Critical discourse analysis

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Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are reproduced in text and talk.[1]

Since Norman Fairclough's Language and Power in 1989, CDA has been deployed as a method of multidisciplinary analysis throughout the humanities and social sciences. It does not confine itself only to method, though the overriding assumption shared by CDA practitioners is that language and power are linked.


Critical discourse analysis emerged from 'critical linguistics' (CL) developed at the University of East Anglia in the 1970s, and the terms are now often interchangeable.[2] Sociolinguistics was paying little attention to social hierarchy and power.[3] 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 remarkable contribution to this field of study. The approach draws from several disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, such as critical linguistics.[4] 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 sociocultural practice.[1][5] Particularly, he combines micro, meso and macro-level interpretation. At the micro-level, the analyst considers the text's syntax, metaphoric structure and certain rhetorical devices [clarification needed]. The meso-level involved studying the text's production and consumption, focusing on how power relations are enacted. At the macro-level, the analyst is concerned with intertextual understanding, trying to understand the broad, societal currents that are affecting the text being studied.[6][7]

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.[1] 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.[8] The historical dimension in critical discourse studies also plays an important role.[9]


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.[citation needed] 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.

Notable academics[edit]

Notable writers include Norman Fairclough, Michał Krzyżanowski, Paul Chilton, Teun A. van Dijk, Ruth Wodak, Phil Graham, Theo Van Leeuwen, Siegfried Jäger, Christina Schäffner, James Paul Gee, Roger Fowler, Gunther Kress, Mary Talbot, Lilie Chouliaraki, Thomas Huckin, Hilary Janks and Bob Hodge.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Fairclough, Norman; Clive Holes (1995). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. Longman. ISBN 0-582-21980-9. 
  2. ^ Some still insist on distinctions between the two terms, although they are relatively minor
  3. ^ Wodak, R. (2001) "What CDA is about" In: Wodak, Ruth & Meyer, Michael (eds.) (2001) Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage. p5
  4. ^ Fowler, Roger; Bob Hodge, Gunther Kress, Tony Trew (1979). Language and Control. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7100-0288-4. 
  5. ^ Fairclough, Norman (2001). Language and Power. Longman. ISBN 0-582-41483-0. 
  6. ^ David Barry, Brigid Carroll and Hans Hansen (4 May 2006). Narrative and Discursive Organizational Studies To Text or Context? Endotextual, Exotextual, and Multi-textual Approaches to Narrative and Discursive Organizational Studies Organization Studies 2006; 27; 1091. doi:10.1177/0170840606064568. 
  7. ^ Alvesson, Mats, Dan Karreman (2000). ‘Varieties of discourse: On the study of organizations through discourse analysis’. Human Relations 53/9: 1125–1149. 
  8. ^ van Dijk, Teun Adrianus (1998). Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-5654-9. 
  9. ^ Wodak, Ruth; Michael Meyer (2001). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis: Methods of Critical. Sage Publications. ISBN 0-7619-6154-2. 


  • Caldas-Coulthard, Carmen Rosa, and Coulthard, Malcolm, (editors) (1996) Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis, London: Routledge.
  • Chouliaraki, Lilie & Norman Fairclough (1999). Discourse in Late Modernity: Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Norman Fairclough (1995). Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.
  • Norman Fairclough (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.
  • Jaworski, Adam, & Coupland, Nikolas (Eds.) (2002). The Discourse Reader. New York: Routledge.
  • Lazar, Michelle (Ed.) (2005). Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Gender, Power and Ideology In Discourse. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Rogers, Rebecca (2003). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and Out of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Rogers, Rebecca (Ed.) (2003). An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Talbot, Mary, Atkinson, Karen and Atkinson, David (2003). Language and Power in the Modern World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Toolan, Michael (Ed.) (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis: Critical Concepts in Linguistics (Vol I: Precursors and Inspirations). London: Routledge.
  • Toolan, Michael (Ed.) (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis: Critical Concepts in Linguistics (Vol II: Leading Advocates). London: Routledge.
  • Toolan, Michael (Ed.) (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis: Critical Concepts in Linguistics (Vol III: Concurrent Analyses and Critiques). London: Routledge.
  • Toolan, Michael (Ed.) (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis: Critical Concepts in Linguistics (Vol IV: Current Debates and New Directions). London: Routledge.
  • Teun A. Van Dijk. (1993). Elite discourse and racism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Teun A. Van Dijk. (2005). Racism and discourse in Spain and Latin America. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Teun A. Van Dijk. (2008). Discourse and Power. Houndsmills: Palgrave.
  • Weiss, Gilbert & Wodak, Ruth (Eds.) (2003). Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Palgrave.
  • Young, Lynne & Harrison, Claire (Eds.) (2004). Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis: Studies in Social Change. London: Continuum.
  • Anna Duszak, Juliane House, Łukasz Kumięga: Globalization, Discourse, Media: In a Critical Perspective / Globalisierung, Diskurse, Medien: eine kritische Perspektive. Warsaw University Press, r. 2010

Further reading[edit]

  • Henry Widdowson (1995). Review of Fairclough's Discourse and Social Change. Applied Linguistics 16(4): 510–516.
  • Norman Fairclough (1996). A Reply to Henry Widdowson's 'Discourse Analysis: A Critical View. Language & Literature 5(1): 49–56.
  • Henry Widdowson (1996). Reply to Fairclough: Discourse and Interpretation: Conjectures and Refutations. Language & Literature 5(1): 57–69.
  • Henry Widdowson (1998). "The Theory and Practice of Critical Discourse Analysis." Applied Linguistics 19/1: 136–151.
  • O'Halloran, Kieran A. (2003) Critical Discourse Analysis and Language Cognition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Beaugrande, Robert de (2001). "Interpreting the Discourse of H.G. Widdowson: A Corpus-Based Critical Discourse Analysis. Applied Linguistics 22(1): 104–121.
  • Toolan, Michael (1997). What Is Critical Discourse Analysis and Why Are People Saying Such Terrible Things About It? Language & Literature 6(2): 83–103.
  • Stubbs, Michael (1998). Whorf's Children: Critical Comments on Critical Discourse Analysis. In Ryan, A. & Wray, A. (Eds.), Evolving Models of Language: British Studies in Applied Linguistics 12, Clevedon: BAAL/Multilingual Matters.
  • Blommaert, Jan & Bulcaen, Chris (2000). Critical Discourse Analysis. Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 447–466.
  • Blommaert, Jan, Collins, James, Heller, Monica, Rampton, Ben, Slembrouck, Stef & Jef Verschueren. Discourse and Critique. Special issue of Critique of Anthropology 21/1: 5–107 and 21/2:117-183.
  • Slembrouck, Stef (2001). Explanation, Interpretation and Critique in the Analysis of Discourse. Critique of Anthropology, 21: 33–57.
  • Slembrouck, Stef (2005). Discourse, critique and ethnography: class-oriented coding in accounts of child protection. Language Sciences 27:619–650.
  • Threadgold, Terry (2003). Cultural Studies, Critical Theory and Critical Discourse Analysis: Histories, Remembering and Futures. Linguistik Online 14(2).
  • Tyrwhitt-Drake, Hugh (1999). Resisting the Discourse of Critical Discourse Analysis: Reopening a Hong Kong Case Study. Journal of Pragmatics 31: 1081–1088.

External links[edit]

Journals associated with CDA