Ideology And Media Discourse In Van Dijk’s Studies

The Dutch social scientist Teun A. Van Dijk is one of the renowned names in the fields of text linguistics, discourse analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Currently he works as a professor of Critical Discourse Analysis at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain. This article is an attempt to draw a general framework of how Van Djik defines ideology and how he approaches  media discourse and critical discourse studies.

Ideology has been one of the most-contested issues in academic and political debate. The origins of the term are nevertheless clear. The word “ideology” was coined during the French Revolution by Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754 – 1836), and was first used in public in 1796. For de Tracy, idéologie referred to a new ‘science of ideas’, literally an idea-ology. The term ideology can be defined in a number of ways. First of all, ideology is a sociological phenomenon. It reveals motives for one’s life and also for endangering one’s life.

An ideology can be seen as a code camouflaged in a discourse if discourse is taken as a “message” and it can be said that language is a medium in which discourse and ideology are conveyed. According to Van Dijk discourse plays a major role in the expression and reproduction of ideologies. Van Dijk (1995) perceives discourse analysis as some sort of ideology analysis, because according to him, ideologies are typically expressed and reproduced in (media and sometimes elite) discourse. According toFowler (1991) newspapers are not neutral in covering diverse events based on the viewpoints followed by them. The newspapers depict different events and phenomena based on political and social perspectives. Van Dijk agrees with that point in many of his studies.

Van Dijk’s Socio-Cognitive Model for Critical Discourse Analysis

Van Dijk is among important scholars in Critical Discourse Studies besides Ruth Wodak and Norman Fairclough. In the 1980s, Van Dijk started to apply his discourse analysis theory to media texts mainly focusing on the representation of ethnic groups and minorities in European context. In his book News Analysis (first published in 1988), he integrates his general theory of discourse to the discourse of news in the press. According to Van Dijk, the important element is what is not said in news texts, rather than what is said and the hidden ideological structures in news texts must be uncovered. Based on this view, Van Dijk established a critical discourse study approach known as Socio-Cognitive Approach. Dijk formulated four principles which enables subtle ideological analysis to express ideological stances. The four principles are as the following:

 • Emphasizing positive things about Us

• Emphasizing negative things about Them

• De-emphasizing negative things about Us

• De-emphasizing  positive things about Them

According to Van Dijk (2000) ideologies may determine all structures of text or talk and they may be expressed explicitly or implicitly in the structure of discourse. Van Dijk distinguishes the critical discourse analysis into two different structures. These are the macro and micro-structures. The headlines are part of the macro-structure and the choice of words is one of the micro-structure elements.

Central to Dijk’s analysis of media discourse is the analysis of macrostructure since it pertains to the thematic/topic structure of the news stories Van Dijk (1988) notes that the headlines define the overall coherence or semantic unity of discourse. In his socio-cognitive model, Van Dijk (2004) proposes categories of ideological analysis conducive to the representation of Us versus Them which some of them are as follows:

  • Authority: mentioning authorities in order to support one’s argument.
  • Categorization: classifying people to different groups and attributing them positive or negative characteristics.
  • Polarization: categorizing people in in-groups and out-groups and assigning good attributes to the ingroup and bad attributes to the outgroup.
  • Vagueness: using vague expressions which do not have definite referents.

Van Dijk has contributed to the disciplines of political science, sociology, discourse studies, media studies and linguistics for more than four decades and he still continues to publish invaluable researches in these fields.

For a study using Dijk’s model, you can read this article covering the media representation of Coronavirus.

Dr.Begum Burak
Dr.Begum Burak
Dr. Begüm Burak is an independent researcher. In 2015, Ms. Burak got her PhD degree. During her occupation as a teaching assistant, she got engaged in short-term academic activities in Italy, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Spain. In 2018, she became one of the founding members of For her twitter visit: @begumburak1984