Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis

Ruth Wodak

Table of contents

Critical linguistics (CL) and critical discourse analysis (CDA) can best be defined as “a shared perspective on doing linguistic, semiotic or discourse analysis” (van Dijk 1993b: 131). This shared perspective relates to the term critical, which in the work of some ‘critical linguists’ could be traced to the influence of the Frankfurt school (or more specifically to Jürgen Habermas), but which is conventionally used in a broader sense denoting, as Krings argues, the practical linking of “social and political engagement” with “a sociologically informed construction of society” (Krings et al. 1973: 808), while recognizing, in Fairclough’s words “that, in human matters, interconnections and chains of cause-and-effect may be distorted out of vision. Hence ‘critique’ is essentially making visible the interconnectedness of things” (Fairclough 1985: 747). Implicit argumentations, for example, and opaque texts are deconstructed and their underlying meanings made explicit. The critical analysis also relates the analyzed text to other, connected, discourses (intertextuality) and to historical and synchronic contexts. Although CL and CDA are by many linguists seen as quite different in methodology, they can both be said to occupy the same ‘paradigmatic space’, and the terms will thus be used interchangeably in this paper, unless otherwise indicated.

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