Discourse Analysis Essay

  • 1.

    Italic colons represent periods between sentences of the original text; cf. Lg.28, 17, note 10a. (Paper XIX of this volume.)Google Scholar

  • 2.

    If we take a member of a class, say A, we can always find at least one other member (B) which at least once has the same environment that A has once. (They both occur before F, though B also occurs before E, while A also occurs before G.) Not every member of the class does this: M occurs only before E and H, while A occurs only before F and G. But if M and A have nevertheless been put in the same class, then they must at least once occur in equivalent if not identical environments. The E environment of M and the F environment of A are equivalent because both appear among the environments of some one member (B). These formulaic statements may be hard to apprehend intuitively; but the examples which will come out of the sample text below should make the relations clear.Google Scholar

  • 3.

    This is a complete and separate section of an article by L. Corey, entitled ‘Economic Democracy without Statism’ (Commentary, August 1947, 145-6). The bracketed sentences will not be analyzed here. They are of the same general structure as the others, but are left out in order to keep the present paper within reasonable limits. In a forthcoming publication of a group of analyzed discourses, this text will be analyzed in toto, so that the reader can satisfy himself as to the application of the present results to the whole text. This text has been selected, not because it is particularly easy to analyze, but — quite the contrary — because it exhibits the problems and techniques of discourse analysis in great variety. Many discourses, such as scientific writing and conversational speech, are simpler to analyze. The first three unbracketed sentences here are particularly complicated, but the reader will find that the rest of the text is quite readily analyzable after these have been worked through. Reprinted by permission of Nathan Glazer, Associate Editor of Commentary.Google Scholar

  • 4.

    Since this analysis is presented as an empirical attempt, each step will be justified with a minimum of theoretical grounding; and at the same time only such operations will be developed as are required for this particular text. Therefore we will not raise at this point the question whether different occurrences of the same morpheme may turn out to be homonyms belonging to two different classes of the text, and so in some sense not sub-stitutable for each other.Google Scholar

  • 5.

    More generally, a sequence consisting of any segment + conjunction 4-another segment of the same grammatical class is replaceable by a single segment of that class (XCX=X). This holds whether a comma intonation encloses the conjunction + second segment or not: i. e. both for nationalization, or socialization, and for nationalization or socialization.Google Scholar

  • 6.

    This treatment will have to be justified in the fuller analysis of the text which will be published elsewhere.Google Scholar

  • 7.

    Problems of validity are raised when we draw, here and at some points below, upon substitutions which occur elsewhere in the article, outside the quoted section analyzed here. For a complete analysis we would have to treat a text long enough to contain within itself all the required substitutions.Google Scholar

  • 8.

    A more careful analysis of phrases beginning with which would show that such adjectival phrases serve as repetitions of the phrases that precede them, so that our present phrase is equivalent to (or a repetition of) monopoly enterprises, and therefore substitutable for it. This, with other grammatical considerations useful in discourse analysis, is mentioned in the paper cited in the first paragraph.Google Scholar

  • 9.

    The inverted form is not stylistically equivalent to the original. In some cases, the derived equivalent forms are not stylistically acceptable at all. This does not nullify the use of the equivalence as an intermediate step in our analysis.Google Scholar

  • 10.

    The boldface numbers are of course not in the text. They are used here only to facilitate reference to the sentences.Google Scholar

  • 11.

    The same is true of most occurrences of he, it, etc. As a simple example, consider the equivalence of I have a dollar watch: This is all I need, and I have a dollar watch: A dollar watch is all I need. Note that the plural morpheme stretches over the noun and the th which is a discontinuous extension or repetition of it: I have some dollar watches: They are all I need.Google Scholar

  • 12.

    In addition to can for convenience be replaced by some single preposition like with, because NPN= N and PNPN=PN, so that PNP (such as in addition to) can be replaced by a single P. Further use of the NPN=N formula enables us to consolidate industry (N1) with (P) the limitation to large-scale industry (N2 = L) into N2 alone, that is into our L. In all these changes we have not dropped any word which figures in the analysis of this text, but have merely performed certain grammatically equivalent substitutions in order that the words which follow socialize might be grammatically comparable to the words which follow socialize in sentences (1) and (2). The fact that these words turn out to be our old L is due not to our grammatical manipulations but to the recurrence here of the same morphemes: this (repeating large-scale) and industry.Google Scholar

  • 13.

    The reduction is effected as follows. By the laws of English grammar, a relative pronoun (e. g. that) plus a verb (with or without a following object) constitutes an adjectival phrase to the preceding noun: N that V=AN (the tower that leans = the leaning tower). Then would still remain a limited power state is adjectival to the noun state. And within plus this adjectival element plus the noun state is a PAN phrase which is itself adjectival to the preceding nouns diversity, etc. An alternative method of obtaining this reduction can be based on the fact that, for a certain group Vi of English verbs (including is and remains), N1ViN2 implies that N1 and N2 are substitutable for each other: e. g. in He is a man. In the parenthetical sentence that (N1) would still remain (Vi) a limited-power state (N2), we can therefore substitute a limited-power state (N2) for that (N1). But by note 11, that merely repeats the preceding a state, hence limited power state is substitutable for state in the phrase within a..Google Scholar

  • 14.

    Our original sentence had functional organizational (A1) forms that promote diversity (A′2). On grammatical grounds we have said that the first three words here are equivalent to forms that have functional organization. How does this equivalence connect grammatically with what follows? If we try to insert it in the sentence, we obtain forms that have functional organization that promote diversity. The subject of promote diversity is forms in the original sentence and therefore here too (since we are making no grammatical alteration); this is shown by the fact that the plural morpheme (which extends over subject and verb) extends both over forms (in the-s) and over promote (in the third-person lack of-s). Our only problem now is to discover why the phrase that we obtain does not read grammatically: where is the expected and after organization? We understand this as follows. The combination of a relative (that) plus a verb (have or promote) whose subject is forms has the grammatical standing of an adjectival phrase following forms, which in turn has the grammatical standing of an adjective preceding forms: thus forms that promote diversity is equivalent to forms with promotion of diversity, or to diversity-promoting forms. If we mark an adjectival phrase following a noun by A′, we will find that we have here changed our original A1forms A2 into forms A1A2. The result reads peculiarly because we expect something like and after organization, between the two A′. But this is no problem because the occurrence of conjunctions between adjectival segments is automatic. Conjunctions or commas (marking a special intonation) occur between adjoining adjectival segments of like syntactic structure: a long, dull book (A, AN), or the fellow who called and who asked for you (NAand A′). Commas sometimes but not always occur between adjoining adjectival segments of unlike syntactic structure: a fellow I know, who asked for you (NA′, A′), but also a fellow I know who asked for you (NAA′). Conjunctions do not occur between adjectives preceding a noun and an adjectival phrase following the noun. Therefore, when we change ANA′ into NAA′ we move from a form in which a conjunction does not appear to a form in which a conjunction appears automatically. If we supply this conjunction, we finally obtain forms that have functional organization and that promote diversity (NAand A′).Google Scholar

  • 15.

    As an example of the chain of substitutions we note the following excerpts from the bracketed sentences of our text. The first step is to show that public enterprise is substitutable for public corporations. Compare They can and should be independent (where the They follows right after Public enterprise and hence repeats it): They are independent (where the They follows right after public corporations). To complete this substitution we must show the equivalence (for this text) of can and should be with are. First, can and should be is equivalent to can be (X1and X2 can be replaced by either X alone); second, be is the same verb morpheme as are; third, can + verb is substitutable here for the verb alone, because we have cooperatives serve economic freedom in sentence (8) and in the next sentence They can serve freedom. The remaining step is to show that public corporations is substitutable for socialized industry. We have Socialized industry... made to promote... decentralization (sentence (3)) and They provide... decentralization (where They follows immediately after public corporations). The required equivalence of made to promote and provide is given by the fact that the addition of minus to either of these is equivalent to prevent: compare prevent from promoting in sentence (4) with made to promote in sentence (3). And compare in the bracketed sentences: public enterprises prevent absolute centralization (S L — I T), and in the next sentence they provide diversity (S L I — T); these two sentences are parallel to our 3 and 4 except that made to promote is replaced by provide. By this circuitous route we show that public enterprise is substitutable for socialized industry, which is our S L.Google Scholar

  • 16.

    As in sentence (5). In other cases, however, the occurrence of economic may affect the status of a word which is not itself — T. In one of the bracketed sentences, for example, we have economic, not political, institutions. Here economic affects the standing of the phrase. Similarly, the word need in economic need does not occur by itself (hence has no standing by itself), and it is the whole AN phrase here which equals — T.Google Scholar

  • 17.

    One might prefer to consider the words no bar as part of the object. This is immaterial; it would merely shift the position of two minus signs from the I to the T.Google Scholar

  • 18.

    The argument can be stated as follows. Given S L I—T of sentence (2), let us consider the first part of sentence (6) analyzed as S — LI no — T (before we represent no by a minus). Here we have two sentences which are equivalent except that the second contains an extra minus and an extra word (in this case no); and the extra word turns out to be the same morpheme as one of the members (not) of the class marked minus. The two sentences therefore differ only in that the second has two minuses more than the first. We repeat this analysis when we compare — S — L— I bar — T with S — L — I — T. In this pair, minus + bar is substitutable for minus + no in the other pair. Hence bar is equivalent to no, and is a member of the class marked minus.Google Scholar

  • 19.

    In breaking up this sentence into two, for convenience of analysis, we leave out since, which, like the hence of sentence (1), is outside the subject, verb, and object phrases, and serves to connect sentences.Google Scholar

  • 20.

    Our original sentence consisted of subject + verb + [object + conjunction + object] (where brackets indicate the domain of the conjunction, as at the end of sentence (5)). This is equivalent to a double sentence: subject + verb + object, twice over. A similar equivalence was seen at the end of sentence (3).Google Scholar

  • 21.

    Of course, this will not apply to all sentences of this form. In some cases VPVing is substitutable rather for a single V: succeed in economizing is replaceable by economize alone, or the like. The specific conditions for this equivalence cannot be discussed here.Google Scholar

  • 22.

    Note that when public enterprise occurs as the subject of I it is a substituent of S L. When it occurs as an adjectival phrase to a — T object it is simply included in the object phrase. This is an example of homonyms (in respect to substitution classes), such as were mentioned in note 4.Google Scholar

  • 23.

    In a somewhat different way the where also filled these two functions, as do many wh and th words.Google Scholar

  • 24.

    Or if we had marked diversity in object position as R (as we marked its substituent in sentence (1)), absolute state control would be marked — R when in object position.Google Scholar

  • 25.

    In doing this, we assume that absolute state control has the same relation to diversity in the subject position as it has in the object position of the same sentence type (group of equivalent sentences). In object position diversity is — T and absolute state control is T. When we see that in subject position of the same sentence type diversity is — S, we take absolute state control in that position as S.Google Scholar

  • 26.

    More exactly: if we replace the limitation or suppression of ideas by T we obtain a possible sentence of this text. Let us call an analysis of a sentence’ successful’ when each morpheme in it is assigned to a substitution class in such a way that the sequence of substitution classes represented by the sentence is a sequence which occurs elsewhere in the text. Then assigning the limitation or suppression of ideas to T yields a successful analysis of our sentence, though we have not shown that it is the ONLY successful analysis.Google Scholar

  • This article provides an example of how Critical Discourse Analysis can be used to analyse texts. By looking at the coverage of a recent news event in two British newspapers, it demonstrates how a number of the linguistic ideas discussed in the How people present the world through language section of the Linguistic Toolbox can be used to produce an in-depth analysis of meaning in texts.

    Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a branch of linguistics that seeks to understand how and why certain texts affect readers and hearers. Through the analysis of grammar, it aims to uncover the 'hidden ideologies' that can influence a reader or hearer's view of the world. Analysts have looked at a wide variety of spoken and written texts – political manifestos, advertising, rules and regulations – in an attempt to demonstrate how text producers use language (wittingly or not) in a way that could be ideologically significant.

    Many of the tools used in CDA are drawn from Stylistics, which looks at the way literary texts create meaning and poetic effects. CDA uses a similar type of analysis to look at (mainly) non-literary texts. There is no set group of tools that must be used, and researchers are discovering new ways of analysing language all the time. However, traditional tools used include modality, transitivity and nominalisation, while more recent additions include naming, opposition and negation.

    Media texts are a common subject of analysis in Critical Discourse Analysis. Here, articles from two British newspapers – one published in the tabloid The Daily Mail, the other in the broadsheet The Independent – are analysed. The articles represent each publication's take on a much-publicised British news story that broke on 19th February 2013, when the media picked up on a speech that the novelist Hilary Mantel gave for a London Review of Books lecture at the British Museum on February 4th. In her lecture, Royal Bodies, Mantel discussed the nature of the British monarchy, Kate Middleton's role within it having become the wife of the heir to the throne, and the media's treatment of Middleton.

    When, later in the month, comments about Middleton and her portrayal in the press were reported in the newspapers, many articles focused on apparently unfavourable things that Mantel had said about Middleton. This prompted outrage from some at the insults allegedly made by Mantel and, from others, suggestions that the reportage had misinterpreted Mantel's comments. Many suggested that the press's coverage of the 'controversy' was not only biased against Mantel, but actively sought to misrepresent what she had said. This controversy makes the articles an interesting subject for a CDA analysis, which can investigate the language used to test the veracity of these different reactions to the texts.

    Many CDA analyses are divided into sections corresponding to the tools that are used: for ease of reading, this sample analysis will be split likewise, with a concluding section at the end.




    Naming looks at the contents of noun phrases – the units of language that name things in the world, e.g. a wolf, those cumulonimbus clouds, his appalling lack of respect. The ideological interest here comes from the fact that when we apply a noun phrase to something, we label it and use language to presuppose its existence: if someone refers to the immoral, adulterous celebrity, then they are presupposing that this individual exists, and that immorality and adultery are part of the package that is that person.

    Naming is of interest in the Mail and Independent articles as they focus on two individuals – Hilary Mantel and Kate Middleton: how these individuals are named could give an indication as to whom the articles would like the reader to sympathise with. Unsurprisingly, each article refers to both by their full names; however, there are also occasions where the two are named in different ways. Notably, the Mail consistently refers to Mantel by her surname, and Middleton by her forename: "Mantel... dismissed Kate as a 'machine-made princess." The less formal way in which Middleton is referred to here could make the reader feel closer to Middleton. The Independent makes the same distinction, whilst also referring to Mantel as "Ms Mantel": the title 'Ms' comes with certain connotations, not least amongst them that the woman bearing it might be 'unweddable', creating a stark contrast with the woman the article refers to as "Prince William's wife-to-be".

    Also of interest is the way the news story – essentially Mantel's speech – is named. Observations made by Mantel, which to those present might have been heard as part of a lengthy, considered, formal lecture, are referred to by the Mail as "an astonishing and venomous critique of Middleton" and "a bitter attack on the Duchess of Cambridge", and by the Independent – more soberly – as "a withering assessment of Kate Middleton". Here, the negative adjectives 'venomous', 'bitter' and 'withering' suggest that Mantel was far from reserved in her remarks, and give the reader little room to determine their own view of her comments. Note also that while Mantel herself insisted that her comments were about perceptions of Kate Middleton, each instance of naming places Middleton in a grammatical position post-modifying the nouns 'critique', 'attack' and 'assessment', making her appear very much the subject of Mantel's remarks.



    Opposition looks at the way that certain linguistic frames – 'It was X, not Y', 'She liked X, he liked Y', 'X turned into Y' – allow us to create oppositions through language. When two things – for example, dinosaurs and books - are placed into one of these structures – 'It was more dinosaurs than books' – we understand that they must be somehow opposite, due to our experience of conventional opposites occurring in similar structures. Indeed, we understand new oppositions on analogy with more familiar ones: we might, perhaps, interpret the dinosaurs/books example as meaning that something was more exciting than academic.

    Creative opposition can be powerful, as it plays on our tendency to view the world around us in terms of binaries. We have seen how naming allows the articles to paint the two parties as different to each other, and this impression is strengthened by instances of creative opposition. Most notably, parallel structures are used in the Mail article to observe the differences between Mantel and Middleton's backgrounds and occupations:

    "The Duchess, 31, will visit the addiction charity's Hope House treatment centre, in Clapham, south
    London on Tuesday to meet women recovering from alcohol and drug dependency.
    Mantel, 60, studied law at LSE and Sheffield University, before becoming a novelist."

    By placing each party as the subject of adjacent sentences, and then going on to describe an action each will/has performed, the article underlines the differences between the two. This opposition gives the impression that while Mantel is educated and cultured, Middleton is doing something 'good' and 'worthy'. More to the point, it could be argued that the information being given is of dubious relevance to the news story that is being reported.

    Another intriguing use of opposition appears in both articles. Each refers to a previous news story involving Middleton, when pictures of her holidaying were printed in the Italian press. Both the Mail and the Independent contrast the Royal family's displeasure at the Italian publications with opinions expressed by Mantel in her speech:

    "[T]hey were furious last year when pictures of her topless on holiday were printed in Italy...
    But Mantel suggested Kate could have few complaints...
    observing: 'The royal body exists to be looked at.'"

    "Whilst St James's Palace fumes at pictures of the Duchess in a bikini...
    Mantel observes: 'The royal body exists to be looked at.'"

    In the Mail, an opposition is triggered by 'but' at the start of the second sentence; in the Independent, 'whilst' serves a similar role, making the reader aware that the propositions expressed in the two sentences should be seen as contrasting. The suggestion in each instance is that Mantel does not share the royal family's disgust at the pictures, and believes that this is simply an unavoidable aspect of their role. However, Mantel made no mention of the Italian press incident in her speech, and the quote used in these extracts was making an observation about the apparent purpose of the royal family and the way they are treated by the press, rather than indicating her approval of the Italian press's actions.


    Speech presentation

    There are a variety of ways in which we can present others' speech: we can choose to directly quote someone, or we can simply give a flavour of what was said. One of the notable things about the Mail article is that while it quotes Mantel frequently and at length using direct speech ("Mantel said Kate 'appeared to have been designed by a committee'", "She added: 'Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners'"), Middleton is not quoted once. This might seem unsurprising, as the article is about a speech that Mantel made. However, the article also reports on Middleton's work with the charity Action on Addiction:

    "The Duchess chose yesterday to give an insight into the causes that she will support,
    hailing the start of a project which will see one of her charities receive a huge financial boost"

    "She described her delight at Action On Addiction – which she backs as patron –
    becoming the beneficiary of the fundraising efforts"

    Note how direct speech is not used in either of these instances of speech presentation. Instead, the writer simply represents the kind of speech acts that Middleton used – that she 'gave an insight', 'hailed the start of a project' and 'described her delight' – rather than giving any clear indication of the actual words that Middleton might have used. In this way, Middleton's expressed attitudes are presented as more acceptable than Mantel's, which are in need of scrutiny. The lack of direct quotes from Middleton might also serve as evcidence for some of Mantel's convictions about the press's treatment of her!

    As well as the simple fact of what parts of Mantel's lengthy and detailed speech the articles choose to quote, and the way these quotes are used – especially in the aforementioned appropriation of Mantel's observations about the royal body – the use of particular verbs in speech presentation is of interest. Some verbs carry war-like connotations, for example the Mail's description of how "A best-selling author... has launched a bitter attack" and the Independent's "Hilary Mantel attacks 'bland, plastic, machine-made' Duchess of Cambridge". The inclusion of a target – Middleton – in representations of Mantel's speech also makes her comments sound like direct personal attacks: "The double Booker Prize-winner compared princess Kate unfavourably to Anne Boleyn" (Independent), "Hilary Mantel calls Duchess of Cambridge 'bland' and 'machine made'" (Mail). In these and other instances, it feels as though the reader is being pushed towards sympathising with Middleton, the defenceless victim, rather than Mantel, the aggressor who coolly "deliver[s] a withering assessment of Kate Middleton" (Independent) and "use[s] her position among the novel-writing elite to make an astonishing and venomous critique of Kate" (Mail).



    This brief analysis of two newspaper articles demonstrates how CDA tools can be used to take an in-depth look at language. By analysing naming, opposition and speech presentation, it was possible to make suggestions as to the ideologies underlying the articles. For instance, the differing ways in which Mantel and Middleton are named seems to position the reader closer to Middleton, while aspects of speech presentation give the impression of Mantel having made a concerted attack on an individual, rather than a thoughtful analysis of an institution and its treatment by the press.

    It is important to note, however, that this has not been an objective analysis: the analyst will inevitably come to the analysis with some degree of bias, and it is quite possible that some readers will disagree, for example, that certain choices of verbs in speech presentation provide a strong indication of the articles' ideological viewpoint. Readers could also point to instances of language use not analysed here, and suggest that analysis of these might have lead to a different interpretation. What CDA does provide, though, is a level of replicability: the observations made in this analysis have drawn on evidence in the actual language of the articles, meaning that another researcher could carry out their own analysis of the exact same evidence, and provide arguments for their own interpretation.



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