Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Critical discourse analysis

Wikipedia refers to critical discourse analysis (CDA) as “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.”

In his article titled Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: the universities, Norman Fairclough notes that "viewing language as a social practice implies 'that it is a mode of action and also, in a dialectical relationship with other facets of 'the social' - it is socially shaped, but also socially shaping.' He continues by stating that 'it is vital that critical discourse analysis explore the tension between these two sides of language use, the socially shaped and the socially constitutive, rather than operating one sidedly from a structuralist position. 
When I think of this in practical terms, I think of the nature of words and text.  The very act of uttering a word or expressing a gesture places an immediate onus on the recipient to respond. To say hi or to smile, for example, illicits an immediate response from the receiver, and is interpreted as impolite if it does not occur.  The very structure that words were created to exist within requires the engagement of more than one individual, and has too many unspoken codes (and expectations) to be considered neutral.  Even if one could make the argument that content can be neutral, and Fairclough gives some examples in his article, the context isn’t.  Exchange words with discourse, and the speaker and or content producer, whether it be through text or through broadcast, is expanding the same idea, that the ideas and gestures articulated will generate some sort of individual or societal response, if not physical, then cognitive, if not immediate, then gradual.

Fairclough notes that connection between text and social practice is seen as being mediated by discourse practice: on the one hand, processes of text production and interpretation are shaped by (and help shape) the nature of the social practice.  He adds that there are ‘cues’ laces in the text or discourse on how the social practice should play out.
Norman, F. (1993). Critical discourse analysis and the marketization of public discourse: the universities.          Discourse Society, 4, 133.
-Mandissa Arlain

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