Critical Linguistics and its principles


Critical linguistics developed in Great Britain in the 70s. XX century, more consistent with the systemic linguistic theory of M. Halliday. This determines its main emphasis on practical methods and techniques of text analysis, in contrast to the approach of French researchers who pay increased attention to discursive formations and use grammar for ideological analysis. In this article we will explain the concept of critical linguistics

Halliday’s ideas had a great influence on Gunther Kress, whose early work can serve as an example of the development of critical linguistics as a direction. He began to develop his own model and methodology. After working in 1979, his interests shifted to the field of socio-semiotic research, namely, to the field of studying the concept of a sign as an inseparable unity of meaning and form. Language is viewed as a semiotic system in which meaning is created directly, and not as a linguistic system in which meaning is indirectly associated with a linguistic form. The features of the grammatical form of the text are considered here as a significant selection of the possibilities provided by the grammatical system. Moreover, since the presentation of events with such significant selectivity of means complements the reproduction of power relations,

Considerable attention is paid to studies of the ideological significance of systematic discursive techniques, the ideological possibilities of categorization systems that are embedded in any vocabulary – certain ways of lexicalizing experience.

Within the framework of this direction, critical analysis is applied to the study of various types of discourse, mainly to the discourse of the press. Recently, the methods developed by critical linguistics have found their practical use in the analysis of general educational texts, in the analysis of dialogue and interviews.


1. Political commitment

Exposing inequality and injustice, depriving ideologies of their naturalness, revealing the relationship of dominance and power, and communicating these relationships to those who suffer from oppression – are the goals that the proponents of critical linguistics consider desirable and possible to realize. “Research subjects” cannot be considered simply “objects”. Specific interests and values ​​determine the choice of those subjects that are analyzed by critical linguistics. The proponents of critical linguistics deny the existence of an “objective” interpretation and consider it expedient to reveal at least their normative orientations. This is one of the reasons why critical linguistics is often accused of being politicized

2. Problem-oriented research.

Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis investigate linguistic behavior in everyday situations with immediate social significance (institutional discourse, media discourse, school textbooks, minority issues, all types of discrimination, etc.). Critical linguistics can be defined as a problem-oriented discipline since its purpose is not to contribute to a particular discipline, paradigm, school, or theory of discourse, but to address pressing social problems that, as a result of analysis, will be better understood and, possibly, will begin to decide.

3. The relationship between language and society

 Critical linguistics considers language and society not as separate, but as dialectically interrelated entities. Linguistic characteristics are sometimes strategically obscured due to certain ideological attitudes on the part of the authors of the texts, due to the structures of power at the macro and micro levels of society, as well as due to historical intertextuality. Linguistic signs (understood as language in action) at any level are the result of social processes [cf. Kress 1993] and are therefore motivated by the unity of form and meaning. Those in power (elites in society, see [van Dijk 1993a]) have more extensive and easier access to communication, as well as more choices in communicative behavior.

4. Interdisciplinary research

Social phenomena are very complex and cannot be covered by just one discipline. Sociological, psychological, cognitive, political, psychoanalytic, and other models should be applied as necessary, but not in an arbitrary order, but so that they reflect the status, origin, and interests of the relevant theories and categories.

5. Incorporating a historical perspective

The fact that social processes are dynamic rather than static must be reflected in theory, methodology, and data interpretation. History at the micro-level of specific interactions of individuals or institutions, at the micro-level of group interactions, or at the macro-level of the history of discursive change is an essential component of critical linguistics, both theoretically and descriptively [Fairclough, Kress 1993]. Every discourse and every text is linked to others (intertextuality) synchronously and diachronically and must be viewed in relation to other types of discourse.

6. Discourse as action

Discourse should be seen as a form of social action, always determined by values ​​and social norms, conventions (as natural ideologies), and social practice, always limited and influenced by power structures and historical processes.

7. Social construction of meanings (meanings)

Meanings are the result of interactions between readers/listeners and the authors of the texts. These meanings are always subject to more or less rigid normative rules (for example, generic rules) and the power relations that arise from such interactions. Many conscious and unconscious motives and procedures for planning texts turn out to be essential for the creation and perception of texts, and this leads to the emergence of expressed and hidden meanings, cognitive and emotional aspects of discourse.

8. The targeting of socio-political practice

The results of critical research should be of interest not only for academic science but also translate into proposals for practical implementation, for example, as principles of non-discriminatory linguistic behavior, improve the availability of television and radio news, etc.

9. In Search of a Critical Theory of Language

An accurate linguistic description of the data is necessary, both quantitative and qualitative analysis should be carried out, depending on the genre and type of text. Various tools of linguistic analysis (social semiotics, theory of speech acts, theory of argumentation, etc.) should be used, depending on what can help more in explaining the data. At the same time, the main provisions and methodological base of the corresponding linguistic theories should be transparent. Ideally, linguistic theory and methodology should integrate language and society, and this will lead to going beyond existing eclectic procedures, as a result of which it will be possible to address basic questions: “What are the boundaries of signs – how do we choose units for analysis? which interpretation corresponds to the nature of the facts? How exactly are macro– and micro-objects (for example, society and linguistic signs) related? How do we account for the relationship between verbal and non-verbal elements of language? “

we hope after reading the article you have understood the concept of critical linguistics.

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