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Critical Discourse Analysis Compare and Contrast Essay


Language may be used in different contexts and texts to create different meanings. To understand the sign, vocal, or even written language, a form of analysis is crucial in establishing both the intended and implied meanings.

This paper discusses discourse examination and critical discourse analysis (CDA) as two important approaches to analysing language use in vocal, sign, and written forms. Its main concern is to demonstrate the difference between the perspectives of language use in written and text forms.

Defining Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis (DA) is a general term that is applied to various paradigms that are deployed in the study of the sign, vocal, written, and any other language semiotics. Objects that are used in the analysis under this approach are defined in terms of an individual’s consistency in the application of prepositions, use of sentences, tongue, and even turns-at-talk (Ross & Nightingale 2003).

Opposed to traditional approaches to linguistic analysis, discourse analysis focuses on studying not only the usage of language outside the limits of sentences use, but also analysing language in its conventional usage, rather than utilising invented examples.

This claim suggests a close relationship between discourse analysis and text analysis. However, the two concepts are different since discourse analysis also objects to identify various socio-psychological traits of people, rather than just the structure of the texts (Keller 2011).

As Bryman (2008) confirms, discourse analysis may find application in various social sciences among them being linguistics, social work, cultural studies, and communications disciplines. However, in each of the disciplines, its application is subject to assumptions, methodologies of studies, and analysis approaches that guide it. Discourse analysis covers a variety of topics that are of interest to different analysts.

They include sounds, language syntax, rhetoric, meanings, gesture, interaction, and acts of speech among others. It can take different genres, including business, politics, and science among others. Discourse analysts are interested in topics such as the relationship between context and texts, discourse and power, and interaction and the discourse.

From the above discussions, the term discourse analysis simply means studies on different ways in which languages are deployed in different texts and contexts.

In a more interactive definition, as Blommaert (2005, p.97) informs, ‘it concerns itself with the use of language in a running discourse, continued over a number of sentences, and involving the interaction of a speaker, writer, auditor, or a reader in a specific situational context, and within a framework of social cultural conventions’. Indeed, it is not just concerned with the methodology.

Its studies include the nature of usage of language and its relationship with key issues that scholars encounter in social science studies (Ritchie & Lewis 2003).

In particular, discourse analysis relates to the gathering of different perspectives of discourse. Such approaches relate to both data collection practices and theoretical assumptions together with meta-theoretical postulations that guide research approaches (Wood & Kroger 2000).

Discourse analysis differs from the grammatical analysis. Grammatical data involves one sentence or a collection of many sentences that demonstrate a given aspect of the language under study. In the process of analysis, a grammatical analyst will compile different sentences that he or she deploys as examples.

This approach differs from discourse analysis. Its primary interest is on the morphological productivity of different people as opposed to the forecaster. Discourse analysis data is adopted from recordings or written texts. Such data is hardly derived from one sentence.

Discourse analysis interconnects with rhetoric studies. Indeed, Eisenhart and Barbara (2008) reveal how discourse researches are interrelated classes of oratory, symphony, and practical morphology. Studies on speech making have been expanding. They comprise rhetoric of politics, popular culture, and informal arguments. A new pedagogy has been established concerning personal identity rhetoric.

These changes call for the expansion traditional approaches to language analysis and talks and texts in new mechanisms that reflect material and socio-cultural discourse contexts. This observation suggests that the discipline of rhetoric studies is now closely interlinked with discourse analysis.

Consequently, as Gee (2005) reveals, discourse analysis is a means of engaging in an incredibly crucial human task, which entails thinking deeply on meanings that are attached to words that people utter for the world to become a humane living place.

Defining Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical discourse analysis is a sub-discipline of discourse analysis. It approaches discourses from a political motive. Conversely compared to campaigners and or politicians, decisive dissertation examination extends past grave matters. Analysts in critical discourses have a structural understanding and knowledge, which supersedes general insights on politically motivated issues (Renkema 2004).

They examine basic sources, the circumstances, and even the consequences of different concerns. Hence, as opposed to political scientists, critical discourse analysts have an interest in arriving at a scholarly sound contribution, which includes an in-depth insight into specific pressing politicised issues in the society.

The critical dissertation is perhaps the hardest test that discourse forecasters encounter. It demands a multidisciplinary understanding together with intricate understanding of relationships that occur in texts, power, culture, talks, and even the society. Indeed, its criterion for adequacy does not merely depend on descriptive, explanatory, or observational skills (Renkema 2004).

Success in the critical discourse analysis rests on the platform of the relevance and effectiveness of the contribution of analysis in creating change.

This situation requires modesty. Indeed, under critical discourses, educational involvement may be trivial in times of transformation, particularly if individuals who are closely engaged with reference to their conduct are successful transformation agents. This position is perhaps well evidenced by the transformation procedures that involve liberalisation, feminist campaigns, the battle for public privileges, and class campaigns.

One of the most significant concerns of critical discourse analysis involves developing an understanding of the relationship between languages, dominance, and social power. Such an understanding helps in predicting the contribution of discourse on the reproduction of various power differences.

While discussing social power, critical discourse analysis ignores powers that individuals portray, unless under circumstances in which the powers contribute to the development of productive relationships between different social groups.

Social power may be manifested in the form of accessibility to various valuable resources in social platforms, including wealth, education, skills, knowledge, and even status. Under critical discourse analysis, accessibility to different forms of power from the context of communication and discourse is a crucial resource of power.

In critical discourse analysis, political motive forms its basic tenet, which involves power struggles. Authority is a means of being in charge of one assembly of people over members of another assembly. It limits people’s cognition and actions. Hence, it influences people’s minds and their freedom of action.

Power is enacted through acts of persuasion, manipulation through talks, and dissimulation. The goal is to alter people’s cognitions and thinking processes in an effort to align them with those of the influential social groups. To this extent, critical discourse analysis helps in the management of other people’s minds via texts and talks.

Critical discourse analysts garner different topics that require analysis before proceeding to collect large amounts of texts. However, the corpus of texts does not comprise the only methodology for critical discourse analysis.

Different researchers grant the right to apply all methods that permit the generation of insights to ideologies that the discourses promote. The critical discourse analysis investigates different text echelons that range from micro, macro, and meso levels of text to identify political motives in them.

The Difference between Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse Analysis

Critical discourse analysis involves the utilisation of different techniques of studying language and texts as a cultural and social practice (Seale 2004). It draws its tenets from the poststructuralist pedagogy that investigates the functions of all institutional sites.

It also contends that language and texts play important roles in the development of human ideologies and identities (Eisenhart & Barbara 2008). Similar to the concerns of Bourdieu’s sociology, critical discourse analysis holds that texts and/or interactions with them utilise embodied approaches that operate in different social fields (Seale 2004).

Critical discourse also draws some of its facets from the ideologies of the neo-Marxist theory of culture, which assumes that discourses are created and utilised in the political economy. This observation perhaps explains its particular focus on political motives. Thus, it is different from discourse analysis to the extent that it has specific areas of interest.

Discourse analysis focuses on a variety of genres, including phonology, pragmatics, communication ethnography, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, rhetoric, text linguistics, and functional grammar amongst others (Bromley 2001; Crang & Cook 2007). Hence, critical discourse analysis is a genre of discourse analysis.

Considering that discourse analysis has a variety of genres, including critical discourse analysis, the difference between the two concepts is clear with reference to the structures and the main concerns of the critical discourse analysis. Practice techniques that are deployed in critical discourse analysis are borrowed from interdisciplinary fields.

For example, just like in the case of pragmatics, the theory of speech acts, and narratology, which are advanced in discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis holds that texts comprise a complex mechanism for social actions, which take place in sophisticated contexts on a social platform (Gee 2005).

Functional linguistics studies depict the manner in which language forms can relate to achieve ideological functions. The theory is used in the critical discourse analysis as an analytic tool for establishing the relations between culture, politics, gender, and social classes.

Critical discourse analysis acknowledges the existence of asymmetries in resources and power among different speakers, including people who listen to them. It holds that writers and readers have unequal accessibility to social and linguistic resources, a situation that reveals their differences in social contexts.

From the paradigms of discourse analysis, discussion combines with languages to influence the ideologies of people’s daily affairs and hence the asymmetry that is evident between textual portrayals and the relations of power. The CDA is both constructive and deconstructive.

From the paradigms of power and textual portrayals, in a deconstructive approach, CDA renders power relationship themes problematic in a society as expressed through written texts and talks. In a constructive approach, it advocates the increased development of critical skills that are necessary for the analysis of discourses and various social relations to ensure equity in terms of resource distribution (Keller 2011).

Discourse analysis deploys text as its main unit of analysis. This approach differs from discourse analysis, which can use a sound and its patterns, textual frameworks, and rhetoric in the analysis. CDA considers texts social actions that form meaningful and reasoned printed and verbal language.

However, it does not consider textual forms random in nature. Specific types of texts do certain things within various social institutions. They can help to predict material effects in qualitative researches (Denzin & Lincoln 2005). Under critical discourses, studies are dynamic. They continue undergoing processes of reinvention and innovations.

From the paradigms of discourse analysis, all genres can be adequately analysed via studying language structures such as prepositions and microstructures of the texts. The discourse reveals how written and verbal languages possess various identifiable segments and movements. For example, a scientific text can be interpreted as a series of actions that have been joined by a set of chains.

CDA can focus on word-level and sentence-level analysis. It does this by using analysis approaches derived from functional linguistics studies. Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) support this assertion by adding that grammatical combined with various lexical textual features possess different identifiable functionalities. They can explain the natural and social world.

They create different effects on social relations through the conventions that form coherency in texts that are deployed in a given media. Critical discourse analysis focuses on identifying these effects.

Under discourse examination, verbal texts depict some chosen perspectives of the natural world to help in explaining the social world. Therefore, through texts, people can position others to align with identifiable relations that are consistent with power differences that exist among them.

Language employment in writing and speech (discourse) constitutes a social practice. Discursive events shape social structures and/or institutions. This claim suggests that discourse is socially conditioned and that may be socially constitutive. Since it reproduces the status quo, it contributes to its transformation.

Discursive events also play the role of reproducing varying power relations among different classes of people in the society (Fairclough 2000).

Depending on the academic culture under investigation, different linguistic scholars can use the term discourse in different contexts. For example, German linguistic scholars distinguish discourses from texts, depending on the relationship between traditional text linguistics and language rhetoric. However, in English-speaking nations, discourses imply oral communication and written texts.

It is possible to consider a transcript a tangible comprehension of conceptual structures of knowledge. However, amid these differences, discourses encompass a form of memory and knowledge bases that are manifested in the form of power differences that are witnessed in talks and in written texts (Reisigl & Wodak 2001). However, critical discourse analysis focuses on structures of talks and written texts.

Dominance reproduction is a major aim of CDA. Dominance has reception together with reproduction as two important perspectives in its contribution to power differences. This observation suggests that CDA analysis focuses on the legitimisation and the expression of dominance in different structures of talks and texts.

Reproduction of various discursive events in CDA emanates from power differences that are manifested in the form of social cognition power among some groups over others. As studied from the paradigms of discourse analysis, discourse structures translate into social cognitions while social cognitions in CDA produce power imbalances.

Therefore, under the two approaches, researchers struggle with establishing the relationships between cognition and the discourses. However, under both CDA and discourse analysis, discourse structures play the role of mediation. Thus, they are mechanisms for reproducing dominance in written texts and speeches.

In the context of dominance, CDA differs from DA in its emphasis on power variations among different groups of people who interact in social contexts through talk and written texts. To this extent, Fairclough (2000, p.103) reckon, ‘members of less powerful groups may also otherwise be more or less dominated in discourse’. This claim implies that in all levels of talks and texts, participants who possess influential power control freedom.

Consequently, in CDA, language does not possess any power of its own. It acquires it when it interacts with high-ranking people. This observation perhaps reveals why CDA conducts the analysis of discourse from the perspective of distinguished people. Such people carry the load when it comes to inequality issues. They solely have the ability to improve social conditions.


Discourse, which denotes language use in talk and written texts, can be studied from the paradigm of discourse analysis (DA) and critical discourse analysis (CDA).

Discourse analysis constitutes a variety of genres such as phonology, pragmatics, and critical discourse analysis among many other genres that study language use in social contexts. CDA is a genre of DA. CDA focuses on political motives in language use, which is manifested through power differences that create the dominance of different groups in social communication contexts.


Blommaert, J 2005, Discourse, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Bromley, D 2001, Toward reflexive ethnography, JAI, London.

Bryman, A 2008, Social research methods, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Crang, M & Cook, I 2007, Doing ethnographies, Sage, London.

Denzin, N & Lincoln, Y 2005, The SAGE handbook of qualitative research, Sage, London.

Eisenhart, C & Barbara, J 2008, Discourse Analysis and Rhetorical Studies: Rhetoric in Detail: Discourse Analyses of Rhetorical Talk and Text, John Benjamins Publishers, New York, NY.

Fairclough, N 2000, The discourse of social exclusion: Approaches in Critical Discourse Analysis, Passagen Verlag, Vienna.

Gee, J 2005, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis, Routledge, London.

Halliday, M & Matthiessen, C 2004, An Introduction to Functional Grammar, Arnold, London.

Keller, R 2011, ‘The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD)’, Human Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 43-65.

Reisigl, M & Wodak, R 2001, Discourse and Discrimination, Routledge, London.

Renkema, J 2004, Introduction to Discourse Studies, Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Ritchie, J & Lewis, J 2003, Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers, Sage, London.

Ross, K & Nightingale, V 2003, Media and Audiences New Perspectives, Open University Press, Virginia.

Seale, C 2004, Social research methods: a reader, Routledge, London.

Silverman, D 2005, Doing qualitative research: a practical handbook, Sage, London.

Wood, L & Kroger, R 2000, Doing Discourse Analysis, Sage Publishers, London.

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