Norman Fairclough. 2010. Critical Discourse Analysis. the Critical Study of Language

By Franceschi, Daniele | European English Messenger, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Norman Fairclough. 2010. Critical Discourse Analysis. the Critical Study of Language


Franceschi, Daniele, European English Messenger


Norman Fairclough. 2010. Critical Discourse Analysis. The Critical Study of Language. Harlow: Longman.

The focus of this extensive, fundamental work by Emeritus Professor Norman Fairclough is the relation between language and society in a number of different manifestations. These are analysed in twenty-two papers making up the collection. The book grows out of the author's long-standing research on the topic which led to a first edition in 1995 and to this second, much enlarged, version of 2010.

The volume opens with a preface by the series editor, Professor Christopher N. Candlin, who highlights the key elements of the study. According to him, there is a justified insistence thoughout the book on the concept of transdisciplinarity and on the potential role of critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a means of social change. The general introduction then provides the reader with a unifying framework for these papers dealing with different topics, but all linked by a common objective. The basic properties of CDA are illustrated here, namely its relational, dialectical, and transdisciplinary character, and a real manifesto is given. Unlike other forms of research and analysis, CDA is not just descriptive, but also normative in that it aims at righting or mitigating the obstacles and limits of contemporary capitalism in this period of global crisis.

Section A (Language, ideology and power) consists of three papers showing how discourse mirrors the ideological mechanisms of power in society. Paper 1 analyses various texts in order to demonstrate how interaction and turn-taking in conversation are dominated by ideological rules that now tend to be perceived as natural; hence the role of CDA in "denaturalising" them through elements of resistance. Paper 2 also considers the process of 'naturalisation' of ideology, in other words its becoming "automatised", but from a Gramscian perspective, while paper 3 investigates the imbrications of the media with ideology in the specific context of Romania, where there appears to be a failure in producing a change of mentality after the country's recent turn to capitalism.

Section B (Discourse and sociocultural change) reveals that the market economy has reshaped the structure of language in various ways. Paper 4 evidences a deep change within universities in contemporary Britain through the analysis of various text samples that indicates a process of 'marketisation' of the higher education system. Paper 5 instead deals with the 'conversationalisation' of medical discourse in doctor-patient interaction as opposed to the 'technologisation' of language in an extract from a university prospectus. Paper 6 shifts back the attention to the framework of paper 4, but this time the author observes political discourse and how it is restructured by the media in order to combine institutionalised patterns with a lightened version characterised by humour.

Section C (Dialectics of discourse: theoretical developments) contains two theoretical contributions to CDA research. The first of these contributions, paper 7, discusses the changes in the British New Labour's ways of governing and how these changes affect the 'texturing' process. The author argues in favour of a socially grounded theorisation of texts that can prove beneficial both for the linguist and the social analyst. Paper 8, co-authored with Bob Jessop and Andrew Sayer, centres around the concept of semiosis and addresses its social preconditions as well as broad context. Semiosis is here understood as the intersubjective production of meaning in social structuration. Although this paper discusses primarily aspects of social realism, the authors suggest that the latter can benefit from a CDA-based approach to the treatment of semiosis.

The papers included in Section D (Methodology in CDA research) have a more applied character and deal with issues of methodology. Paper 9 illustrates the author's four-stage approach developed in CDA, aimed at the recognition and observation of injustices and inequalities in order to understand what makes it difficult to right them and whether or not righting them may have a radical social impact. …

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