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Review of  An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education

Reviewer: Zouhair Maalej
Book Title: An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education
Book Author: Rebecca Rogers
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 16.375

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Date: Sat, 5 Feb 2005 16:41:50 -0800
From: Zouhair Maalej
Subject: An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education

EDITOR: Rogers, Rebecca
TITLE: An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education
YEAR: 2004
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Zouhair Maalej, Department of English Language and Literature, University
of Manouba-Tunis

The book is a collection of papers edited by Rebecca Rogers, and emerging
both from the contributors' individual research and the editor's own
coordinated work between the various contributors. The collection is
constituted of eleven papers, a preface by the editor, and a foreword by
James Collins. In the preface, Rogers gives the objective of and the
background to the book and a chapter-by-chapter overview. The purpose of
the collection is to seek to find a place for critical discourse analysis
(CDA) within theories of learning and education in the American context,
drawing particular attention to the form-function interface.

"An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education" by Rebecca
In this introductory chapter, Rogers briefly looks at the scope, aims, and
methods of CDA, and addresses questions related to what is considered
critical, discursive, and analytic in CDA. Briefly too, she points to the
importance of form and function in CDA, much appreciated in Halliday's
systemic linguistics and neglected in the American linguistic tradition
dominated by Chomsky's formal paradigm. Another feature of CDA is the fact
that discourse dominates and is dominated by social, cultural, political,
and economic contexts. The contribution of CDA to learning is also
attended to as a way of better understanding the its processes as shaped
by social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Rogers ends the
chapter with major criticisms of CDA, namely, the imposition of the CDA
framework on data, the imbalance between linguistic method and social
theory, the social decontextualization of some analyses, absence of rigor
and systematicity in the CDA methodology, lack of concern with learning,
and lack of concern with non-linguistic aspects of discourse such as

"Discourse analysis: What makes it critical?" By James Paul Gee
Gee insists that analyses of discourse that fail to correlate the form-
function pair with social practices are not types of CDA. Gee points out
that, unlike Fairclough whose model draws on Hallidayan linguistics, his
own analyses of discourse draw on American linguistics, sociolinguistics,
and literary criticism. After making a couple of distinctions (between
utterance-type and utterance-token meanings and vernacular and non-
vernacular styles), Gee criticizes the frame problem, i.e., the fact that
the critic can select some aspect of context and attribute situated
meaning to it in a way that would affect the overall context.

In the second part of the chapter, Gee captures CDA as linking utterance-
type and utterance-token meanings to social practices, which inherently
involve political parameters of status, solidarity, distribution of goods,
and power. Thus, if/since language allows the expression of these
parameters, it is itself political. The learning situation constitutes a
community of practice, recruiting social languages, situated social
practices, cultural models, and Discourses. This is the theoretical
configuration of the version of CDA that Gee offers. Gee sums up this best
in the last paragraph of the article, which I would like to mention in
full: "HOW people say (or write) things (i.e., form) helps constitute WHAT
they are doing (i.e., function). In turn, WHAT they are saying (or
writing) helps constitute WHO they are being at a given time and place
within a given set of social practices (i.e., their socially situated
identities). Finally, WHO they are being at a given time and place within
a given set of social practices produces and reproduces, moment by moment,
our social, political, cultural, and institutional worlds" (p. 48,
capitalized words are italicized in the original).

"A critical discourse analysis of literate identities across contexts:
Alignment and conflict" by Rebecca Rogers
In a case study, Rogers offers to determine the proficiency and deficiency
of African-American adults that are below the "literacy line" in the US
through interviews, with special reference to experiences with school,
involvement with children's education, and literacy at home and in the
community. Rogers defines CDA as "ways of interacting (genre), ways of
representing (discourse), and ways of being (style)" (p. 56), which
capture the various linguistic/pragmatic/rhetorical characteristics of the
interviews. Rogers analyzes the interviews not only in terms of these
components of her own view of CDA, but also submitted her data to
insightful cultural models and psychological analyses in the investigation
of socially situated identities. Shifts in discourse are recorded as
evidence of social identity transformation and learning.

"Discourse in activity and activity as discourse" by Shawn Rowe
Rowe starts with pointing out the neglect of learning and activity in CDA.
To correct this, Rowe proposes to combine CDA with sociocultural
approaches to learning. For that, Rowe uses Wertsch's (1985, 1991, 1998)
version of learning based on Vygotsky, whereby activities come as co-
constructed and socially distributed among multiple agents. In this
connection, Rowe defines learning as "the appropriation of culturally
valued mediational means or members' resources as part of participation in
active, distributed meaning making" (p. 91), and links learning to the
appropriation or rejection of social languages.

"Reframing for decisions: Transforming talk about literacy assessment
among teachers and researchers" by Loukia K. Sarroub
Sarroub combines ethnographic and discourse analytical strategies to
investigate how a group of teachers and researchers made decisions that
impacted their teaching practices and their own self-perception in the

"Learning as social interaction: Interdiscursivity in a teacher and
researcher study group" by Cynthia Lewis and Jean Ketter
Lewis and Ketter focus on the reading and teaching of multicultural
literature within a framework including liberal humanism and critical
multiculturalism. They argue for learning as appropriation and
reconstruction of one's social world, and point to the interdiscursivity
and the intersection of genre, discourse, and voice in learning.

"Cultural models and discourses of masculinity: Being a boy in a literacy
classroom" by Josephine Peyton Young
Young's method of Critical Discourse Analysis (she rejects the acronym) is
Gee's, from which she chose to focus on cultural models of masculinity in
a Hispanic boy's lived literacy experiences and on how they shaped his
literacy and learning. To have a broader picture of his literacy, Young
analyzed not only the boy's models, but also his mother's and teacher's.

"Language, power, and participation: Using critical discourse analysis to
make sense of public policy" by Haley Woodside-Jiron
Woodside-Jiron uses CDA and Bernstein's framework of regulative,
instructional, and pedagogic discourses to discuss critically the public
educational policy in the state of California.

"Locating the role of the critical discourse analyst" by Lisa Patel Stevens
Patel Stevens uses CDA as a reflexive/refractive tool to investigate the
difference between acquisition and learning through interactions between
the author as a discourse analyst and a teacher.

"Semiotic aspects of social transformation and learning" by Norman
Fairclough acknowledges that his version of CDA has a gap - the question
of learning, which he addressed indirectly through "performativity" or the
texts' "causal effects on nonsemiotic elements of the material, social,
and mental worlds." The texts' causal effects consist in bringing changes
in our "knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values, experience", etc. We learn,
according to Fairclough, through "texturing", which is "the process of
making texts as a facet of social action and interaction." Learning in
this sense becomes a sort of "social transformation."

"Setting an agenda for critical discourse analysis in education" by
Rebecca Rogers
Rogers delineates in the first part of her synthesis article the
similarities and differences between Gee and Fairclough's CDA framework.
In the rest of the article, Rogers traces the importance of CDA to
research on learning theories and methodologies, highlighting notions of
reflexivity/reflection. Rogers also suggests that the role of CDA is not
so much to try to prove the existence of power, ideology, and domination
in discourses as to show how these are linguistically articulated in talk
and text.


The collection has many positive contributions that I would like to
enumerate and discuss:

(i) Learning-wise, the book is one of the rare contributions to date to
draw attention to the need of critical thought to investigate learning,
pedagogy, and public policy. This is all the more timely when legislation
was urging for No Child Left Behind in educational institutions, and when
fingers have also been pointing to interfering with education in the U.S.
from the body politic. For criticism of the American educational system,
readers are directed to Santa Ana (2002) and Maalej's (2004) review.

(ii) Linguistics-wise, the book points to the unity of form-function in
CDA. This directs attention to the dominance of the formal paradigm in the
US at the expense of functional approaches to language owing to the
influence of Chomsky in American linguistics. Ideally, the marriage of the
two paradigms in practice should be the case as the various articles
within the collection rightly pointed out.

(iii) CDA-wise, the book, beyond dogmatism and partisanship, exposes the
reader to the various CDA trends. Although Fairclough (the socio-semiotic
trend) and Gee are standing as a spinal chord to the collection, and
represented by chapters, with van Dijk (the socio-semiotic approach) and
Wodak (the discourse-historical method) only present in thought, the
collection made use of a wide range of critical approaches to text and

(iv) With regard to sociocultural issues, the book has demonstrated the
need for CDA to be combined with an supplemented by a version of
sociocultural theory (e.g., Wertsch, Bernstein), etc.). In particular,
most of the articles showed bias to the version of cultural models offered
by Gee.

(v) From the standpoint of cognitive linguistics as a theory of language,
which has claimed a sociocultural dimension without so much substantiating
and documenting this in practice, this book is an examplar for cognitive
linguistics to emulate.

I go to what I think is a negative point relating to the composition of
the selection. The book counts eleven chapters, of which Rogers had
written three. I concede that Rogers would want to write about the state
of the art in CDA (chapter 1) and about new directions of CDA in education
(chapter 11), but writing a third one (chapter three) was a bit too much
for the reader of an edited volume. For a volume on the denunciation of
domination and power, this practice is counterproductive. This is
certainly not to say that Rogers' chapters are uninteresting or contrived.
What I mean is that Rogers could have invited (if she hadn't done so) van
Dijk and Wodak, like Wodak did in her 2001 edited volume, to contribute
more presence of the different CDA trends or methods, although van Dijk
(2001: 96) is reluctant to call the kind of CDA he is doing a method or a
theory, and prefers to call CDA "a perspective on doing scholarship,"
which is identified as "doing discourse analysis 'with an attitude'." The
inclusion of both van Dijk and Wodak, alongside Fairclough and Gee, would
definitely have made a difference to the collection. It might be argued
that none of the uninvited authors is a potential contributor to learning
and education. True, but the collection would have been an opportunity for
the CDA community to see what the holders of the different CDA trends had
to offer on learning.

Another minor point is about proofreading. The collection includes a few
misprints or missing words:
"to a some extent" (p. 39, # 1);
"the[y] tend to consider" (p. 47, #3);
"Discourses that often involves (p. 52, #1);
"a particular kind of who doing what" (p. 89, #1);
"he thought there should more cohesiveness" (p. 101, last part under
Peter's biography);
"the drive to created consensus and restrict potential resistance" (p.
200, #2);
"we come to understand they ways in which ideologies are embedded" (p.
200, #4);
"to push beyond the local layers discourse" (p. 221, #1);
"nor the critical turn in the social sciences has been or should expected
to be equally distributed in all disciplines" (p. 252, #1).

The collection object of this review approximates the status of a textbook
on learning from a critical perspective, with all chapters starting with a
sort of glossary of Central Concepts and ending with Reflection and Action
questions. So it must be a stimulating read for CDA students and CDA-
motivated researchers.


Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power. London and New York:

Fairclough, Norman (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity

Fairclough, Norman (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for
Social Research. London and New York: Routledge.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (Second
edition). London: Edward Arnold.

Maalej, Zouhair (2004). "Review of Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos
in Contemporary American Public Discourse", by Otto Santa Ana. Discourse &
Society, 15: 1, 134-135.

Santa Ana, Otto (2002). Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in
Contemporary American Public Discourse. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Van Dijk, Teun A. (1998). Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London:
Sage Publications.

Van Dijk, Teun A. (2001). "Multidisciplinary CDA: A plea for diversity."
In: Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer (eds.), Methods of critical discourse
analysis. London: Sage Publications, 95-120.

Wertsch, J. V. (1985). Culture, Communication and Cognition: Vygotskyan
Perspectives. New York: CUP.

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to
Mediated Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as Action. New York: OUP.

Wodak, Ruth and Michael Meyer (2001) (eds.). Methods of critical discourse
analysis. London: Sage Publications.

Wodak, Ruth (2001). "What CDA is about - a summary of its history,
important concepts and its developments." In: Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer
(eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage Publications,

Wodak, Ruth (2001). "The discourse-historical approach." In: Ruth Wodak
and Michael Meyer (eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis. London:
Sage Publications, 63-94.


The reviewer is an associate professor of linguistics. His interests
include cognitive metaphor, cognitive pragmatics, cognitive psychology,
experimental psycholinguistics, anthropology, critical discourse analysis,
etc. He teaches two undergraduate courses in psycholinguistics and
undergraduate and postgraduate courses in critical discourse analysis. He
also teaches two postgraduate courses titled critical metaphor analysis
and cognitive stylistics/poetics/rhetoric.

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