, consisting of text and context, access and control may be defined both for the relevant categories of the communicative situation, defined as context, as well as for the structures of text and talk. (van Dijk, 2015, p. 470)

van Dijk (2015, p. 475)  suggested three interrelated questions for critical discourse analysis research:

  1. How do powerful groups control the text and context of public discourse?
  2. How does such power discourse control the minds and actions of less powerful groups, and what are the social consequences of such control, such as social inequality?
  3. What are the properties of the discourse of powerful groups, institutions, and organizations and how are such properties forms of power abuse?

6.9.3. Major areas of critical discourse analysis

There are several fields of study that have been a focus for critical discourse analysis, including, inter alia, gender inequality, racism, politics and mass media. Gender inequality

Gender is a big area for critical discourse analysis, much of it deriving from feminist analyses. A critical approach to discourse and gender, he claims, pays attention to 'male access and domination in interaction, such as interruptions and the control of topic introduction and change'. Much current research argues that gender differences are not separate from issues of class and status or the role of participants in the  communicative process. (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 2003; Macaulay 2004). (See, for example, CASE STUDY Press Reporting of Rape, which mixes content analysis with a critical approach to discourse analysis.)

Top Racism

Ethnocentrism, antisemitism, nationalism and racism is another area highlighted by van Dijk (2015), who noted that:

racism is a complex system of social domination reproduced by everyday discriminatory social practices (including discourse) based on, as well as controlling, ethnically biased personal mental models and socially shared prejudices and ideologies…. Since the symbolic elites control public discourse they are the most directly responsible for the discursive reproduction of racism in society.

He claimed that research undertaken different countries shows a considerable degree of similarity in the 'stereotypes, prejudices, and other forms of verbal derogation across discourse types, media, and national boundaries'. These stereotypes include difference, deviation and threat and conversational features include negative description of immigrants or minorities and denial of racism.

For example, van Dijk (1993, p. 179) had earlier explored the denial of racism in what he called élite discourse: that is the public discourse controlled by élites through  preferential access to, among other things, the media and political debate. He asserted that discourse is prominent in the reproduction of racism and that it 'legitimates ethnic or racial stereotypes and prejudices among white group members'. Denials of racism take many forms designed to maintain a positive self-presentation and saving face (a sociological concern in, for example, Goffman's (1967) symbolic interactionism) van Dijk (1993, p. 179) explained:

...white group members usually do not want to be seen as page2image2012064048racists. When they want to say something negative about minorities, they will tend to use denials, disclaimers or other forms that are intended to avoid a negative impression with their listeners or their readers. That is denials have the function of blocking negative inferences of the recipients about the attitudes of the speaker or writer. Such denials may not only be personal, but especially in elite discourse, they may also pertain to our group in general: We British (Dutch, French) are not racist.... That is in talk about minorities, white people often speak as dominant group members.

So, denials are a defence strategy in that racists speakers 'not only deny the incriminated (verbal or other) act itself, but also its underlying intentions, purposes or attitudes, or its non-controlled consequences: 'I did not do/say that',  'I did not do/say that on purpose', 'That is not what I meant'. An alternative strategy is to deny their statements are negative but are simply 'telling the truth'. A more forceful version of that is 'recourse to justifications, more or less according to the following pattern of argumentation: I did express a negative judgment, but it was justified in this case, and that does not mean I am a racist'  (van Dijk, 1993, p. 181).

Denials may also transfer the charge to others: I have nothing against blacks, but my neighbours (customers, etc.).... Ultimately, denials may also reverse the charges and accuse the accuser for having (intentionally) misunderstood the actor/speaker, for having accused the actor/speaker without grounds or even for being intolerant: Not WE, but THEY are the real racists. Such reversals are typical for right-wing attacks against anti-racists.

 Van Dijk studied, and provided examples, of discourse in the press and parliament. He explained the broad tactics by which the press both expound and deny racism.

Although discrimination is often covered in the press, though usually defined as incidental, racism is denied in many ways. First of all, racism is usually elsewhere: in the past (during slavery or segregation) abroad (Apartheid in South Africa), politically at the far right (racist parties), and socially at the bottom (poor inner cities, skinheads). This is true for both the liberal and the conservative press. This means that it never applies to 'us', that is, the moderate mainstream, let alone to the liberal left or to the elites. Those who accuse us of racism are therefore severely attacked in much of the conservative press or simply ignored or marginalised in the more liberal press, especially when the press itself is the target of critical analysis. Racism, thus, if discussed at all, is explained away by restricting its definition to old-style, aggressive, ideological racism based on notions of racial superiority. Everyday forms of cultural racism, or ethnicism, are at most characterised as intolerance or xenophobia, which may even be blamed on the victim. (van Dijk, 1993, pp. 182–3)

One such approach is the tactic of positive self-presentation, which involves presenting the journalists group or country as essentially tolerant towards minorities. van Dijk (1993, p. 183) provided the following example that appeared in the wake of disturbances in Handsworth, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

(1) (Handsworth). Contrary to much doctrine, and acknowledging a small malevolent fascist fringe, this is a remarkably tolerant society. But tolerance would be stretched were it to be seen that enforcement of law adopted the principle of reverse discrimination. (Daily Telegraph, Editorial, 11 September 1985)
This example not only asserts or presupposes white British 'tolerance', but at the same time defines its boundaries. Tolerance might be interpreted as a position of weakness, and therefore it should not be 'stretched' too far, lest page5image2105993168'every terrorist', 'criminal' page5image2105996176or other immigrants, take advantage of it. Affirmative action or liberal immigration laws, thus, can only be seen as a form of reverse discrimination, and hence as a form of self-destruction of white Britain. Ironically, therefore, this example is self-defeating because of its internal contradictions: It is not tolerance per se that is aimed at, but rather the limitations preventing its page5image2106028336excesses.

A similar example of parliamentary denial came from the French Assemblé Nationale. Here, the' more racist the opinions professed in parliamentary debate, the more insistent are the denials of racism', as for example in the following quote from the then leader of the Front National (Le Pen):

(16) We are neither racist nor xenophobic. Our aim is only that, quite naturally, there be a hierarchy, because we are dealing with France, and France is the country of the French.
Note that an implicit but ('only') follows the denial. The speaker even claims that it is page11image2103328528natural to have a hierarchy between the 'own group', the French, and the immigrants. This assignment of a page11image2103337840natural page11image2103338848right to a superior position is at the heart of racist ideologies.

Populism is a not uncommon element of racist parliamentary speeches to which is added an 'element of euphemism: we are not racist, only worried'. For example,

(17) The French are not racist. But, facing this continuous increase of the foreign population in France, one has witnessed the development, in certain cities and neighbourhoods, of reactions that come close to xenophobia. In the eyes of the French unemployed man, for instance, the foreigner may easily become a rival, towards whom a sentiment of animosity may threaten to appear.

Van Dijk analyses this as follows:

Following the usual 'but', we do not find, as in other disclaimers, a negative statement about immigrants, but rather an explanation of the reaction of the common man (women are apparently not involved). Note that the way this explanation is formulated ('continuous increase' , 'rival') suggests understanding, if not an excuse, as in the usual accounts of racism in terms of economic competition. The denial of racism itself is rather complex, however. It is a denial that holds for the French in general. It is followed by a partial concession, duly limited by heavy mitigation and hedging ('coming close to xenophobia', 'a sentiment of animosity may threaten to appear'), as well as limited in place ('in certain cities'). In other words, prejudice, discrimination and racism are local incidents, and should also be seen as being provoked by continuous immigration, arguments we also found in the right-wing British press. (van Dijk, 1993, p. 190)

In similar vein, van Dijk provides examples from the press of  'denial and counter-attack', 'moral blackmail', 'subtle denials' and 'mitigation' and from parliamentary debates in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA of 'nationalist self-glorification', 'fair, but ...', 'denial and reproach' and 'reversal' techniques.

In conclusion, van Dijk (1993, pp. 192–3) argued that racism continues through daily reproduction of an ideological discourse that invokes 'exclusion, inferiorisation or marginalisation' and legitimates difference and dominance. Norms and values of a democratic clash with biased attitudes and negative text and talk about minorities. White speakers manage contradictions that infer a lack of tolerance by using 'strategies of positive self-presentation',  such as, 'disclaimers, mitigations, euphemisms, transfers', which, along with 'many other forms of racism denial are the routine moves in social face-keeping, so that ingroup members are able to come to terms with their own prejudices'.

Top Political discourse

Van Dijk (2015, p. 478) noted that that political discourse has been a central focus in critical discourse analysis given its interest in the study of power abuse, which goes back to early work by Chilton (1985, 1988, 1995) on the nuclear arms debate among other things. He maintains that Ruth Wodak and her collaborators have played a leading role in the critical discourse analysis approach to political discourse, examining antisemitism, racism, nationalism and political discourse (Wodak, 1989, 2009; Wodak et al., 1999; Wodak and van Dijk, 2000). Norman Fairclough's more recent work on political discourse has focused on issues of globalisation (Fairclough, 2006) following on from studies of the discourse of New Labour (Fairclough, 2000). Fairclough's approach to critical discourse analysis emphasises the need to relate discourse to social and political structures at the macro-level; he usually critiques capitalism by investigating how discourse maintains inequalities amongst hierarchies within established and new capitalist economies.

For example, as part of a wider study on globalisation and social change, Norman Fairclough (2005) analysed two speeches by the then British Prime Minster, the Right Honourable Anthony (Tony) Blair, given April 1999 in Chicago on 'Doctrine of international community' and April 2002 at the George Bush Senior Presidential Library. Fairclough (2005, p. 44) stated:

In both of these speeches and a good many others, we can see Blair as arguing from 'is' to 'must', from descriptions (narratives) of the world and world change to prescriptions for policy, from actualities to imaginaries. I shall consider in particular the following questions:
1.How does Blair narrate the world and world change—what has happened, and what is happening?
2.How does Blair narrate more particularly international security—what has happened, and what is happening?
3.How does Blair envisage—imagine—international affairs and the 'international community'?
4.How does Blair envisage—imagine—more specifically international security, and the intervention (especially military) by the 'international community' in the affairs of sovereign states?

For example in exploring the issue of international security, Blair constructs an 'us' and 'them' scenario ('them' being the antagonists) in which the 'antagonists terrorize their own people and threaten international security'. Fairclough considers that a task of text analysis is to explore how antagonists are represented as malign, usually by overstating the case, for example, referring to them as evil, dictators, or criminals. Conversely the protagonists (us) are characterised as benign. For example:

This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values. We cannot let the evil of ethnic cleansing stand. We must not rest until it is reversed. We have learned twice before in this century that appeasement does not work. If we let an evil dictator range unchallenged, we will have to spill infinitely more blood and treasure to stop him later. (Fairclough, 2005, p. 47)

Fairclough  shows that in the 1999 speech  the antagonists pose a threats to security and stability (as well as human rights abuses). By 2002, the antagonists are construed differently, with a focus on 'terrorism' and 'weapons of mass destruction', as well as countries that 'sponsor' them and that 'threaten us'.

One important shift in the would-be hegemonic discourse in the period since September 11 is the constitution of a relation of equivalence between 'terrorism' and 'weapons of mass destruction' as co-members of the class of 'threats'.  'Terrorism and/or weapons of mass destruction' has become a high frequency collocation. This shift in discourse has one might argue been decisive in justifying the extension of the 'War on Terrorism' to attacks on 'rogue states' in what Bush has called the 'axis of evil'.  Of course weapons of mass destruction are only a threat in the hands of the 'bad guys'—'our' weapons of mass destruction are not alluded to. (Perhaps the widely used acronym WMD helps in narrowing the focus to 'bad' weapons of mass destruction.) (Fairclough, 2005, p. 48)

On the issue of international security, how does Blair imagine the way forward? Fairclough  says that the speech of 1999 includes a case for qualifications of the principle of non-intervention whereas in 2002 the option of intervention is taken as given.

The first reference to military intervention—actual rather than imaginary—is Kosovo, and it is justified retrospectively in terms of its claimed good effects, not at all in terms of its legitimacy. The grounds for intervention are more explicit and focused than in the earlier speech: 'where terrorism or Weapons of Mass Destruction threaten us'. 'Self-interest' grounds—'security', 'stability', 'order'—are markedly more salient than moral grounds, though the latter are still here. There has been a covert but significant shift from responsive to pre-emptive intervention, intervention motivated by a perceived possible future threat. We have again the strategy of serving self-interest, and stability, by 'promoting' and 'defending' and 'standing up for' and 'fighting for' 'our' values. But the collocations have significantly shifted: 'promote' is less missionary than 'spread', and there is a new emphasis on 'defence' of values, and 'our' values being under attack.  Yet at the same time there is the imaginary of 'one integrated international community, sharing the same values' I referred to earlier. Here is one specific comparison:

'Now our actions are guided by a more subtle blend of mutual self-interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish.... If we can establish and spread the values...that is in our national interests too' (1999)

'I advocate an enlightened self-interest that puts fighting for our values right at the heart of the policies necessary to protect our nations' (2002)

'I am arguing that the values we believe in are worth fighting for; they are in the ascendant and we have a common interest in standing up for them.
We shouldn't be shy of giving our actions not just the force of self-interest but moral force.' (2002)

The claim to 'moral force' in 2002 is based more on combative assertion ('fighting for', 'standing up for') of 'our' values than in the 1999 speech. ((Fairclough, 2005, p. 51) 

Fairclough is attempting with these examples (and others from Blair's speech) to illustrate how the 'discoursal process of re-imagining "international community" is an essential element in the political project of re-constituting international relations. Blair was just one voice, but a significant one, in this reconstitution of international relations. 'What the comparison between the two major speeches of 1999 and 2002  shows is that the process of re-imagining is not a one-off process, but a process which develops and shifts in response to changing events and circumstances…' (Fairclough, 2005, p. 52)

For Fairclough, the most difficult part of any critical discourse analysis is assessing the impact of discourse on the social world. He says:

The most complex 'moment' of the dialectics of discourse to research is 'operationalization'. This is the point at which one is faced with the difficult problem of specifying the effects of discourse on other elements of the social. The military and diplomatic strategies of nations and alliances of nations, the organization and structure of institutions of international security and defence, international meetings and exchanges, the identities of politicians on the international stage, military systems and technologies, are all operationalizations of discourses. But tracing how precisely a change in hegemonic discourse is operationalized in new strategies, institutions, exchanges etc is a highly complex matter. One fruitful approach might be detailed case studies of processes of policy formation and implementation (such as those carried out by Iedema, 2003), possibly combining CDA with ethnographic methods (Chouliaraki, 1995, Pujolar, 1997, Wodak, 1996). For instance, studies of the process of decision making and implementation in the procurement of new military hardware might allow us to see how discourses of international relations and international security are operationalized in specific practical contexts. (Fairclough, 2005, p. 54)

Top Media discourse

Critical analysis of media discourse  is a significant area of  critical discourse analysis research. To some extent, critical discourse analysis is taking over the mantle of earlier critical analysts of the media (Section 5.11). According to van Dijk (2015, p. 480), Roger Fowler and his associates (Fowler et al. 1979) produced the first critical study of the media in linguistics. They revealed how 'the very structures of sentences, such as the use of actives or passives, may enhance the negative representation of outgroup actors, such as black youths, and downplay the negative actions of ingroups or the authorities, such as the police'. Van Dijk adds 'More than in much other critical work on the media, he also focuses on the linguistic "tools" for such a critical study, such as the analysis of transitivity in syntax, lexical structure, modality, and speech acts'.

There has been a considerable increase in critical discourse analytic studies of the media since the 1990s. These studies not only reflect critical media studies in investigating the 'social and communicative contexts of news and other press or broadcast genres' but have also related 'these to a systematic analysis of the structures of media discourse, such as lexicon, syntax, topics, metaphor, coherence, actor description, social identities, genres, modality, presupposition, rhetorical gestures, interaction, news schemas, and multimodal analysis of images, among many other structures'.

As is the case in many critical media studies...these critical analyses are applied to the coverage of pressing social and political issues—such as the Gulf and Iraq wars, the war on drugs, and terrorism (especially the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center) on the one hand, and globalization, sexism, racism, and islamophobia on the other—but from a more discourse analytical point of view.


6.9.4. Criticisms and comparisons of critical discourse analysis with other forms of discourse analysis

Critical discourse analysis differs considerably from conversation analysis. The underlying epistemology and intention are quite different. Conversation analysis is guided by an intense scrutiny of conversational processes, mechanisms and elements, such as how individuals take turns effectively. It is more a cross between positivism and phenomenology than the critical dialectical approach underpinning critical discourse analysis. Conversation analysis puts to one side issues of ideology and social context and, in for example the work of Schegloff (1997), criticise the introduction of political issues or even theoretical assumptions when analysing conversations. Schegloff claimed conversation has a sense for its participants that is displayed in the talk and that critical discourse analysis imposes an analyst's concerns about power, class or gender in a colonialist manner.

Not all conversation analysts disregard issues of power, for example, Kitzinger and Frith (1999) showed that 'Just say No' advice to potential victims of date rape is misguided, given the conversational complexity of declining invitations, assessments, and offers. In each case a conversational power position is maintained. Similarly, Ian Hutchby (1996) showed how radio hosts use various terms or phrases to challenge the relevance of an argument and thus maintain power over their callers. They also often summarise the argument in a way they can easily dismiss, without any need to offer their own position for scrutiny. Thus, Moss (2008) claimed, conversation analysis provides empirical insight into how individuals attempt to maintain power through discourse. Conversation analysis can indeed reveal the operation of power in actual conduct. However, this is power in a localized sense and not a structural analysis of power and dominant ideology.

An approach that has similarities with critical discourse analysis is Foucauldian discourse analysis. Both critical discourse analysis and Foucauldian discourse analysis are overtly political and attempt to uncover discourses that reflect and maintain the prevailing power structures. Foucault influenced discourse analysis 'does not study the rules and conventions of mundane talk; rather, it examines "serious speech acts," institutionalized talk or practices' (Frohmann, 1994, p. 120).

In Foucauldian discourse analysis approach 'discourse' does not refer to concrete instances of text or talk, rather, it is a theoretical concept. Ian Parker (1990, 1997, 1998) construes it as a system of statements that construct an object. The approach seeks to explore the mostly hidden, ideological and political effects in language use. However, while in critical discourse analysis the target is often social inequalities, Foucauldian discourse analysis criticises what it refers to as scientific discourses. Moss maintains that the differences between Critical and Foucauldian discourse analysis lies in the latter's origins.

Foucauldian discourse is primarily a reaction against academic psychology, in which difficulties are often blamed on the individual, disregarding the broader socio-political context. For example, researchers might examine an excerpt about bullying, showing how teachers often ascribe the problem to children not assuming their responsibility as a moral citizen rather than consider the broader family and social issues that could perpetuate these issues (e.g., Hepburn (1997)). In addition, Foucauldian discourse, unlike critical discourse analysis, does not tend to explore how the discourse is related to the broader and specific context of the text.

For a detailed account of a critical discourse analysis and comparison to other discourse analysis approaches see the study by Maria Stube, et al. (2003) in CASE STUDY Discourse analysis comparative study


6.9.5. Conclusion

There is no particular method that distinguishes critical discourse analysis from other forms of discourse analysis. The key difference is a critical attitude. There are many types of critical discourse analysis  but all, in one way or another, explore how discourse legitimises power and reasserts the status quo. Critical discourse analysis explores how inequality and domination are reaffirmed by relating discourse to its historical, social and political context.  While focusing on issues of racism and sexism, critical discourse analysis rather underplays social-class discourse.

A key element is access to specific forms of discourse, such as, politics, the mass media, education, or science. This effects how knowledge and attitudes are reproduced and transmitted and how dominant ideology is perpetuated.


Next 6.10 Summary of discourse analysis