Corpus Linguistics and CDA: Revisiting the notion of synergy

Costas Gabrielatos, Alison Duguid

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    1209 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper addresses central issues relating to the use of corpus approaches in critical discourse studies. More specifically, the paper will: a. highlight aspects of the nature of corpus linguistics (CL) and critical discourse analysis (CDA) that are salient for their combination; b. dispel myths regarding particular perceived shortcomings of CL; c. pinpoint unacknowledged shortcomings of, and pitfalls in using, CL; d. propose ways forward in the use of CL approaches in CDA. The conception of the “synergy” between the two (Baker et al., 2008) as simply using CL techniques to do CDA underestimates the complexity of the interaction. Also, as things stand, this synergy is almost always absent: the tendency is either for critical discourse analysts to supplement their studies with limited CL analyses, or by corpus linguists to use CL concepts and techniques to carry out studies with a CDA-compatible focus. As both CL and CDA are relatively new approaches, there is clearly room for development of concepts, constructs and techniques – which is a more constructive way of saying that, in both, there is still vagueness and misunderstanding regarding the above. Simply put, both can be said to have ‘identity issues’. In this light, some interconnected popular misconceptions regarding CL will be addressed, particularly as they tend to be used by CDA researchers as a critique of CL and, consequently, as a set of reasons to either avoid using CL techniques, or to treat CL as subservient, or marginally useful, to CDA. The paper will argue that a more constructive approach to the use of CL in CDA is to focus not on what (some) corpus linguists (have tended to) do, but on what CL approaches can do for CDA. However, the paper will also argue that CL practice is not free from pitfalls and shortcomings, particularly as regards commonly used techniques, such as keyness and collocation analyses, – and that these pitfalls and shortcomings affect not only CDA researches using CL techniques, but also CL researchers doing CDA. This entails that the use of CL techniques does not automatically result in greater objectivity or reliability. What will be suggested is that the way forward in the synergy between CL and CDA is threefold. Researchers need to develop better awareness of relevant concepts and techniques in the two approaches. The misleading polar distinctions between objective and subjective analysis, and qualitative and quantitative approaches, must be rejected. Above all, what is needed is closer collaboration between CDA and CL researchers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventCorpus Linguistics in the South - Oxford Brooks University, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Duration: 19 Apr 2015 → …


    ConferenceCorpus Linguistics in the South
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Period19/04/15 → …


    • corpus linguistics
    • corpus approaches
    • corpus techniques
    • critical discourse analysis
    • critical discourse studies


    Dive into the research topics of 'Corpus Linguistics and CDA: Revisiting the notion of synergy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this