Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is the interdisciplinary studies of all forms of communication that primarily focuses on power, power relations and discursive use of language. Teun A. Van Dijk defines “Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context” (352).
Critical Discourse Analysis understands the power relations and resists it. Similarly, the analysis of the language in relation to power has always been its central tenet. Although it analyses the power relations with inequality in society, in relation to discourse, there is the misconception of considering it the single framed theory or analytical approach.
As the matter of fact, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) practitioners put the text, language, power and communication in the context of society, politics, economy and culture whereas language plays the discursive role to mold the understanding and meaning in various levels.
Hence, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) amalgamates multiple approaches to bring in all those understanding and meaning on surface besides the complex and discursive power play as set by languages over the text and talk (all forms of communication).
While analyzing discourse critically (relating it to social context), Critical Discourse Analysis does not take a direction or a school rather it brings in the approaches. Van Dijk defines the “critical perspective in such diverse areas as pragmatics, conversation analysis, narrative analysis, rhetoric, stylistics, sociolinguistics, ethnography, or media analysis, among others” (352).
Since the analysis of the diverse areas like society, politics, art, music, literature, law, language, communication and more is not possible with single and unitary method or approach, it encompasses the range of approaches and methodologies.
Likewise, Norman Fairclaugh holds upon the approaches for social analysis of discourse. In his paper titled ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’ he claims quoting other scholars, “Critical discourse analysis’ (henceforth CDA) subsumes a variety of approaches towards the social analysis of discourse (Fairclough & Wodak 1997, Pêcheux M 1982, Wodak & Meyer 2001) which differ in theory, methodology, and the type of research issues to which they tend to give prominence” (1).
Fairclough believes that the language helps shaping the human identities, interactions, knowledge system and belief. He takes discourse as the social practices whereas sociocultural context is taken into consideration. Discourse represents the social practices. He writes about the trans-disciplinary approach as taken by CDA, in which he comments, “Methodologically, this approach entails working in a ‘transdisciplinary’ way through dialogue with other disciplines and theories which are addressing contemporary processes of social change” (2).
In the same manner, Fairclough argues that the CDA tends to scrutinize the precise accounts “to find in social research on change – of the ways in which and extent to which social changes are changes in discourse”. It further establishes the relation between changes in discourse and changes in other which include “non-discoursal, elements or ‘moments’ of social life (including therefore the question of the senses and ways in which discourse ‘(re)constructs’ social life in processes of social change)” (1).
In the same manner, he stresses over the “analysis the particular linguistic, semiotic and ‘interdiscursive’ features of ‘texts’” which bring the social change. At the same cost, it “facilitates the productive integration of textual analysis into multi-disciplinary research on change” (1).
Similarly, Fairclaugh further states, “CDA entails some form of detailed textual analysis. It specifically includes a combination of interdiscursive analysis of texts (i.e. of how different genres, discourses and styles are articulated together) , linguistic and other forms of semiotic analysis” (8).
In general, CDA is defined to have multiple approaches and principles that are problem-oriented. It necessarily brings in the interdisciplinary and eclectic methodologies or approaches for sure. “Moreover, CDA is characterized by the common interests in de-mystifying ideologies and power through the systematic and retroductable investigation of semiotic data (written, spoken or visual)” (Wodak and Meyer 3).
They further write that studies in CDA are “multifarious, derived from quite different theoretical backgrounds, oriented towards different data and methodologies” (5). However, this heterogeneity with its studies and principles is quite confusing for some. The further argument is laid that “In contrast to ‘total and closed’ theories, such as Chomsky’s Generative Transformational Grammar or Michael Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics, CDA has never had the image of a ‘sect’ and does not want to have such an image” (Wodak and Meyer 5).
Since the language plays the discursive function in the socio-political, economic, religious and other phenomena or scenario, the understanding, analyses and interpretation of the language is of utmost priority. “CDA sees ‘language as social practice’ (Fairclough andWodak, 1997), and considers the ‘context of language use’ to be crucial” (Wodak and Meyer 5).
They add on that CDA takes the discourse in terms of the use of language in speech and writing as the social practice. While summing up the discursive role of language, they state, “CDA can be defined as being fundamentally interested in analyzing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language” (10). Thus, CDA analyzes, interprets and investigate over the social inequality as it interpreted, expressed, structured and legitimized with the discursive use of the language.
While analyzing the discourse, it primarily focuses over the language and discourse, which is connected with the emerging ‘Critical Linguistics’ at the end of the 1970. Those CL (Critical Linguistics) practitioners used their perspective with the term ‘critical’, which was influenced by “the Frankfurt School and Jürgen Habermas”.
Similarly, “‘Critical Theory’ in the sense of the Frankfurt School, mainly based on the famous essay of Max Horkheimer in 1937,means that social theory should be oriented towards critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented solely to understanding or explaining it” (Wodak and Meyer 7).
In this manner, the use of language and critical perspective to the analysis involved the great deal of multifaceted approaches and methodologies. They have clearly understood that the use of language “could lead to a mystification of social events which systematic analysis could elucidate” (7).
By the same token, Ruth Wodak asserts the fact in his paper entitled ‘Aspects of Critical Discourse Analysis’ that CDA has never been and attempted to provide one single or specific theory, “Neither is one specific methodology characteristic of research in CDA”. Researchers in CDA also rely on a “variety of grammatical approaches.”
Thus, he concludes, “any criticism of CDA should always specify which research or researcher they relate to because CDA as such cannot be viewed as a holistic or closed paradigm” (7). He sees that “The notions of ideology, power, hierarchy and gender together with sociological variables were all seen as relevant for an interpretation or explanation of text”, whereas CDA takes “Gender issues, issues of racism, media discourses, political discourses, organizational discourses or dimensions of identity research” as the prominent topics or areas.
At the same time, Wodak affirms, “The methodologies differ greatly in all these studies, on account of the aims of the research and also with regard to the particular methodologies applied: small qualitative case studies can be found as well as large data corpora, drawn from fieldwork and ethnographic research” (6).
Along with the differing methodologies and approaches, Wodak simply confirms the interdisciplinary quality of approaches taken for the CDA. He states, “The approach is interdisciplinary. Problems in our societies are too complex to be studied from a single perspective”.
He further acknowledges the dimensions of interdisciplinary (ness) arguing that “The theories draw on neighbouring disciplines and try to integrate these theories. Teamwork consists of different researchers from different traditionally defined disciplines working together. Lastly, the methodologies are also adapted to the data under investigation” (14). Accroding to Wodak, the study of multiple genres and multiple public spaces are done in relation to inter-textuality.
With the pioneering contributions of scholars like Van Dijk, Fairclough, Wodak and Meyer, CDA (Critical Discourse Analysis) has gained the multifaceted dimensions that are used to understand the discursive role/ functions of language use over the semiotic data or forms of communications and power play with domination, authority, inequality and power relationships.
They have penetrated complexities as exposed by the society, language, culture, politics, economy and so on. However, the complexities are further added on with the involvement of differently and traditionally disciplined scholars, differently adopted methodologies and the power play of the language, how can a single framework, theory or method be sufficient enough to analyze them? Thus, the need of multifaceted methodologies is always there which is well served with the application of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA).