1* Basic tenets in CDA:
- Fairclough and Wodak offered eight foundational principles for CDA:
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.
2* Similarities and differences in the three main approaches to CDA:
A) - The discourse-historical approach Wodak:
The discourse-historical approach, committed to CDA, adheres to the Socio-
philosophical orientation of critical theory. It was developed by Ruth
Wodak and other scholars in Vienna. The approach is particularly associated
with large programmes of research in interdisciplinary research teams
focusing on sexism, anti-Semitism and racism. One of the major aims of this
kind of critical research has been its practical application. The
'discourse-historical approach' (DHA) was specifically devised for an
interdisciplinary study of post-war anti-Semitism in Austria.
It follows a complex concept of social critique which embraces three
interconnected aspects, two of which are primarily related to the dimension
of cognition and one to the dimension of action:
1- Text or discourse immanent critique' aims at discovering
inconsistencies, (self-) contradictions, paradoxes and dilemmas in the text-
internal or discourse-internal structures.
2- In contrast to the `immanent critique', the `socio-diagnostic critique'
is concerned with the demystifying exposure of the manifest or latent
possibly persuasive or `manipulative' character of discursive practices.
With socio-diagnostic critique, the analyst exceeds the purely textual or
discourse internal sphere. She or he makes use of her or his background and
contextual knowledge and embeds the communicative or interactional
structures of a discursive event in a wider frame of social and political
relations, processes and circumstances. At this point, we are obliged to
apply social theories to interpret the discursive events.
3- Prognostic critique contributes to the transformation and improvement of
communication (for example, within public institutions by elaborating
proposals and guidelines for reducing language barriers in hospitals,
schools, courtrooms, public and media reporting institutions as well as
guidelines for avoiding sexist language use.
To summarize, and in contrast to some views on CDA, CDA is not concerned
with evaluating what is `right' or `wrong'. CDA should try to make choices
at each point in the research itself, and should make these choices
transparent. It should also justify theoretically why certain
interpretations of discursive events seem more valid than others.
B) Critical discourse analysis as social scientific research (Fairclough)
The aim is to describe CDA as a method that can be used in social
scientific research and as a theoretical perspective on language and more
generally semiosis as one element or "moment" of the material social
CDA is analysis of the dialectical relationships between semiosis
(including language) and other elements of social practices. Its particular
concern is with the radical changes that are taking place in contemporary
- Fairclough is especially interested in semiosis and social practices:
. Semiosis is an irreducible part of the material social processes, and it
includes all forms of meaning-making - visual images and body language, as
well as language.
. Social life can be seen as interconnected networks of Social Practices of
diverse sorts: economic, political, cultural, etc.
. Every practice has a semiotic element.
. Focussing on social practices allows one to combine the perspective of
structure and the perspective of action.
One the one hand, a practice is a relatively permanent way of acting
socially (defined by its position within a structured network of practices)
A practice is a domain of social action and interaction which both
reproduces structures and has the potential to transform them.
All practices are practices of production - they are the arenas where
social life is produced, whether economic, political, cultural or everyday
C) - Van Dijk's way of doing CDA is a socio-cognitive approach, with a
current particular interest in cognition. In particular, he describes the
"Discourse - Cognition - Society Triangle":
. Discourse is meant as a communication event, including conversational
interaction, written text, as well as associated gestures, face work,
typographical layout, images, and any other semiotic or multimedia
dimension of signification.
. Cognition here means personal and social cognition, beliefs, and goals as
well as evaluations and emotions, and any other mental or memory
structures, representations or processes involved in discourse or
. Society is meant to include both the local, microstructures of situated
face-to-face interactions, as well as the more global, societal and
political structures variously defined in terms of groups, group-relations
(such as dominance and inequality), movements, institutions, organisations,
social processes, political systems and more abstract properties of
societies and cultures.
3* Describe and discuss some of the main aspects of meaning in texts, which
systems of beliefs or ideologies are produced and reproduced.
1- Categorization: A category is the conceptualization of a collection of
similar experiences that are meaningful and relevant to us.
2- General vs. specific. Group vs. individual:
Reference to groups by singular or plural generic descriptions, or with
quantifiers: 'The Turk is generally...'; 'Turks are always...'
Groups may be 'aggregated' or 'collectivized': 'the community', etc...
Finally, actors may be identified by name or remain anonymous: 'someone',
'most people', etc...
3- Identification: According to Van Dijk, participants are classified in
terms of their origin, nationality, gender, or ethnicity, defined in terms
of their relations to others (like mothers, sisters and bosses), or
identified by their appearance (white, blacks, skinheads). Their political
ideology (communist, liberals), their norms and values (conservatives), or
the social resources they have or do not have (the rich the poor, the
elites, the masses, the disadvantaged, etc.
4- Attributes assigned to the category: "Irrelevant negative categorization
of participants in order to delegitimize or marginalize their opinions or
actions. Choice of attribute will differ depending on attitudes: 'freedom
fighter' vs. 'terrorist'.
5- Metaphor: "Refugees or other immigrants, their properties and actions
tend to be conceptualized in terms of various kinds of a serious social or
economic problem, or in terms of threats or in general 'dangerous things',
such as threatening, violent groups (armies, invaders, etc), as dangerous
or loathsome animals (parasites), as natural phenomena and catastrophes
(waves, tides, fluxes, streams), as disease or epidemic, as plants (taking
root in the country, growing fast), or as a smouldering fire (as when race
6- Reference to in-groups and out-groups: 'We' is used to refer to any
group the speaker identifies with: 'we whites', 'we, in our party', etc...