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on 25 October 2013

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Under the surface/ The importance of Context

There is an interplay between context and discourse as they are shaping each other
Critical Discourse Analysis

Work which focuses upon the language of texts but tends not to engage with social theoretical issues

Work inspired by social theory
(tends not to analyse texts)

[…] passage of this extract not provided due to the length of the extract.
*** I am deliberately hiding who is the person interviewed.
[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]
[…]—the nation is n-not one nation but a <divided< nation.
B: Let me answer that <very deeply< because I (.) feel< very strongly< about it. The< greatest< divisions this nation has <ever< seen were the conflicts of trade unions towards the <end< of a Labour Government (.) <terrible< conflicts. That trade union movement then was under the diktat of trade union bosses, some of whom are still there. They <used< their power <against< their members. They made them come out on strike when they didn’t want to. They loved secondary picketing. They went and demonstrated outside companies where there was no dispute whatsoever, and sometimes closed them down. They were acting as they were later in the coal strike, before my whole trade union laws were through of this Government. They were out to use their power to hold the nation to ransom, to stop power from getting to the whole of manufacturing industry to damage people’s jobs, to stop power from getting to every <house< in the country, power, heat and light to every housewife, every child, every school, every pensioner. <You want division; you want conflict;< you want hatred.<< There it was. It was that which ****—if you call it that—tried to stop.
B: bu _ _
A: <One moment!< Not by arrogance, but by giving power to the ordinary, decent, honourable, trade union member who didn’t want to go on strike. By giving power to <him< over the Scargills of this world.That is one conflict. That has gone. Another one. I believe passionately that people have a right, by their own efforts, to benefit their own families, so we have taken down taxation. It doesn’t matter to me who you are or what your background is. If you want to use your own efforts to work harder <yes, I am with you< all the way, whether it is unskilled effort or whether it is skilled, we have taken the income tax down. […] [cut from 02:27 to 02:42]
[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]
Can I ask another question, ***?
You asked me the most fundamental thing.
A: Well I know but… [Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] We are not having a party political broadc* we are having an interview so I have to ask some questions occasionally. [taking back the position has leader of the interview]
B: Please… (.) yes indeed. You asked, what I know you call the gut question. Right. It’s gone for the jugular. Let me finish it.More home ownership; far more share ownership; far more savings in building society accounts. This is what is building one nation—as every earner becomes a shareholder, as more and more people own their homes. No. We are getting rid of the divisions. We are replacing <conflict< with co-operation. We are <building< one nation through wider property-owning democracy. Right please go ahead—I am sorry, but it was a pretty fundamental question.”


A: […] But why are you so unpopular in Scotland?
B: Well I don’t think I’m necessarily the right person to answer that. But I wouldn’t entirely say it was true. Whenever I’m here people say ‘come back soon come back more often’ last evening we had a very large reception a very large dinner so I wouldn’t necessarily accept that.
B: Well the growth is coming up fast, the growth is coming faster now and it’s it is go** it looks from the latest figures as if we in Scotland are going to have higher growths than the people further south.’
‘I was very perturbed that in the last election that we in Scotland hadn’t quite had the full benefit of the increasing number of jobs as there were it seem more difficult for to get it for us here ’ […]
‘[…] there are two points: (.) one which applies to us in Scotland just as much as as it does elsewhere […]’
‘and what will happen er er down south is the same thing that’s happened to us in Scotland.’
A: [paraphrase) Your own backbenchers are saying that th th community charges are political will cause deep hatred and division.
B: I have never heard the expression you have used before.
A: Tony Marlow and Hugh Dykes respectively.
B: (.) err (.2) I did not hear what was said at the 22 Comity but if that is so I don’t believe that this judgement is correct.

Extract 2

discourse is a controlling force of society but society is also a controlling force of discourse
importance of context
It is issue oriented
a multidisciplinary approach.
Language or discourse is a social event/act.

 Mediation: Many texts are ‘mediated’ by the ‘mass media’,
the texts connect with different social events (dispersed in time and space).
 Mass media = part of the apparatus of governance

we have different social identities.
to become more sensitive to the power relationship in society and to become aware that there are hidden messages in the discourses around us.
 To raise awareness concerning the strategies used in order to establish or maintain power ( Tenorio) but also to reach emancipation. Awareness is the first step to ‘freedom’ (Fairclough). Can also enable access to power (VAN DIJK)

‘Each context controls a specific type of Discourse and each discourse depends on a specific context’ (VAN DIJK) LANGUAGE <> REALITY

Contributes to the understanding of one society. (TENORIO)
Exposes the manipulative nature of discursive practices. (TENORIO)
In the production of an utterance, context activates meaning, meaning activates wording. (HASAN)
In the reception of the utterance, realisation is construal, the choice of wording construes meaning, the choice in meaning construes context. (HASAN)
 More than just text. Discourse as big D.
 A particular set of ideas and how they are articulated; it refers to a specialised knowledge and language used by a particular social group (FLOWERDEW, 2013 referring to FOUCAULT)
 It is shaped by culture, social practice, structure and power relationships and constrained by social practice.
 Discourse is a social practice and thus the context in which language is produced is crucial. (FAIRCLOUGH)
Society is socially determined . ex:
 class struggle
 Gender

Use of Systematic Functional Grammar

Conceptualizing the semantic stratum = understanding the semantic configuration that brings the choice of options concerning grammar, phonological features, vocabulary but also the intonation. (HALLIDAY)

- Usually between 2 persons.
- Very structured : A-B / A-B / A-B pattern usually
- Interviewer: speaks less, asks questions, structures the exchange. This person usually decides what questions are asked; when; if clarifications are necessary or not and when they can move on to another subject. = THE INTERVIEWER IS USUALY THE ONE IN POWER.

1. Who is speaking. To whom? With Whom? Who = profession, gender, social and geographical background if possible.
2. Main topic?
3. Why this topic?
4. What is/are the aim(s)
5. Who is the target?
6. How is power used; what kind of power is it?
7. Is there an issue between the interviewer and interviewee or a political issue?
8. Use of SFG: - According to you, why is the politician speaking like this? What can you say about specific words chosen by the politician and about the rhetorical devices in place? Notice the use of pronouns, what do they indicate.
-Who is B trying to convince? About what?

- A =interviewer
- B= interviewee; political figure.
- United Kingdom?
- Gender?
- Divided nation / trade union demonstrations / how the government deals with the situation
- Interview, TV, aim at presenting a political figure, getting to know the policies etc / chance to influence the audience and obtain more voters
- shift in power relationship, B takes the floor
- T.U. presented negatively (THEY; DIKTAT, TERRIBLE...)
vs interviewee presented as a representative of democracy, order, peace.

- Interviewer / interviewee
- B = political figure
- gender?
- Topic = unpopularity of the political figure IN SCOTLAND
- B answers: disagreement using HEDGING
-POWER RELATION: in the end, B is uncomfortable because of one question.
The interviewer insists, making the point a statement rather than a question.
B tries to answer in a way that brings back power to him/her.
Margaret Thatcher
Interview 1:
Sir Robin Day, BBC
Interview 2:
Kirsty Wark

1979: Became Prime Minister of The United Kingdom
First female Prime Minister
three terms
Political philosophy:
- Deregulation (flexible labour markets)
- Privatisation of state-owned companies
- Reducing the power and influence of Trade Unions
- Restructuring the economy > old industries like coal mining, ship building, steel industry, had to stop in favour of service sector.
POLL TAX: 1989 Scotland / 1990 England, Wales, Northern Ireland
November 1990: resignation

Context of Culture and Context of Situation
Both influencing her discourse
Strikes; trade unions; unemployment; unpopularity.
role of T.U., mainly in Scotland
Socttish economy
language : accent, dialects (Gaelic, Doric, Glaswegian acccent

Woman Political Leader

"damned if they behave like men, and damned if they don't."

A woman should not have a masculine behaviour unless if in a position of power usually attributed to men = SOCIAL DETERMINATION

Contexts influencing her discourse

Geographical/ social origins of the speaker important in CDA because it affects the Tenor
modest background, England (Lincolnshire), female
directly addresses the 'common people' but hides her accent; changed her way of speaking (tone )
Social determination + language hegemony
Dominance of Standard English, Received Pronunciation (RP) over any regional accent or dialect.

'We the Conservatives' in Scotland
imposing power
not seem to be taken seriously ; holidays
failed attempt to 're-connect' with Scotland
What type of learning?
awareness concerning the strategies used in order to establish power / be able to detect them and use them
better understanding of one society
develop critical reading for historical or political purposes, see what is the hidden message;
how to use rhetoric devices
show necessity to be cautious when findig texts on internet, sources (high school)
different groups of students: EFL; high school, university, sojourners
different fields: language learning, history, literature, business, marketing, politics,...
VYGOTSKY: all thought and communication are embedded in cultural, historical and social processes, with language as a cultural tool for shaping both social and individual activity.
socio-cultural theory of language learning
also connectionist model : using CDA with a discourse and learning new language features = connection between what is learnt and how it has been learnt.
‘That Thatcher was unpopular in Scotland is hardly surprising , regardless of her policies. She was a woman; she was an English woman; she was a bossy English woman. Each was a quality that many found objectionable. Combined with cut-glass voice and an apparently patronising manner, they were lethal.’
Sir Malcom Rifkind MP ('We in Scotland' David Torrance
introduce subject first and give a discourse to analyze with CDA to understand the hidden meanings
concerning the political, historical focus it is important to explain the context to students

Broad definition of discourse (Wodak 2011)
different definitions of discourse in other languages ( ) > simply need to explain these differences and then focus on target language
Risk of being too negative > more focus needed on Positive Discourse Analysis.
Caution with the analysts' interpretations: can try to persuade the reader too. > As a good analyst , necessity to remain neutral. Not the case of Fairclough for example.
Widdowson: CDA is decontextualised ... ...

links - videos
thatcher and the scots
Bloor M. & Bloor T., 2007. The practice of critical discourse analysis : an introduction, London : Hodder Arnold
Fairclough N. 2003. Analysing discourse : textual analysis for social research, London Routledge .
Fairclough N. 2001. Language and Power, New York Longman.
Flowerdew J. 2013. Discourse in English Language Education, London, Routledge
Lukin, A., Moore, A. R., Herke, M., Wegener, R. & Wu, C. 2011, 'Halliday's model of register revisited and explored', Linguistics and the Human Sciences, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 187-213.
Tenorio E.H. 2011. Critical Discourse Analysis, An overview, Nordic Journal of English Studies.
Torrance D. 2009. ‘We in Scotland’ Thatcherism in a cold climate, Edinburgh: Birlinn.
Wodak R. , Meyer M. eds, 2011. Critical Discourse Analysis: History, Agenda, Theory and Methodology, Discourse studies – Quaterly. 2nd ed.

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