Critical discourse studies in context and cognition

Critical discourse studies in context and cognition. Ed. by Christopher Hart. (Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture 43.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. vii, 231. ISBN 9789027206343. $135 (Hb).

Reviewed by Fan Zhen-qiang, Zhejiang Gongshang University

In view of the fact that in critical discourse studies (CDS), current pragmatic and cognitive linguistic approaches to meaning construction in discourse are yet to march from the ‘description stage’ to ‘interpretation stage’ (1), this volume brings together articles, contributed by leading scholars in the field, offering interdisciplinary approaches and models to CDS on a basis broader than current cognitive-pragmatic and cognitive-semantic models. The editor’s introduction sets the scene for and offers a snapshot of the chapters that follow.

In his chapter, Martin Reisigl presents a diachronic and synchronic analysis of the relationship between pragmatics and discourse analysis, arguing for a holistic approach and a family-resemblance relationship between them, as well as other branches of linguistics. Focusing on the relationship between knowledge, discourse, and power, Teun A. van Dijk introduces his model of ‘critical epistemic discourse analysis’ through which he conducts a detailed analysis of Tony Blair’s speech in the British House of Commons concerning sanctions for the Iraq war. Didier Maillat and Steve Oswald approach manipulative communication from the perspective of relevance theory, concluding that manipulation lies in the speaker controlling the hearer’s context selection by making certain assumptions so salient that they are cognitively inescapable. The authors further explain how salience is achieved on the basis of argumentation theory. Piotr Cap presents his proximization-based model for interpreting legitimization effects in CDS. He particularly elaborates and refines axiological proximization and verifies the model by analyzing United States presidential speeches on the Iraq War.

Integrating tools from cognitive linguistics (CL) and Teun A. van Dijk’s sociocognitive framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA), Begoña Núñez-Perucha presents a diachronic investigation of political speeches on feminism, aiming to reveal how women conceptualize their unequal status in relation to men in the last three centuries. Another integrated model is proposed and applied in Veronika Koller’s chapter. Her framework combines the discourse-historical and the sociocognitive approaches and, through a sample analysis of 1970s lesbian identity in discourse, proves to be capable of handling ‘the complexity of collective identity both at a given historical moment and throughout time’ (120). Like Núñez-Perucha, Christine S. Sing also incorporates tools from CL in her discussion of the discursive construction of European identity. The difference is that the former relies mainly on image-schema theory while Sing draws on conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) and categorization theory. She also uses corpus-linguistic methods to support her analysis.

Christopher Hart reaches beyond CMT and explores more tools from CL in his examination of immigration discourse, adding to the inventory of analytic tools of CDA in general and bringing new perspective to the study of immigration discourse. The new tools introduced include construal operations, profiling/backgrounding, metonymy, categorization, scalar adjustment, metaphor, deixis, and epistemic modality. Employing notions from cognitive grammarian Ronald Langacker (i.e. his distinction between the effective and the epistemic level), Juana I. Marín Arrese builds a new model, which she uses to characterize speakers’ expressions of stance and subjectivity in discourse by conducting a comparative corpus study of political discourse in English and Spanish.