Understanding Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA): An Exploration of Its Dimensions and Principles

The article explores Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), examining its three factors: critical thinking, discourse as societal phenomena, and analytical questioning. Principles of CDA address social problems, discursive power relations, and the ideological function of discourse. CDA connects micro and macro levels, bridging descriptive, interpretive, and explanatory stages, offering a comprehensive understanding of language's societal impact.


Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a multifaceted study that can be dissected into three distinct factors. This integrated form of analysis systematically examines various phenomena, allowing for an analytical discussion of each factor in isolation. The term “Critical” denotes a thought process aimed at expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of literary, musical, or artistic works. Simplifying this, being critical means having curiosity and not taking things for granted, involving expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments reflectively. Similarly, “Discourse” refers to written or spoken phenomena existing in human society as traditional beliefs or myths.

In a broader sense, discourse is a conversation that necessitates specifying linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge for sharing and conversational involvement (Gumperz, 1982). The discourse always carries a topic, and when it relates to sociopolitical matters with weighted meaning in a specific area, it is known as discourse. Analysis, on the other hand, is a thinking process involving self-questioning and deep consideration from multiple dimensions on a particular subject.

David Crystal integrates these terms and defines CDA as a perspective studying the relationship between discourse events and sociopolitical and cultural factors, particularly how discourse is ideologically influenced by and can influence power relations (Crystal, 2011, p.123). Interdisciplinary approaches of CDA consider language as a social practice, investigating hidden power relations (Rogers, 2004), and ideology embedded in the broader functional use of language. Being reflective, reflexive, questioning, dialogic, and comparative enables individuals to analyze any discourse critically.

Principles of CDA, according to Fairclough and Wodak (1997), include addressing social problems, recognizing discursive power relations, understanding the ideological function of discourse, acknowledging the historical context of discourse, and recognizing the mediation between text and society. CDA, as a research paradigm, is interpretive and explanatory.

CDA views discourse as involving both the social conditions of production and interpretation. It is a linguistic form of social interaction embedded in or interpreting the social system that constitutes the culture of institutions or society. Socially situated speakers and writers produce texts, and meanings are constructed through interactions between readers and receivers, influenced by social status (Fairclough, 1989).

At the micro-level of CDA, the study focuses on language use in different areas, such as ritualistic language differing from casual conversation. The micro-level analyzes how people react to written languages and behave accordingly. The integrated term of micro and macro in discourse analysis highlights the power relation of language, ideology (Rogers, 2004), and established belief systems in society.

The macro-level of CDA delves into the hidden power relations of language and ideologies developed by factors like language, culture, politics, and human society (Van Dijk, 1993). It critically analyzes the organization of society concerning discrimination, domination, and inequality between social groups, with a focus on gender inequality, media discourse, political discourse, ethnocentrism, antisemitism, nationalism, and racism.

Various CDA approaches aim to establish links between micro, meso, and macro-scale social phenomena. Fairclough’s three-dimensional model emphasizes the importance of shifting between descriptive, interpretive, and explanatory stages at different scales of analysis. CDA research involves analyzing discursive events, practices, and social structures, requiring a cohesive understanding of the relationship between discourse, ideology, and the socio-material world.

Ramji Acharya, M.Phil Scholar Kathmandu University, Nepal


Gumperz, J. J. (1982). Discourse strategies. Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2011). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. John Wiley & Sons.

Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and Power. Longman Inc., USA.

Rogers, R. (2004). An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education. Routledge.

Van Dijk, T. A. (1993). Principles of critical discourse analysis. Discourse & Society, 4(2), 249-283.