The publication of a collective work on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) by colleagues from the University of Bouaké, a daughter to the Mother Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan stands out as an event of critical importance so significant is the symbolic load embodied in such a deed. This is evidence of an undisputed “linguistic maturity” in linguistic studies in Bouaké, to take the words of J-C Delmas who once referred to the rich “linguistic history” of a bright young linguistic researcher in the Sorbonne, in Paris.
Why should the publication of a book on CDA be celebrated so heartfully? To make sense of the event, suffices it to locate this scientific achievement in the general evolution of linguistic research and teaching in our academic context, and more specifically at the Departments of (foreign) languages. It can be readily seen that the linguistic thought has steadily moved from the study of form structures (phonology, morphology and syntax) toward those linguistic trends which appear to concentrate on the meaning production process whereby the “speaker-utterer” is seen to mastermind enunciation operations.
As linguistic researchers and teachers from the Universities aforementioned, our initiation to linguistics was marked with our being nursed with the nourishing sap of syntagmatic grammars (structural linguistics and transformational and generative grammar). This was the time when we praised ourselves on drawing successfully, though doggedly, the phrase-markers to represent cold sentence structures that were either carefully selected or skilfully calibrated by the linguistic teacher so that they fit in perfectly the transformational and generative working hypotheses. Thereafter, we were made to adhere to linguistic models which are construed by the famous speaker-utterer.
From an epistemological point of view the move from structural considerations to Discourse Analysis concerns is indicative of a prodigious leap. This paradigmatic shift is a critical turning point in linguistic research because it corresponds to two different gradual quests: while with de Saussure the concern was to determine which social phenomenon language is, and next, with Chomsky the concern is “to understand the nature of language” also work out the underlying cognitive operations that would help language specialists determine, though deductively “what a speaker really knows when s/he claims s/he knows a language”.
With E. Benveniste, A. Culioli, H. Adamczewski and C. Kerbrat-Orecchioni to a lesser extent, the evolution of linguistic thoughts opens up a new epistemological era with concerns unheard of so far: “How do the speakers-utterers encode themselves in the structures they produce and which linguistic landmarks are indicative of speakers’ intrusion into their view of embezzling meaning just to serve their rhetorical goals?”
In its evolutionary process, linguistic research has also ventured into seemingly far-distanced considerations when questioning now turns to socioeconomic, say development concerns and this, in connection with language. The burning questions run: “how do some human communities exploit their language to raise their development standards?” And correlatively “what have other human communities failed to do of their language and so run the risk of remaining chronically underdeveloped”? Soon afterwards, sociolinguistics was to expand its concerns to the daily and idiosyncratic use of language with W. Labov as the leading figure entered the linguistic arena with completely novel preoccupations which were eventually worded in the form of axiomatic statements: “show me what your speaking style is and I will tell you for sure who you are, and I will also tell you what your position is on the social ladder”.
It is through this further paradigmatic change in the evolutionary process of linguistic research and via Pragmatic theory that sociolinguistics has encountered CDA and the epistemological encounter acknowledges some frictions.
CDA blames variationist sociolinguistics for separating quite artificially in their estimate language and society. Has not sociolinguistics praised itself on being holistic by directing heavily the linguistic investigation on the relationship between language and society? In reaction advocates of CDA uncompromisingly point out the epistemological absurdity of separating things that are bound by nature. They bluntly sociolinguists “how can language and society stand as dichotomous realities?” In their view, those entities are so tightly intermingled and are almost merged that it does not make sense to envisage a language floating in the open and outside any social container, and, correlatively, it is hard to envision a human society devoid of a natural language. It follows that all the academic disciplines that gambol around language must acknowledge and admit the centrality and unifying status of language as an object of scientific research: the present collective work stands out as a perfect illustration of that.
This issue of Critical Discourse Analysis into Practice by Zorobi Philippe TOH and Koffi Eugene N’GUESSAN is of an undisputed interest for both language researchers and postgrads students, and for linguists and literary researchers as well. The book faithfully echoes the thematic content of recent doctoral research works at Félix Houphouët-Boigny University of Cocody (Abidjan) and Alassane Ouattara University in Bouaké. Indeed, the latest doctoral theses focus on linguistic variation issues and they stand in literary productions in which the speech of fictitious characters is exploited as the working corpus. Progressively though, we are also witnessing a slight paradigmatic shift with regards the analysis of genuine political speeches: the upcoming doctoral theses as well as the language researchers’ scientific interest are inching close to the analysis of the speeches of genuine political figures, sometimes even in office. I have not mentioned anyone, not even President Trump!
It can be seen that in less than half a century the linguistic thought has liberated herself from formalist shackles to turn to the analysis of verbal behavior of prominent political actors. The latter are seen to plot threateningly the domination of fellow citizens; they do not take pain to use firearms; they simply take advantage of the tremendous power inherent to language and this is precisely where linguistics and literature meet.
Ultimately, this work which timely relevance is obvious for everyone is contributing to the disciplinary decompartmentalization between linguistics and literature. Indeed, the initiators of this collective work, Zorobi Philippe TOH and Koffi Eugene N’GUESSAN originate from different disciplinary horizons: the former is a pure product of the orthodoxy of Adamczewski’s meta-operational theory in linguistics while the latter, Koffi Eugene N’GUESSAN, is a seasoned literary. The convergence of these daughter disciplines is given a concrete contour through the compilation of top-quality papers both in linguistics and literature. The scope of CDA as a theoretical approach even extends to didactics and pedagogy where it is efficiently instrumentalized to serve language teaching purposes, namely, the evaluation of textbooks of English. Thus, we dare state bluntly that, being fueled with CDA, disciplinary decompartmentalization is well on track in our academic environment.