2.7 Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress on CDA
Robert Hodge & Gunther Kress published their book ‘Language as Ideology’ in 1979 which later became a classic text in the subfield known as Critical Linguistics (CL). They owe a lot to Generative Grammar which was Chomskey’s then innovative ideas on grammar. On the other hand, they were moving on the path already paved by Whorf about language.
Hodge & Kress (1993: 3) saw language as used in the storing of perception and thoughts and believed that communicable perception has to be coded in language. Language was thought by them to be a social phenomenon which was given by society to individuals and restate what Borger and Luckman had mentioned about language that it plays a vital role in what has been called the ‘social construction of reality’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 15).
Hodge & Kress tended to emphasize the direct influence of linguistic forms (” texts”) on social processes. By and large, their focus was on the link between environments of language use and features of the language used; “the social” and its meaning were central in their work. Given that, the term text and discourse could readily come to be used more or less interchangeably. They believe discourse is a site where social forms of organization engage with systems of signs in the production of texts, thus reproducing or changing the sets of meanings and values which make up a culture. (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 15)
To begin with their theory, Hodge & Kress found Whorf’s ideas very useful for their purpose. Whorf thought of languages as systems of categories and rules based on fundamental principles and assumptions about the world. These principles and assumptions are not related to or determined by thought: they are thought. Whorf called these fundamental organizing assumptions a ‘science’ and a ‘metaphysic’, that is, a systematic account of reality and the a priori assumptions on which that account rests. Such assumptions are embodied in language, learnt through language, and reinforced in language use (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 17).
Before this, it was said that their theory of language was absorbed in the ongoing life of a society, as the practical consciousness of that society. This consciousness is inevitably ‘a partial and false consciousness’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 23). They call it as ideology and define ideology as ‘a systematic body of ideas, organized from a particular point of view’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 6). Ideology is thus a large category which includes science and metaphysics, as well as political ideologies of various kinds, without implying anything about their status and accountability to reality. In another place they define ideology in this way: ‘ideology involves a systematically organized presentation of reality’. This presentation involves language and any presentation in or through language, which involves selection in itself (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 15). These initial selections are central, because they set the limits within which any resulting thinking or reworking of ‘reality’ takes place. Maybe what Hodge and Kress try to say can be somehow condensed in this form that: ‘if a systematic theory, an ideology, is guiding the use of language, then we would expect systematic use of linguistic forms to evident’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 20).
In addition to the communication usage of language as a social instrument, language can be use in controlling others and this comes through the linguistic forms which let the hearers to be informed or manipulated (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 6). Kress and Hodge discuss that these forms, i.e. grammatical forms, are the most revealing theory of language and would be one which should follow the form of the grammar; in other words ”the grammar of a language is its theory of reality”.
The main premise in their discussions is that: language is certainly a social practice, ‘which is one amongst many social practices of representation and signification’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 198). The consequence of this premise would thus be that the study of language is irreducibly dual, drawing on social and semiotic theories, theories of social forces and relationships, and theories of systems of representation and signification (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 202).
They mention that human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much under the control of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. For then it seems to be a fact the ‘real world’ is largely unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 62) this means that we see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do just because the language habits of our community orders us to do so.
As already mentioned, Hodge & Kress believed that the grammar of a language is its theory of reality; the most helpful theory of language which will be one that follows the forms of grammar. Since language functions to deceive as well as to inform, they discuss that every component of grammar will contain one set of forms which allow the speaker to avoid making distinctions which are primary and another set where these distinctions have to be made sharply with precision (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 125). They supposed that ‘linguistic items and processes do not occur in the grammar simply as unconnected items, but as part of ordered system’ (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 152). In this regards they affirm an indirect and implicit presentation of ideology is widely pervasive and it acts unconsciously at a level beneath critical awareness. This allows it to accommodate contradictions in the ideology more easily while presentation of ideology is more obviously coercive and hence more liable to be resisted.
When they talk about syntax one can notice that it occupies an important place in their theory as it makes the set of signs that make up language. For them the signs of syntax are always ideologically inflected social meanings. These meanings are ideological in two senses: as representations of social existence, and as traces or mobilizations of discursive positioning and activities (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 208).
Hodge and Kress (1993: 153) try to read the traces and effects of power in language and discourse, in text and syntax. Having recognized the role of power in determining meaning, they do not accept that power and history are meaningless. On the contrary they specify a vital form for a new theory of language, one that takes for granted the interdependence of language and power, meaning and social process.
Critical Discourse Analysis has made the study of language into an interdisciplinary tool and can be used by scholars with various backgrounds. As Hodge & Kress (1993: 151) point out, CDA has an ”overtly political agenda,” which ”serves to set CDA off from other kinds of discourse analysis” and text linguistics ”as well as pragmatics and sociolinguistics”. While, most forms of the discourse analysis ”aim to provide a better understanding of socio-cultural aspects of texts,” CDA ”aims to provide accounts of the production, internal structure, and overall organization of texts” (Hodge & Kress, 1993: 151). One crucial difference is that CDA ”aims to provide a critical dimension in its theoretical and descriptive accounts of texts”.
According to Hodge and Kress’s definition, CDA treats language “as a type of social practice among many used for representation and signification” (1993: 153). Meanings come about through integration between readers and receivers and linguistic features come about as a result of social processes, which are never arbitrary.
In addition to language structure, ideology, also, has a role to play in CDA. Hodge and Kress (1993: 162) state that Language, “can never appear by itself- it always appears as the representative of a system of linguistic terms, which themselves realize]]>
2.7 Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress on CDA