Critical linguistics and postmodernism: assessment with reference to selected English texts

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Chaka, Chaka Petrus
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University of the Free State
This research study sets out to investigate the relationship between critical linguistics and postmodernism and to mount a critical assessment of these two areas. Firstly, it provides an overview of these two areas and offers their comprehensive and detailed discussion. It does so by discussing the works of Fowler et al. (1979), Kress (1989, 1990) and Fairclough (1989, 1992) in the case of critical linguistics and those of Lyotard (1984, 1988), Foucault (1972, 1980) and Derrida (1978, 1982) in the case of postmodernism. Secondly, it presents a critical analysis which foregrounds some of the concerns, shortcomings and weaknesses inherent in these two areas as raised, for example, by Grimshaw (1980) and Widdowson (1998, 2000) regarding critical linguistics, and as raised, on the one hand, by Habermas (1987) and, to a lesser extent, by McCarthy (1993), and on the other hand, by Gross and Levitt (1994) concerning postmodernism. In addition, it provides an appraisal of Habermas’s and Gross and Levitt’s views on postmodernism. Thirdly, the study investigates the extent to which chaos theory can bridge the boundaries between critical linguistics and mainstream linguistics, between postmodernism and modernism, and between critical linguistics and postmodernism. Most significantly, it establishes the similarities and differences characterising critical linguistics and postmodernism. Moreover, it examines – through conducting a textual micro-analysis - the way in which discourse features employed in two texts (one on critical linguistics and the other on postmodernism) do (or do not) reflect instances of discourse and ideological strategies. Concomitantly, the questions this study sets out to answer are as follows: • What does the overview of both critical linguistics and postmodernism reveal? • What scholarly views and observations does a comprehensive and detailed discussion of the proponents of these two areas reveal? • What concerns, shortcomings and weaknesses are inherent in these two areas? • In what way is critical linguistics different from mainstream linguistics and how can the two areas be brought closer to each other? • In what way is postmodernism different from modernism and how can the two areas be brought closer to each other? • What are the similarities and differences between critical linguistics and postmodernism? and • What does the micro-analysis of the discourse features of the two sample extracts selected from both LP and The PC reveal about the discourse and ideological strategies used in these two texts? Two texts, Fairclough’s (1989) Language and Power (LP) – for critical linguistics- and Lyotard’s (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (The PC) – for postmodernism - serve as the two main sources of data in this study. In this regard, the study mounts both a macro-analysis and a micro-analysis of these two texts. Thus, employing a discourse and ideological analysis and chaos theory methodological framework and a textual content analysis and chaos theory model in Chapter Five, the macro-analysis has two sections. The first section focuses on the following aspects of both LP and The PC: their explicit and implicit goals; their respective areas of focus; their underlying theoretical assumptions; the approaches, methods and models of analysis they use; the types of data extracts used in LP and the cited material used in The PC; and the adequacy, trustworthiness and credibility of both the data extracts and the cited material. The second section examines the usage of the concepts (mainstream) linguistics, critical linguistics, language, ideology, power, discourse, text, intertextuality, subject positions (identities), utterances, and postmodernism in the case of LP. It also explores the usage of the concepts modernity/modernism, postmodernity/postmodernism, grand narratives/meta-narratives, language games, utterances, pragmatics, performativity, paralogy/paralogism, incommensurability, knowledge, and legitimation/legitimacy in the case of The PC. The software programme, WordWeb 3. 03, is used as a point of reference to benchmark some of the textual definitions, ideas and views attributed to the conceptual variables cited above. All of the above content variables are accompanied by their respective data exemplars extracted from the two texts. These data exemplars are presented in Appendix A. Using the same framework as cited above, the micro-analysis focuses on two extracts (cf. Appendices B and D) - taken from LP and The PC respectively – and employs a multidisciplinary model of ideological discourse analysis (MIDA) (cf. Figure 4. 2) for analysing these extracts in Chapter Six. In both extracts, it examines the following discourse features: narrative; repetition; rhetoric; pronominalisation (pronouns); modality (modals); topoi; stereotypes; metaphors; implication; presupposition; and conversational maxims. The use of the software programme Tropes V6.2 is enlisted to identify the word counts, content types and language styles the two extracts have. On the basis of the analysis of these features, an attempt is made to establish the discourse and ideological strategies employed in the two extracts (again cf. Figure 4. 2) and the possible inferences that can be made from the use of such discourse and ideological strategies. The use of the software programme WordWeb 3.03 is also enlisted to cross-validate the ideological tendencies or practices inferred from the discourse and ideological strategies employed in the two extracts. Finally, the study presents a summary of its findings, makes recommendations, and suggests further study.
Thesis (Ph.D. (English and Classical Languages))--University of the Free State, 2006, Critical linguistics, Postmodernism, Chaos theory, Fairclough, Lyotard, Ideology, Discourse, Mainstream linguistics, Modernism, Language games, Pragmatics, Critical discourse analysis, Sociolinguistics, Knowledge, Theory of