Critical discourse analysis and its critics

Ruth Breeze


This article briefly reviews the rise of Critical Discourse Analysis and teases out a detailed analysis of the various critiques that have been levelled at CDA and its practitioners over the last twenty years, both by scholars working within the “critical” paradigm and by other critics. A range of criticisms are discussed which target the underlying premises, the analytical methodology and the disputed areas of reader response and the integration of contextual factors. Controversial issues such as the predominantly negative focus of much CDA scholarship, and the status of CDA as an emergent “intellectual orthodoxy”, are also reviewed. The conclusions offer a summary of the principal criticisms that emerge from this overview, and suggest some ways in which these problems could be attenuated.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Abercrombie, N
(1996) Television and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Antaki, C., M. Billig, D. Edwards, and J. Potter
(2003) Discourse analysis means doing analysis: A critique of six analytic shortcomings. In Discourse Analysis Online, 1, retrieved 8 September, 2011, on: http://​www​-staff​.lboro​.ac​.uk​/~ssca1​/DAOLpaper​.pdf  BoPGoogle Scholar
Arminen, I
(2005) Institutional Interaction: Studies of Talk at Work. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Baker, P., C. Gabrielatos, M. Khosravinik, M. Krzyzanowski, T. McEnery, and R. Wodak
(2008) A useful methodological synergy? Combining critical discourse analysis and corpus linguistics to examine discourses of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK press. Discourse and Society 19: 273-306. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bhatia, V.K
(2002) Applied genre analysis: A multi-perspective model. Ibérica 4: 3-19.Google Scholar
Billig, M
(2002) Critical discourse analysis and the rhetoric of critique. In G. Weiss and R. Wodak (eds.), Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 35-46.Google Scholar
Blommaert, J
(2001) Context is/as critique. Critique of Anthropology 21: 13-32. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bluhm, C., D. Deissler, J. Scharloth, and A. Stukenbrock
(2000) Linguistische Diskursanalyse: Überblick, Probleme, Perspektiven. Sprache und Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 88: 3-19. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, P
(1984a) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
(1984b) Homo Academicus. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Bredehöft, S., K. Gloy, F. Januschek, and R. Patzelt
(1994) Studium der Arbeitslösigkeit. Zur diskursiven Aneignung neuer Lebenssituationen. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.Google Scholar
Caldas-Coulthard, C., and M. Coultard
(eds.) (1996) Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Candlin, C., and K. Hyland
(1999) Writing: Texts, processes and practices. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Chouliaraki, L., and N. Fairclough
(1999) Discourse in Late Modernity. Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Coseriu, E
(1980) Textlinguistik: Eine Einführung. Tübingen: Narr.Google Scholar
Fairclough, N
(1985) Critical and descriptive goals in discourse analysis. Journal of Pragmatics 9: 739-763. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1989) Language and Power. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1992a) Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1992b) Discourse and text: Linguistic and intertextual analysis within discourse analysis. Discourse & Society 3.2: 193–217. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1995) Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1996) A reply to Henry Widdowson's 'Discourse analysis: A critical view'. Language and Literature 5.1: 49-56. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2000) New Labour, new language? London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Fairclough, N., and R. Wodak
(1997) Critical discourse analysis. In T. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Sage, pp. 258-284.Google Scholar
Fish, S
(1980) Is There A Text in This Class? Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Foucault, M
(1969) The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
(1981) The order of discourse. In R. Young (ed.), Untying the text: A post-structural anthology. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 48-78.Google Scholar
Fowler, R
(1991) Language in the News. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1996) Linguistic Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fowler, R., B. Hodge, G. Kress, and T. Trew
(1979) Language and Control. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Gergen, K
(1994) Realities and relationships: Soundings in social construction. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Gloy, K
(1998) Ethik-Diskurse. Praktiken öffentlicher Konfliktaustragung. Skizze eines Forschungs- vorhabens. Ethik-Diskurse. Praktiken öffentlicher Konfliktaustragung. Arbeitspapier Nr. 1. Oldenburg: Universität Oldenburg.Google Scholar
Gramsci, A
(1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers.Google Scholar
Habermas, J
(1976) Verwissenschaftlichte Politik und öffentliche Meinung. In J. Habermas (ed.), Technik und Wissenschaft als 'Ideologie'. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, pp. 120-45.Google Scholar
Hammersley, M
(1997) On the foundations of critical discourse analysis. Language and Communication 17: 237-248. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Harding, S
(2004) Introduction. In S. Harding (ed.), The feminist standpoint theory reader. London: Routledge. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hodge, R., and G. Kress
(1993) Language as Ideology. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hoey, M
(1996) Contrast and compatibility in the definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. In C. Caldas- Coulthard, and M. Coulthard (eds.), Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge, pp. 150-163.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Jäger, S
(1999) Kritische Diskursanalyse. Eine Einführung. Duisburg: Dissertation.Google Scholar
Kant, I
(1781) [1964] Critique of Pure Reason. London: Dent.Google Scholar
Kress, G., and T. van Leeuwen
(1992) Structures of visual representation. Journal of Literary Semantics 21.2: 91–117. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Kress, G
(1996) Representational resources and the production of subjectivity: Questions for the theoretical development of critical discourse analysis in a multicultural society. In C. Caldas-Coulthard and M. Coulthard (eds.), Text and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Routledge, pp. 15-31.Google Scholar
Kuo, S.H., and M. Nakamura
(2005) Translation or transformation? A case study of language and ideology in the Taiwanese press. Discourse & Society 16: 393–418. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Luke, A
(2002) Beyond science and ideological critique: Developments in critical discourse analysis. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 22: 96-110. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Maas, U
(1989) Sprachpolitik und politische Sprachwissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
Macintyre, A
(1981) After Virtue. A study in moral theology. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
Martin, J
(2004) Positive discourse analysis: Solidarity and change. Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 49: 179-202.Google Scholar
Mautner, G
(2001) Checks and balances: How corpus linguistics can contribute to CDA. In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (eds.), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage, pp. 122-143.Google Scholar
Meyer, M
(2001) Between theory, method and politics: positioning of the approaches to CDA. In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage, pp. 14-31.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Nightingale, V
(1996) Studying Audiences: The Shock of the Real. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Olson, D., and N. Filby
(1972) On the comprehension of active and passive sentences. Cognitive Psychology 3: 361-381. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Partington, A
(2003) The Linguistics of Political Argumentation: The Spin-doctor and the Wolf-pack at the White House. London: Routledge. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2006) Metaphors, motifs and similes across discourse types: Corpus assisted discourse studies (CADS) at work. In A. Stefanowitsch and S. Gries (eds.), Corpus-based Approaches to Metaphor and Metonymy. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 267-304. Crossref  MetBibGoogle Scholar
Peace, P
(2003) Balancing power: The discursive maintenance of gender inequality by wo/men at university. Feminism and Psychology 13.2: 159–180. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Pêcheux, M
(1982) Language, semiotics and ideology. (2nd ed.) London: Macmillan. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Potter, J
(1998) Cognition as context (Whose cognition?). Research on Language and Social Interaction 31.1: 29-44. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Reese, S., O. Gandy, and A. Grant
(2003) Perspectives on Media and our Understanding of the Social World. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Reisigl, M
(2007) Nationale Rhetorik in Fest- und Gedenkreden. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.Google Scholar
Reisigl, M., and R. Wodak
(2001) Discourse and discrimination. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2009) The discourse historical approach. In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage. pp. 87-121.Google Scholar
Rogers, R., E. Malancharuvil-Berkes, M. Mosley, D. Hui, and Joseph G. O’Garro
(2005) Critical discourse analysis in education: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research 75.3: 365-416. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Sarangi, S., and C. Roberts
(1999) Talk, work and institutional order: Discourse in medical, institutional and management settings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Schegloff, E
(1997) Whose text? Whose context? Discourse and Society 8.2: 165-187. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Scholem, G
(1982) Walter Benjamin: The story of a friendship. New York: New York Review of Books.Google Scholar
Scholes, R
(1994) Textual Power. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Shaw, B
(1985) Reason, nostalgia, and eschatology in the critical theory of Max Horkheimer. The Journal of Politics 47.1: 160-181. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Schroder, K
(2002) Discourses of fact. In K.B. Jensen (ed.), Handbook of Media and Communication Research. London: Routledge, pp. 98-116.Google Scholar
Slembrouck, S
(2001) Explanation, interpretation and critique in the analysis of discourse. Critique of Anthropology 21: 33-57. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Stenvall, M
(2007) Fear of terror attack persists: Constructing fear in reports on terrorism by international news agencies. In A. Hodges and C. Nilep (eds.), Discourse, War and Terrorism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 205-222. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Stubbs, M
(1994) Grammar, text and ideology. Computer-assisted methods in the linguistics of representation. Applied Linguistics 15.2: 201-223. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1997) Whorf’s children: Critical comments on critical discourse analysis. In A. Ryan, and A. Wray (eds.), Evolving models of language. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 100-116.Google Scholar
Toolan, M
(1997) What is critical discourse analysis and why are people saying such terrible things about it? Language and literature 6.2: 83-102. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
van Dijk, T
(1991) Racism and the press. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
(1993) Elite discourse and racism. Newbury Park: Sage. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1999) Critical discourse analysis and conversation analysis. Discourse and Society 10.4: 459-460. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2003) Critical discourse analysis? In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen and H. Hamilton (eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 352-371.Google Scholar
Van Dijk, T
(2006) Discourse and manipulation. Discourse and Society 17.3: 359-383. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Verschueren, J
(2001) Predicaments of criticism. Critique of Anthropology 21.1: 59-81. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2011) Ideology in Language Use: Pragmatic guidelines for empirical research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wales, R., and R. Grieve
(1969) What is so difficult about negation? Attention, Perception and Psychophysics 6. 6: 327-332. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Weiss, G., and R. Wodak
(2002) Introduction: Theory, interdisciplinarity and critical discourse analysis. In G. Weiss and R. Wodak (eds.), Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-32. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Widdowson, H
(1996) Reply to Fairclough. Discourse and interpretation. Conjectures and refutations. Language and Literature 5.1: 57-69. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1998) The theory and practice of Critical Discourse Analysis. Applied Linguistics 19.1: 136-151. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2005) Text, Context, Pretext: Critical Issues in Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Wodak, R
(1986) Language behavior in therapy groups. Los Angeles: University of California Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1996) Disorders of discourse. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2001) The discourse-historical approach. In R. Wodak and M. Meyer (eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage, pp. 63-95.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2007) Pragmatics and critical discourse analysis: A cross-disciplinary enquiry. Pragmatics and Cognition 15.1: 203-225. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2011) Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis. In J. Östman, P. Ledin, and J. Verschueren (eds.), Discursive Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 50-69. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wodak, R., J. Pelikan, P. Nowak, H. Gruber, R. de Cillia, and R. Mitten
(1990) Wir sind alle unschuldige Täter!” Diskurshistorische Studien zum Nachkriegsantisemitismus. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar