A. Van Dijk’s Socio-cognitive model:
1. Ideology and social actors
2. The manifestation of ideology in politically-oriented discourses
B. Reason(s) behind adopting van Dijk’s Socio-cognitive model (ie comparison with other CDA Models) (plagiarism checker)
5.1 What is CDA?
Prior to offering a detailed description of van Dijk’s Sociocognitive approach as this study’s theoretical framework, it is crucial to first draw a brief introduction on Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA).
The predecessor of CDA was critical linguistics, a branch of grammar first developed in the 1970s by a group of linguists at the University of East Anglia that aims at studying the importance of social context in the process of production and development of language. It was later in the 1980s, with the work of British sociolinguist Norman Fairclough, Language and Power, that CDA garnered attention of scholars from many disciplines (Tian 2018).
In other words, Critical Discourse Analysis is considered to be the study of the multi-faceted connections between text and social context; a complex process that aims at surfacing the interaction between textual structures and their function within society, especially when it comes to the creation of ideological colorings and maintenance of different power relations (Mahdi Aslani 2016). It is worthy of highlighting the fact that this relation exhibited between language and society is not a mere one-way process, but rather “bi-directional”. “Not only is the language use affected by its groundedness within a certain frame of cultural or social practice, but also the use of language influences and shapes the social and cultural context it finds itself in” (Horváth, 2009, p.46). Language does not exist in vacuum. Its users can never function in isolation of their society. The meticulous care for such characteristic is what differs CDA from Discourse Analysis. CDA’s differentiated contribution in the realm of language and discursive practice study resides in its attribute of criticality. “‘Critical’ implies showing connections and causes which are hidden; it also implies intervention, for example providing resources for those who may be disadvantaged through change” (Fairclough 1992: 9). On the other hand, Discourse Analysis barely touches on the relationship between forms of language and a limited screenshot of the context it is used in. This is why CDA is not an independent school or a homogenous model that works in isolation of other disciplines. It is rather a shared perspective and a holistic approach that aims at removing this ideological opacity and undressing the implicit back-and-forth relationships between discourse and society that secure power and hegemony. It is an eclectic approach that drinks from the infinite seas of other humanities disciplines. It is, generally speaking, “a study of the relations between discourse, power, dominance, social inequality and the position of the discourse analyst in such social relationships” (Van Djik, 1993, p. 283).
In other words:
“Critical Discourse Analysts seek to reveal how texts are constructed so that particular
(and Potentially indoctrinating) perspectives can be expressed delicately and covertly;
because they are covert, they are elusive of direct challenge, facilitating what Kress
calls the “retreat into mystification and impersonality””. (Batstone 1995: 198-199)
5.2 Different CDA approaches to media and news discourse
Such theoretical definitions of CDA will not be clear without explaining how theorists have come across using CDA in their work. Thus, I will be offering a quick overview of some of the most influential CDA models used by scholars.
As aforementioned, it was Fairclough who placed the foundation for future CDA research. His work orbited around the belief that language is a vital component of social life, whereby the dialectic relation between language itself and its constructed social reality exists through social events (texts), social practices (orders of discourse) and social structures (Fairclough, 2003). Thus, Fairclough offered a three-dimensional framework based on these three pillars: : 1) the linguistic description of the formal properties of the text; 2) the interpretation of the relationship between the discursive processes/interaction and the text, where text is the end product of a process of text production and as a resource in the process of text interpretation and lastly, 3) the explanation of the relationship between discourse and social and cultural reality.
Another CDA model that treated the duo of language and ideology quite worthy of mentioning is the syntagmatic model of Hodge and Kress based on the dichotomous categorization of euphemism and derogatory and the classification system of “actionals” and “relationals”. The former represent the perceived relationships in the physical world, divided more specifically into “transactive” and “non-transactive”. The latter encompass “equative” and “attributive” sections. These are concerned with the classificatory and evaluative systems of the language. Equative models create the relations between nouns while attributive models bring about relations between nouns and qualities. Relationals indicate the consequence of mental activities, suggest judgments, comments, etc. Euphemistic and derogatory words belong to the relational part of this framework and are used as detection devices for recognizing the manipulation of realities and ideas. Ideology, according to Hodge and Kress (1993), involves a systematically organized presentation of reality. The application of different euphemistic or derogatory terms leads to different presentations of realities and therefore ideologies (Rahimi and Riasati 2015).
A more history-focused approach is that offered by Ruth Wodak who chose to base his work on the sociological model, using Bernstein’s tradition in sociolinguistics and Frankfurt School, especially Jurgen Habermas, as response to the anti-Semitism studies proliferating in the aftermath of the Second World War. Yet, in what sense is it historical? What is very distinctive about this approach is its use of all background information possible to analyze the different layers of a text. Similar to Fairclough, Wodak acknowledges the dialectic relationship between discourse and special areas of action (situations, institutional frameworks, and social structures), in other words, the fact that discourse creates discourse and non-discourse behaviors and in turn is created by them (Ramanthan and Hoon 2015).
5.3 Van Dijk’s Socio-cognitive Framework and the Ideological Square
However, the central framework of this paper shall be that of van Dijk, for his work added the lost segment of many CDA and critical linguist studies. As observed, great interest in cognition within the scholarly realm has grown, especially with regards to generating new cognitive theories on conceptual metaphors (Charteris-Black, 2006; Musolff, 2004).
Most CDA approaches are centered around the direct influence of the social context on discourse. Yet, van Dijk’s Sociocognitive approach argues that this directionality is inexistent because social structures and discourse structures can never be immediately related due to the presence of a mediator, of a cognitive interface comprised of the mental models and general social representations (ideologies, values, norms, knowledge and attitudes) embedded in the deep labyrinthine cognition of language users. In other words, devoid of these mental models, it cannot be explained and described that how social structures affect discourse, and get affected in turn. Therefore, van Dijk offers the triangle comprised of society, cognition (be it personal or collective social emotions, beliefs, values, and norms), and discourse (any communicative event that not only includes written text but also body movements, speech acts, semiotic signifiers, and oral interactions). Here it is deemed crucial to define what van Dijk means by “society”. In his triangle, society (or context) comprises both micro-structures on the local level and features of the immediate situation in which a discourse occurs,; and the historical, cultural, political and social universal macrostructures on the level of societal groups and their inter-relations and intra-relations, such as dominance, inequality, sexism, and racism. It is the former micro-context that van Dijk considers based on cognition and thus calls it a context model. Context models are mental representations that control many of the features of text production and comprehension such as genre, choice of topic, and cohesion on one hand, and speech act, style, and imagery on the other. These models exist in people’s long term memory; the part of memory in which people save their knowledge and view about the events they experience.
Thus, social actors themselves are part of this triangle as well by not only using their individual experiences in creating and receiving discourse, but also by relying on collective frames of perception, called social representations, which coordinate between subjective experience and the individual cognitive system, and between external requirements of the social system. The term social representations was not one of van Dijk’s brainchildren, for it was previously coined by Serge Moscovici (1982) and their characteristcs reiterated by E Emile Durkheim:’The ideas of man … are not personal and are not restricted to me; I share them, to a large degree, with all the men who belong to the same social group that I do. Because they are held in common, concepts are the supreme instrument of all intellectual exchange’ (cited in Bellah, 1973: 52). Thus, SCA considers three forms of social representations to be relevant in understanding and studying discourse:
1. knowledge (personal, group, cultural)
2. attitudes (not in the social psychology understanding)
*Ideology is a core concept in van Dijk’s SCA, for it is known that ideologies control the thoughts of a specific social group and thus become the basic social characteristics of this group, based on their shared identities, attitudes, norms, and values (van Dijk, 1995). It is not to be forgotten that cognitive factors are involved in the process of ideological consumption and the acquisition of ideologies, through long term processes of social information processing.
This brings about the formulation of van Dijk’s influential framework, which is known as Van Dijk’s ideological square or conceptual square (van Dijk 2000). This square is based on four corners that allow subtle and cognitively imbedded ideological analysis to express multiple ideological stances: figure
Positive self-representation emphasizes individuals’ positive behavior via saying solely positive things about Us and rather negative things about Them. This positive stance is an abstract characteristic of group conflicts and as the interaction pattern opposes the other groups (Van Dijk, 2000). On the other hand, negative other-presentation insists on the idea that no negative saying should be directed to Us whereas no positive saying should be directed to Them (Van Dijk, 2000). This implies that the term Us always refers to positive saying and beliefs in a social context while, the term Them refers to negativity, condemnation and other negative stances.*