Portfolio on CDA

Introduction: Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a stem of critical language theory that focuses on the product of social and cultural relationships and how they are realised in language, primarily through the way “social power abuse, dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted in text and talk” (Van Dijk 2015), within both social and political contexts. CDA contributes to an enhanced interpretation of texts by providing a wider understanding of the significance of “the institutional context, social identities and status of the participants” (Simpson 2019:183) within the text.

Transitivity Analysis: Option 2

Transitivity is “concerned with the semantic structure of clauses”, referring “to who does what to whom, and how” (Simpson 2019: 74). M.A.K. Halliday’s (1994) research focuses primarily on “traditional grammatical approaches which distinguish between verbs that take objects, and verbs that do not”. Using the framework of Transitivity, I will be analysing Jack Elsom’s article, from The Daily Mail (September 2020), reporting a racially motivated incident in a South-East London pub [appendix 1, figure 1&2].

The key features of Transitivity analysis are identifying the participants and distinguishing which of the six process types, represented by the verbs and verbal groups, have been used [appendix 1, figure 1]. Material processes are usually “concrete actions” that “describe the process of doing”, with the “action being performed by the Actor” and the Goal participant being “whom the process is directed to” (Simpson 2019: 75).
In the article, both the perpetrator, Louie Kincella, and the hate crime victim, D’arcy-Smith, have an equal amount of material processes but Elsom’s choice of verbs indicate a particular depiction of the news source itself.Elsom’s repetitive use of the synonymic verbs of, ‘convicted’, ‘made to pay’ and ‘charged’, describe Kincella’s actions whilst simultaneously present the police as being actively against racial hate crimes. The majority of Kincella’s material processes present the latter as being the goal participant and the police being the actor, with the only verbs describing Kincella’s own actions surrounding the hate crime being ‘sent’ and ‘admitted ordering’. Elsom directs focus away from the article’s purpose to inform readers of Kincella’s criminality. Rather, he uses the article to oppose the stigma of racial prejudice currently associated with the police in relation to the BLM Civil Rights Movement (2020) primarily against racially targeted police brutality. Unlike Kincella’s material processes, Smith’s are spilt between being the Actor and Goal participant in an attempt to direct focus on his justice seeking actions alongside highlighting the impacts of the incident upon Smith. The use of the verb ‘contacted’ and the actioned implications of the word ‘complaint’, construct Smith (actor) as being an catalyst for the prosecution rather than being a passive victim; a contradictive take on a typical representation of victims within the media. In contrast to this representation, when Smith ‘passed’ the pub or is ‘left shaken’ (goal), his representation switches back to a state of vulnerability, heightening the reader’s compassion for him. The article demonstrates the linguistic strategy of Exnomination through the material process of ‘weaponised by racists’, distinguishing the concept of Othering through the disassociation with racists and The Daily Mail. Elsom portrays the paper as supporters of the BLM movement despite being considered a notable right-winged source by 44% of Britons (YouGov:2017)

Mental processes are the “processes of sensing” and can be divided into either “cognition, affection or perception”, whilst verbal processes are “expounded by the verb of ‘saying’ and its many synonyms” (Simpson 2019:75). In the article, Kincella is described with more verbal processes than mental which contrasts with Smith’s lack of verbal processes in comparison to mental ones.
Elsom’s deliberate use of the unimaginative speech words ‘claimed’ and ‘admitted’, suggest Kincella was compliant and refrained from verbally denying or justifying his actions. Similarly, the minimal amount of mental processes used to describe Kincella’s actions as ‘just being done for a joke’, imply that his intentions were harmless. This enables readers to interpret the hate-crime labelled incident, as being a wrongful conviction rather than holding Kincella accountable for his actions.
Unlike Kincella, Smith is given significantly more mental processes, which consist of his ‘recalling’ the ‘degrading’ incident and realising it was a hate crime. The article describes Smith as being ‘adamant’ the order was ‘racially motivated’, a repetitive indication of the contradictory portrayal of Smith as a catalyst in Kincella’s prosecution. Contrastingly, Smith’s lack of verbal processes imply he had limited commentary regarding the situation, constructing him into a passive victim who avoids using the media as a platform to raise awareness of racial hate crimes.
The imbalance of the processes, portrays Smith as a docile victim of a racial hate crime whilst the subtle vocalisation and minimal focus on Kincella’s criminality shows a continuation of right-winged media, presenting the white party in a neutral light.

Social Actor Analysis:

Van Leeuwen (1995) introduced the Social Actor Analysis model as a “descriptive framework for critically analysing modes of representing social action, using critical sociosemantic categories.” I will be applying Leeuwen’s framework to an article by Ben Hill from The Sun Online (September 2020), of a football boss apologising for signing a domestic abuser to the club.

The Social Actor Analysis model [appendix 2, figure 1] represents the outline of sociological ‘grammar’ to gain insight to the way different actions are represented in discourse by different social actors. The choice of ‘nomination’ represents social actors in terms of their unique identity, the article displays a repetitive use of nomination [appendix 2, figure 2] to construct the reader’s impression and opinion of the individuals mentioned. Alongside the repetition of Reece Thompson’s name (nomination), he is referred to as ‘yob’ or ‘thug’, examples of identification. [figure 2]. This use of “tabloid-style language” (Machin and Mayr 2012:158) labels him based on his actions as a domestic abuser rather than as a footballer. Hill constructs Thompson within the domain of his criminality rather than as a footballer to dehumanise and expose his identity, whilst simultaneously preventing the media organisation from being categorised as protecting the perpetrator.
Hill also repeats Danielle Thomas’ name (nomination) to humanise her as a victim of domestic abuse and to evoke sympathy within the readers. The journalist also does this as an attempt to show The Sun Online as giving the abuse victim a platform to express her emotions and vocalise herself, an action she was previously suppressed of.
Another key example of nomination is Hill’s repetitive use of the football club manager, Christian Fox’s name. Fox acts as a microcosmic representation of both the club and the collective decision to sign Thompson back to the club which evokes a warped sense of admiration towards Fox, for taking public responsibility of the club’s mistake. This is further explored through the representational choice of backgrounding. Exclusion focuses on exploring how a social actor is excluded or suppressed from text, being a sub-division of exclusion, backgrounding is considered a “less radical” exploration of exclusion. This is shown by suggesting that the social actors are “mentioned elsewhere in the text” if “not mentioned in relation to a given activity” (Leeuwen 1996:39). The article’s repetitive use of the pronoun ‘we’ is exemplar of backgrounding as it relates to the social actor of Fox and the club he represents, without repetitively mentioning the club’s name or the individuals responsible. This microcosmic representation of ‘Fox’ and ‘we’ is also shown through the abstraction [appendix 2, figure 4] of the word ‘club’, being used to direct the spotlight away from the individuals responsible for the decision and instead labelling it in a generalised manner.

The representational choice of functionalisation is used to categorise social actors “in terms of their occupation or social activity” (Simpson 2019: 81). In the article’s headline, the words ‘Football boss’ are used to describe Fox based on his managerial role within the football club, indicating a heightened sincerity in the apology made to Danielle as it has come from an individual of an authoritative position within the club. This contrasts with the lack of functionalisation for Thompson by only referring to him as a ‘thug’, ‘yob’ or using his name rather than words like ‘footballer’ or ‘athlete’, further highlighting The Sun Online’s attempt to disassociate Thompson as a member of their idealistic society and avoid making the club’s mistake of showing support to a domestic abuser.

As well as the article’s use of identification when referring to Thompson, it uses classification identification with the phrase ‘ages ten and 14’, being the only description of Danielle’s daughters. The article also uses relational identification is used to describe Danielle and her relationships as Thompson’s ‘girlfriend’, ‘her family’ and as a ‘mum-of-two’. Hill uses “terms that essentially humanise” (Machin and Mayr 2012:122) to evoke sympathy within the readers by indicating the impact of Thompson’s abusive behaviour on both Danielle and her young daughters, ultimately humanising her as a victim whose personal life reaches beyond being a domestic abuse victim.

Multimodal Analysis:

Multimodality draws upon Halliday’s (1978) social semiotic approach to language and how language interacts with “other tools or ‘modes’ of communication” (Jones 2012:29) to convey meaning. The three metafunctions help to categorise the features used within the framework. Using the features of multimodality, I will analyse the ‘brawny.com’ website, an America paper-towel company which uses its platform to celebrate strength within different communities.

Ideational metafuntion focuses on what “the text is about” (Paltridge 2006:171) by analysing the participants, objects and setting of the visual image. The background of the website’s first photo [appendix 3, figure 1] is comprised of a boreal forest and mountain range, an environment associated with the stereotypical male activities of hunting and lumber work. Whilst participants are a feature of ideational metafuntion, the features that explores the “relations between participants” (Paltridge 2006:171) and the viewer are categorised as interpersonal metafunction. In the foreground, there are three participants wearing red lumber-jack shirts used to compliment the connotations of the background. The contrast of the foregrounded participants and background indicate the brand’s association to wood, the material paper-towels are made out of and act as a salute to their products. The foremost participant adopts a typically masculine pose of having their hands on their hips which contrasts with their feminine long, blonde braids, whilst the other two participants have their arms folded. The construction of their poses removes any gendered stigma and instead portrays it as being a stance of confidence and power, making it as a visual tribute to the hashtag ‘strength has no gender’.

Textual metafunction features explore “how the message is organised” through the way “the elements in an image are arranged” (Paltridge 2006:171) to create an effect. The photograph of the  participants are placed so that they are raised above the forest to indicate that their strength is larger than the strength of nature, making the photograph an empowering visual.
In the website’s final homepage photo [appendix 3, figure 2], the three young girls are the salience of the photograph as the adjacent and above text relates to the organisation Brawny.com fund to support these young girls. The photograph uses natural lighting to remove the impression that the photo is staged. This aids the interpersonal feature of the participants’ gaze of having direct eye-contact with the viewer to make the consumer feel inclined to support these girls who benefit from the brand’s financial support and as a result purchase the brand’s products. This technique is chiefly understood in consumer theory’s concept of using “nudges” to appeal to “human’s psychological quirks”, which in turn sways their decision making (Wilkinson:2012), further emphasised by the designer’s choice of placing the photograph just above the sign-up box.

The campaign’s neutrality stretches beyond the breaking of gender barrier and depicts three different aged participants. The foremost participant’s hair is styled as that of a young girl, there is also young-adult (right) and older-adult (left) noticeable from the body frame and skin aging. This visual neutrality supports the photo’s tag-line ‘celebrating generations of strength’, indicating that strength is neither constrained by gender nor age. In the final homepage photo [appendix 3, figure 2], campaign neutrality is presented by the girls being of three different ethnicities as a way to highlight that the brand support organisations that empower young girls irrespective of their age and ethnicity. The website’s designers construct the site’s homepage with the use of intricately designed photographs and purposeful language to emphasise the brand’s support and association with organisations that empower the community. This construction is crucial to engage viewers with the brand, regard it as trustworthy and an principled source to purchase products from.


Caldas-Coulthard, C. and Coulthard, M. (e.d) (1996) Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. [online] New York: Routledge. available from <https://dl1.cuni.cz/pluginfile.php/486263/mod_resource/content/1/van-Leeuwen-The%20representation%20of%20social%20actors.pdf>

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar 2nd end, London: Edward Arnold

Jones, R.H. (2012) Discourse Analysis. Oxon: Routledge

Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012) The Language of Crime and Deviance: An Introduction to Critical Linguistic Analysis in Media and Popular Culture [online] London; Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. available from <https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/coventry/reader.action?docID=831527#> [6 September 2020]

Paltridge, B. (2006) Discourse Analysis: An Introduction 2nd end. [online] London; Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. available from <https://bibliu.com/app/?query=paltridge#/view/books/9781441133359/epub/OEBPS/html/9781441133359_09_cha08.html#page_170>

Simpson, P. (2019) Language and Power. Milton: Routledge

Van Dijk, T A. (2015) The Handbook of Discourse Analysis [online] 2nd edn. West Sussex; John Wiley & Sons. available from <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118584194.ch22?saml_referrer> [27 October 2020]

Van Leeuwen, T. (1995) ‘Representing Social Action’ Discourse and Society [online] 6 (1) 82-83. available from <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0957926595006001005> [2 November 2020]

Wilkinson, T.M. (2012) ‘Nudging and Manipulation’ Political Studies [online] 61 (2) 1-2. available from <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00974.x> [6 November 2020]

YouGov (2017) How left or right-winged are the UK’s newspapers? [online] available from <https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/03/07/how-left-or-right-wing-are-uks-newspapers> [27 October 2020]

Appendix List (1):

Figure 1: Transitivity Analysis Table (Option 2)

process typeskincellasmithScotland yard/police magistrates wetherspoons staffpub appwaiterracists
material‘convicted’ ‘ordering’ ‘using’ ‘made to pay’ ‘sent’ ‘arrested’ ‘admitted ordering’ ‘charged’  ‘left shaken’ ‘passed’ ‘delivered’ ‘sent’ ‘ordered’ ‘contacted’ ‘leaving the pub’‘track down’ ‘set about tracing the sender’ ‘not taken seriously’ ‘since apologised’‘order’ ‘made for’ ‘to go’‘carried’‘weaponised’ ‘lobbed’
verbal‘said’ ‘admitted’ ‘claimed’ ‘insisted’  ‘said’ ‘told’‘said’    ‘chanting monkey noises’
mental‘he did not intend’ ‘just done for a joke’  ‘did not know Kincella’ ‘degrading’ ‘recalling’ ‘clicked that it wasn’t ours’ ‘looked at each other… looked at the banana’ ‘was not taken’ ‘adamant… racially motivated’  ‘identify’‘was found guilty’‘has since apologised’   
behavioural‘while he did not deny’‘spontaneously started trembling’       ‘weaponised’
relational‘at his home’ ‘at his home in Mottingham’‘left humiliated’ ‘left disappointed’        
existential‘being in the pub’‘who was with a friend’ ‘was trying to be racist’        

Figure 2: Transitivity Analysis Option 2 Annotated

Appendix List (2):

Figure 1: Teo Van Leeuwen’s Social Actor Analysis Model

(Van Leeuwen: 1996)

Figure 2: Social Actor Analysis Table (Option 2)

representational choicesexamples within the article
backgrounding‘he had been given’ ‘he said signing’ ‘individuals and families’ ‘how sorry we are’ ‘we have caused’ ‘we are not trying’ ‘and she is said she’ ‘their minds’  
passivation‘into[…] back and made her eat paint’ ‘was released’ ‘came under fire’ ‘she was left “fearing for her life”’ ‘suffered a broken jaw and severe bruising’  
functionalism‘Football boss’ ‘a football club boss’ ‘Selby Town manager’  
identification‘thug’ ‘girlfriend’ ‘25’ ‘yob’ ‘her family’ ‘two daughters’ ‘age ten and 14’ ‘34-year-old mum-of-two’  
nomination‘Reece Thompson’ / ‘Thompson’ ‘Danielle Thomas’ ‘York City, Boston United and Guiseley AFC’ ‘Selby Town FC’ ‘Christian Fox’ / ‘Fox’  
abstraction‘his club offering’ ‘said the club’ ‘telling Selby Town’ ‘The Sun Online’  
aggregation‘so many’

Figure 3: Social Actor Option 2 Annotated

Appendix List (3):

Figure 1: Multimodality Annotation Option 1; ‘Strenght has no Power’ homepage image

Figure 2: Multimodality Annotation Option 1; ‘Inspiring Future Generations’ homepage image