Systemic functional linguistics

Authored by: Meriel Bloor , Thomas Bloor

The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138826403
eBook ISBN: 9781315739342
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter is concerned with the application of Systemic Functional Linguistics (henceforth SFL) to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). For those readers who are not familiar with SFL, it is important to realise that it developed as a branch of linguistics with specific theoretical principles and the aim of increasing our understanding of how human language works. Since this task involves describing and explaining language in use, SFL linguists have devised a complex set of analytic tools and techniques that have proved useful in applied studies such as education, communication studies and forensic linguistics as well as CDA. SFL then is not a type of critical discourse studies but rather an independent discipline with features that CDA practitioners have applied productively to understanding how discourse works. In this chapter we look at a few of the ways in which SFL has been applied with benefit to the critical analysis of language in use in social contexts, and we also consider some of its limitations.

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