Language and significance — or the importance of import: Implications for critical discourse analysis
One of the main functions of discourses is to impute significance to, or interpret the significance of, things. Claims about significance are not merely expressive or evaluative but informative or descriptive, often referring to matters bearing on well-being or flourishing. It is argued that critical discourse analysis (CDA) can hardly be critical unless it acknowledges and evaluates how discourses impute and interpret significance or import and how this relates to well-being. Critical thought in contemporary social science is undermined by dualisms such as fact/value, reason/emotion, and positive/normative, which tend to position critique as ‘merely subjective’ and beyond the scope of reason or science. Although, like any critical social science, CDA uses terms like ‘oppression’, ‘racism’, ‘abuse’, ‘exploitation’ and ‘suffering’, these cannot be reduced wholly to either positive or normative matters. The paper shows how significance can be understood by challenging these dualisms.
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