LINGUIST List 19.3676

Mon Dec 01 2008

Review: Discourse Analysis: van Leeuwen (2008)

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        1.    Judith Cross, Discourse and Practice

Message 1: Discourse and Practice
Date: 01-Dec-2008
From: Judith Cross <>
Subject: Discourse and Practice
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Announced at AUTHOR: van Leeuwen, TheoTITLE: Discourse and PracticeSUBTITLE: Tools for Critical Discourse AnalysisSERIES: Oxford Studies in SociolinguisticsPUBLISHER: Oxford University PressYEAR: 2008

Judie Cross, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong in NSW

SUMMARYThis book is a revisited and augmented collection of the author's main work oncritical discourse analysis from the last 15 years. Van Leeuwen's analyticalframework for critical discourse analysis derives from Michel Foucault's conceptof discourses as well as from Michael Halliday's of ''register''. However, theapproach adopted is based on Bernstein's theory (1990: 184):recontextualizations ''selectively appropriate, relocate, refocus and relate toother discourses to constitute its [their] own order and orderings.'' Each of thepapers in this collection is based on the premise that all discourses (not onlypedagogic) are the recontextualizations of social practices; in other words, allknowledge is grounded in practice. The nine chapters comprising this book (threeof which are completely new) detail the principles for describing how socialactors and practices in English discourse are recontextualized in a range ofcontexts and in various semiotic modes. The text types included are nearly allbased on the same fundamental social practice; that is, ''the first day ofschool''. Van Leeuwen's explicit and critical methodology is a succinct butcomprehensive guide for anyone involved in analyzing discourse.

In Chapter 1, ''Discourse as the Recontextualization of Social Practice'', theintroductory chapter and the first of the three new papers in this book, vanLeeuwen reflects on and develops work he first began in his PhD thesis: hepresents his model of social practice whereby elements of social practices canbe seen to enter into English and Western texts. The elements (participants,actions, performance modes, presentation styles, times, locations, resources aswell as eligibility conditions for participants, locations and resources) ofsocial practices and their recontextualizations (transformations viasubstitutions, deletions, rearrangements and/or additions) are introduced,defined and discussed via reference to a short newspaper article from the''family pages'' of Sydney's ''Daily Mirror''. It is stressed that discourses maynot only represent what is happening, but also evaluate and justify it, perhapseven giving it new purposes so that a representation can become more importantthan the practice itself.

Chapter 2, ''Representing Social Actors'', presents a sociosemantic inventory ofthe many ways by which the participants of social practices can be representedin English discourse. Van Leeuwen explicates the chosen categories in his systemnetwork by using examples from a leading feature article, ''Our Race Odyssey'',published in the Saturday supplement for the ''Sydney Morning Herald'' on 12 May1990. Owing to the complexity involved in realizing the representations ofsocial actors, the system network includes both lexicogrammatical anddiscourse-level linguistic systems that have traditionally been kept separate;however, each major type of transformation is associated with distinctlinguistic systems (as in the case of rearrangement which principally involvestransitivity).

Van Leeuwen, in Chapter 3, ''Representing Social Action'', continues his analysisof the ''Race Odyssey'' text, but shifts his focus to an examination of how socialactions (rather than actors) can be represented in English discourse. Onceagain, the author's findings are summarized via a generic system network as wellas more specifically as observations on and interpretations of the text.Either-or choices (such as abstraction which can be a generalization ordistillation) as well as simultaneous ones (for example, actions can beactivated and abstracted or activated and concretized) are accounted for.

In the fourth chapter, ''Time in Discourse'', van Leeuwen refers to a range ofschool related genres such as newsletters, internal communications and articlesfrom the ''Employment Gazette'' in July and September 1993. Continuing his mainargument that discourses are grounded in social practices, van Leeuwen explainsthat the activity of timing is what conditions the way we think and talk abouttime, and that timing itself is an integrative social practice. The authordescribes the various semiotic resources of timing (time summonses,synchronization and punctuality), concluding from his analysis of the texts thusstudied that the recontextualization of time proceeds largely on the basis of power.

The following chapter, ''Space in Discourse'', is the second new one in thiscollection, drawing on both linguistic and visual examples from the ''first dayat school'' corpus. As with his references to time in the previous chapter, vanLeeuwen now distinguishes between subjective and objective representations ofspace and how the use of space is indicative of power relations. Van Leeuwenargues that discourses about space provide normative understandings that need tobe studied via a ''grammar of space'' since the material environment itself canpredispose us in ''very specific, important and lasting ways in our doings andsayings'' (Iedema 2000: 65).

''The Discursive Function of Legitimation'', Chapter 6, provides a framework foranalyzing how social practices are intricately related and legitimized indiscourse: according to van Leeuwen legitimation is constructed viaauthorization, moral evaluation, rationalization or mythopoesis.

''The Discursive Construction of Purpose'', the seventh chapter, again supplies ananalytical framework; in other words, a systemic network tool for analyzing howpurposes in discourses are constructed, negotiated and interpreted. As withlegitimation, van Leeuwen argues that purpose is not inherent in social action,but discursively constructed so that it is possible to posit ''a grammar ofpurpose''. As analysis has revealed for the concepts focused on in many of theprevious chapters, the different types of purpose that can be constructed (suchas goal-oriented or means-oriented action) reveal both a class and powerdimension. Using systemic network frameworks and applying them to a discussionof a similar corpus of texts, van Leeuwen repeatedly demonstrates how ''discourseis a place where relations of power are exercised and enacted'' (Fairclough 1989:43).

In the next chapter, ''The Visual Representation of Social Actors'', the frameworkfrom Chapter Two is adapted and then applied to visual representations inWestern media. The critical questions van Leeuwen considers here are ''How arepeople depicted?'' and ''How are people depicted in relation to the viewer?'' Thevisual representation and viewer network, as well as the social actor network,that van Leeuwen (and Kress) have created for the purpose of answering thesequestions reveal parallels with networks for describing verbal discourses, butthe options available belong more specifically to the ''language of images''.

The final and also new chapter, ''Representing Social Actors with Toys'', followson from Chapters Two and Eight by providing a framework to analyze toys (ratherthan verbal or image discourses) as a semiotic resource for representing rolesand identities. Here van Leeuwen illustrates how the impact of design affectsthe ways in which children play with their toys, the roles they assign to them,the identities and meanings acquired. Kinesis and interactivity are criticalconcepts that are explored in order to show how the tools of critical discourseanalysis can be applied to other semiotic resources.

EVALUATIONThis book sets out to describe the main recontextualizing principles for adiverse range of discourses. The corpus of texts used to demonstrate thevalidity of this framework has been largely well chosen in that a variety ofgenres have been selected and most of these are concerned with ''the first day atschool'' or race and gender.

As can confidently be claimed about van Leeuwen's writing in general, the styleof this collection of papers is accessible, relevant and yet scholarly andcohesive. Further, van Leeuwen's method of analysis models new ways, categoriesand systems for explaining and interpreting how, not only written discourses,but also other semiotic modes, such as image, and even sound and movement, canbe studied using largely similar critical discourse methods. In this way, vanLeeuwen is able to demonstrate links between disciplines that were previouslykept distinct and separate; thus, he introduces new ways of knowing with theirtools explicitly detailed.

Van Leeuwen's broad assertion that all knowledge is ultimately grounded inpractice, no matter how slender that link may often seem, is a bold butcompelling assumption for which he provides ample evidence and which, I believe,has valuable implications for teaching and learning. This is also a claim thatis gaining popularity among other linguists, such as Wierzbicka, who bringsdifferent tools to uncover related findings; that is, by studying ways of doing,we discover ways of thinking, whilst ''the study of social practices, includinglinguistic practices, is best seen not as a goal in itself but rather as a pathto understanding society's attitudes and values'' (Wierzbicka 2006: 23).

Interestingly, the final chapter does not provide a diagrammatic summary of thesystem network that has been individually constructed for each of the topics inother chapters. Perhaps this is because representing social actors with toys isan even more complex and multimodal discourse than is addressed elsewhere in thecollection and/or perhaps because this is the area that still needs to befurther researched before it can be mapped out more thoroughly.

Such a comprehensive project is, by the author's own admission, not yet completeas the study of non-linguistic representations of social practices is still inits infancy. However, van Leeuwen has put essential issues regarding criticaldiscourse analysis on the agenda and created valuable system networks, invitingothers to elaborate, critique and develop.

REFERENCESFairclough, N. 1989. _Language and Power_. London: Longman.

Iedema, R. 2000. Bureaucratic Planning and Resemiotisation. In E. Ventola (Ed.),_Discourse and Community_ (pp. 47-70). Tübingen: Gunter Nar Verlag.

Kress, G. and van Leeuwen. 1990. _Reading Images_. London: Routledge.

Kress, G. and van Leeuwen. 1996. _Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design_.London: Routledge.

Van Leeuwen, Theo. 1999. _Speech, Music, Sound_. London: Macmillan.

Wierzbicka, A. 2006. _English: Meaning and Culture_. New York: Oxford UniversityPress.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERJudith (Judie) Leah Cross was awarded her PhD by Macquarie University in 1999for her thesis ''Textual Realisations'', which built on Kress and van Leeuwen's(1990) seminal text in order to examine how meaning-making is affected whenprinted children's image texts are recontextualized as films, photonovellas,comics, or as CDs. Multimodality was a focus for her thesis and continues to beof increasing relevance to her present work in curriculum design, criticaldiscourse analysis, pragmatics and the blended delivery of training for TESOLand overseas trained teachers.