Critical Studies of Chinese Discourse

Hailong Tian (Principal investigator)

Funded by China’s National Social Sciences Grant (03BYY024), completed in Sep. 2008 with grade B

In an age of globalization, China is experiencing social changes —- while it is developing, it is glocalizing and recontextualizing. As a result, new social entities have kept emerging and new discourses that constitute and represent these changes also keep emerging. For example, new ways of managing in institutional organizations such as higher education, new social entities of lay-off women workers and other marginalized groups, have become household matters among people in China. Where the entities remain the same (e.g. the peasant workers), there is a change in terms of perceptions. All these social changes are discourse-mediated —- they are represented in discourses and to a great extent constituted by changes in discourses.

Discourse is conceptualized in this research as “semiotic elements of social practices” (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999:38). In this sense, discourses are ways of representing aspects of the world and ways of participating in the social practice. To conceptualize discourse in this way suggests a dialectic between discourse and society —- discourse is socially shaped and at the same time socially shaping. Thus, discourse is not merely language; instead, “it is about language and practice” (Hall 2001:72). It is the rules and conventions of using language in social context and at the same time the very use of language that embodies the rules and conventions of using language.

By adopting a critical perspective, the research highlights a kind of inquiry to the dialectics of discourse and society.

“Being critical” does not mean “finding fault” in its commonsense meaning, nor is merely meant the political commitment in the practice of critical discourse analysis. Rather, the critical study of Chinese discourse aims to understand the functions of discourse that are salient in the social change in contemporary China.

Starting from these standpoints, this research investigates the dialectics of discourse and society in general, and of Chinese discourse and the contemporary Chinese society in particular. Specifically, it investigates:

  1. 1.•The discursive construction of new social entities

  2. 2.Discourse and new ways of management

  3. 3.•Discourse as representation of social practice

  4. 4.•Ideologies and power relations in discursive practice

  5. 5.•Structures and strategies in discursive practice

  6. 6.•Categorization of discourse and discourse studies

  7. 7.•Perspectivization of discourse and discourse studies

  8. 8.•Methods of Chinese discourse studies

Part of achievements

I. Monograph: Discourse Studies: Category, Perspective and Methodology
II. Articles
1. The critical perspective of nexus analysis
2. Critical perspective of discourse studies: from critical linguistics to critical discourse analysis
3. SARS case reports and anti SARS social practice
4. The asymmetry of power relations: pragmatic and sociological studies
5. Multimodal discourse as social practice
6. Critical perspective of discourse studies
7. Language choice and postmodernity
8. SARS Discourse as Anti-SARS Ideology
9. SARS Case Report as Genre: How It Figures in Anti-SARS Social Practice

 further reading:

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