Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com
Social Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Discourse Analysis

Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition edited by Christopher Hart (Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture Series: John Benjamins Publishing Company)

Critical Discourse Studies (CDS), under the general editors of Ruth Wodak and Greg Myers and associate editor Johann Unger, University of Lancaster, is an exciting research enterprise in which scholars are concerned with the discursive reproduction of power and inequality. However, researchers in CDS are increasingly recognizing the need to investigate the cognitive dimensions of discourse and context if they want to fully account for any connection between language, legitimization and social action. Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition, edited by Christopher Hart, Northumbria University, presents a collection of papers in CDS concerned with various ideological discourses. Analyses are firmly rooted in linguistics and cognition constitutes a major focus of attention. The chapters, which are written by prominent researchers in CDS, come from a broad range of theoretical perspectives spanning pragmatics, cognitive psychology and cognitive linguistics.

It is a key claim of pragmatics and discourse analysis that discourse is always produced and processed in context. It is always `situated' socially, spatially, temporally and intertextually, for example. This context, however, is not the context that exists out there in objective reality, but is rather the set of cognitive representations that discourse participants have of the world. Context in this sense is subjective knowledge. It contributes to meaning construction in discourse but it is also managed and maintained through discourse. Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) is principally concerned with the communication and discursive construction of social, including political, knowledge, as well as with linguistic persuasion and manipulation. These processes, however, must ultimately be grounded in the cognitive systems of interacting social agents.

Therefore, to fully account for any links between language, legitimization and knowledge, CDS needs to address the cognitive processes involved in text-production and text-interpretation. This requires paying attention to both meaning and mind.

Van Dijk has for a long time endorsed a socio-cognitive approach in CDS and continues to develop this position in Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition. However, specifically cognitive theories of language, such as Relevance Theory in pragmatics and various semantic theories in Cognitive Linguistics, including Langacker's Cognitive Grammar, are not widely represented. One exception, from Cognitive Linguistics, is Lakoff and Johnson's Conceptual Metaphor Theory, which has been applied extensively in critical metaphor research. Recently, too, several publications have appeared in which a broader base of cognitive-pragmatic and cognitive-semantic theories are applied.

No single model is presented. Rather, with the exception of Reisigl, who opens Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition with a scientific history of pragmatics and discourse analysis and attempts to show, systematically, the relationship between the two disciplines within linguistics, what the chapters in this volume have in common is that they each offer novel and innovative, interdisciplinary frameworks in which to carry out critical discourse research from a broad but coherent cognitive perspective. Specifically, the authors explore contemporary directions in CDS starting from the various theoretical/methodological intersections between discourse, social cognition, cognitive pragmatics and cognitive semantics.

In the opening chapter, Martin Reisigl offers a much needed survey of the landscape of sociolinguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis and tries to show their differences and commonalities, as well as the various ways in which they have been located with respect to one another in relations of subordination and inclusion across the literature. He concludes that what is needed is a more informed, interdisciplinary dialogue within a unified framework.

In chapter two, Teun van Dijk continues to develop his socio-cognitive approach to CDS by advancing a `critical epistemic discourse analysis'. Van Dijk begins with an overview of the science of knowledge before proposing a sociology of politics and knowledge as an integral part of critical epistemic discourse analysis. Crucial to Van Dijk's argument is that knowledge, which may be expressed, constituted, obfuscated and abused in political discourse, as well as the discourse itself, is a function of cognitive `context models'. Van Dijk then conducts a critical epistemic discourse analysis of a parliamentary speech from Tony Blair in which he is seeking sanction for the Iraq war.

In chapter three of Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition, Didier Maillat and Steve Oswald investigate manipulation from the perspective of Relevance Theory. They suggest that constraining context selection can force audiences to accept fallacious arguments as valid by preventing them from accessing conflicting contextual information. Manipulation is possible within the Relevance Theory model, they argue, because of the sometimes fallible cognitive heuristics involved in the pursuit of relevance. Maillat and Oswald demonstrate this function of context selection constraint, and how context can be constrained in the first place, with examples of fallacies from politics which are well-known in Argumentation Theory, including the ad verecundum and ad populum fallacies.

In chapter four, Piotr Cap develops the axiological dimension of a tripartite model of `proximization' which he has explicated elsewhere. Proximization, for Cap, is a cognitive-affective strategy deployed in service of legitimization. Like Van Dijk in chapter two, Cap investigates the premises for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Based on a corpus of American presiden­tial speeches, Cap argues that the initial premises given for the war moved from strategies of spatial proximization to axiological proximization when Iraq was found not to possess weapons of mass destruction.

In chapter five, Begona Nunez-Perucha combines Cognitive Linguistics and the socio-cognitive framework for CDS in a model which she applies in a diachronic analysis of ideologies of resistance in feminist discourse. Her analysis focuses in particular on the role of image schemas in metaphorical conceptualizations of identity, membership and inequality.

Veronika Koller, in chapter six of Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition, is similarly concerned with issues of identity in resistance discourse. And as in the previous chapter, her analysis incorporates a diachronic dimension. The specific object of her analysis, however, is collective identity in lesbian discourses. Collective identity, she argues, is grounded in men­tal models made up of cognitive and affective components. She therefore offers a model for analysis which combines insights from the discourse-historical and socio-cognitive approaches in CDS, drawing especially on notions of representa­tion, appraisal and genre.

In chapter seven, Christine Sing builds on the growing body of work promoting a methodological synergy between Conceptual Metaphor Theory specifically and the socio-cognitive approach in CDS. Further adding a corpus linguistic dimension, Sing uses KWIC (keyword in context) indices from a corpus of reports in The Guardian to analyze metaphorical constructions of European identity built around the now infamous `old' versus `new' Europe dichotomy.

In chapter eight, editor Hart starts by discussing the compatibility of Cognitive Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis before going on to show how Cognitive Linguistics can usefully be incorporated in CDS to analyze more than metaphor. From the theoretical perspectives of Cognitive Grammar as well as Cognitive Semantics, he highlights several construal operations which, like metaphor, encode ideological conceptualizations of socio-political phenomena. He argues that these construal operations, which are grounded in general cognitive processes and include profiling within an action chain, categorization and metonymy, serve to realize certain fundamental discursive strategies. The focus of his analysis is conceptualizations of immigration in news media discourse.

Finally, in chapter nine, Juana Marin Arrese continues to expand the scope of Cognitive Linguistics in CDS through a comparative, Langackerian analysis of three political speeches concerning Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. In an analysis of speaker subjectivity and intersubjectivity, Arrese, attempts to characterize the style of three political leaders, Tony Blair, George Bush and Jose Maria Aznar, in terms of epistemic and effective stance. This analysis takes in various `stancetaking acts' expressed, for example, in evidentials, modals and other attitudinals. Intersubjectivity allows speakers to mystify their own responsibility for assertions.

The chapters in this volume each promote new, interdisciplinary modes of analysis for CDS, all of which attend to the fundamental, cognitive dimension of discourse. This is a necessary move for CDS but one which some researchers have been reluctant to make. Critical Discourse Studies in Context and Cognition represents a new theoretical and methodological paradigm in CDS and thus makes a major contribution to the growing field. The objects of inquiry, however, will be familiar, where a number of typical leitmotifs can be identified, including issues of identity, membership, responsibility and legitimacy in social and political dis­courses and genres. The book is essential reading for anyone working at the cutting edge of CDS and especially for those wishing to explore the central place that cognition must surely hold in the relationship between discourse and society.



Headline 3

insert content here