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By 26/09/2022Dezembro 29th, 2022No Comments

By Marianna Griffini

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a qualitative method of data analysis, which aims at an in-depth investigation of text and talk, i.e. discourse. CDA is encompassed within the broader field of Discourse Analysis, including a wide variety of approaches, such as semiotics and socio-linguistics. The running thread across various approaches is the focus on discourse, which is defined by Van Dijk, a key scholar of CDA, as a form of language use and of social interaction. Similarly, Fairclough, the pioneer of CDA, emphasises the element of social interaction inherent to discourse.

CDA envisages discourse as the manifestation of power relations and looks at ‘how social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context’ (Van Dijk, 2008, p. 352). Hence, CDA is particularly apt to focus on social and political issues, such as hegemony, dominance, class, race, gender, discrimination, institutions, social order, ideology, and interests. The benefit of CDA is that, as Cameron argues, CDA uncovers the hidden agenda, determined by ideology, inherent to talk and text.

Moreover, CDA illuminates discursive strategies used in particular by the Populist Radical Right (PRR): through the topos of threat, the PRR induces fear of the Other, to legitimate its attack on the latter; through the politics of denial, the PRR formally denies racism, to appear more moderate, before slipping into racist statements; through the fallacy of sameness and the fallacy of difference, the PRR portrays the in-group as homogeneous and as inherently opposed to the out-group; finally, through the legitimation through authorisation, the PRR resorts to data in order to buttress its own arguments. CDA has been widely applied also to the analysis of the media, including the analysis of the Guardian’s coverage of populism, and the analysis of social media posts by populist leaders.

A danger inherent to discourse analysis is bias, as this methodological framework is predicated upon the position and the interests of the analyst, who chooses an interpretation of discourse out of many possible readings. Nevertheless, the criticism of subjectivity is intrinsic to the quasi-totality of qualitative methods, and can be tempered by adhering to a scrupulous method of analysis and considering the researcher’s reflexivity. Poole offers an acute defence of CDA, arguing against its detractors that it can be applied employing a completely different perspective from that of Fairclough, who analyses mainly neoliberal texts adopting a socialist perspective. Despite Fairclough’s ideological position, Poole shows that CDA is still applicable using different ideological perspectives, which confirms its validity as a methodological tool.

Related References

Brown, Katy, and Aurelien Mondon. 2021. “Populism, the Media, and the Mainstreaming of the Far Right: The Guardian’s Coverage of Populism as a Case Study.” Politics 41 (3): 279–95.
Fairclough, Norman. 1989. Language and Power. London: Longman.
Lorenzetti, Maria Ivana. 2020. “Right-Wing Populism and the Representation of Immigrants on Social Media. A Critical Multimodal Analysis.” Iperstoria, no. 15: 59–95.
Poole, Brian. 2010. “Commitment and Criticality: Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis Evaluated.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics 20 (2): 137–55.
Van Dijk, Teun A. 1995. “Discourse, Power and Access.” In Texts and Practices. Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis., 84–104. London: Routledge.
2008. “Critical Discourse Analysis.” In The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, 352–71. Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell.
Wodak, Ruth. 2015. The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean. SAGE Publications

Cite this entry as:

Griffini, Marianna. 2022. ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário