Teun A. van Dijk teun at
Sun Mar 10 16:32:17 UTC 1996


Teun A. van Dijk
Version 1.0. March 10, 1996
- -------------------------------------------------


After my recent return from another visit to Venezuela and Colombia,
it may be useful to briefly inform the subscribers of CRITICS-L about
discourse analysis in Latin America. Some CRITICS-L subscribers from
Latin America (such as, most prominently, Beatriz Lavandera and Laura
Pardo (Buenos Aires), and Teresa Carbo (Mexico)) have already
informed us about their own research. These notes will therefore have
a more general character, to be detailed later, especially by
researchers from the region, in particular for critical discourse
studies. Additions and corrections by all CRITICS-L subscribers are
therefore welcome.

Later we hope to be able to post similar Brief Reports about discourse
analysis in East and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa as well
as South-Saharan Africa, all regions that are often neglected or
under-represented in books and journals (also on CDA) in the "North".

General issues

Discourse Studies (DS) in Latin America has been a prominent
sub-discipline of, e.g., linguistics, literary studies and
communication studies during the last decades. Perhaps more than in
Europe and the United States, courses in discourse analysis are a normal
part of both the undergraduate and graduate curricula. There are
several Spanish language introductions to DS, and several books on DS
in English and French have been translated and are widely used.

Both in Brazil and in the Spanish-speaking countries, there has
generally been a competitive interest in both French-based as well as
Anglo-based approaches, although earlier orientation to Paris (and
structural analysis, semiotics, etc.) is now yielding, especially
also among the younger generation of students, to British and
especially U.S. approaches. Several Latin American discourse analysts
have degrees from U.S. and European universities. However, especially
among undergraduate students, active reading competence of English
(and/or French) is (still) limited, so that knowledge of DS in the
USA and Europe is largely dependent on translations or on
introductions by teachers. Also, unfortunately, writing books and
articles in English (or French) by Latin American scholars in DS is
still the exception rather than the rule, so that knowledge about
Latin American DS outside the region is still very sketchy (also
because, equally unfortunately, few discourse analysts outside Latin
America and Spain read Spanish).

The scope of Latin American DS is as broad as it is internationally:
Virtually all subdisciplines of DS are being practiced. Except from
Brazil, conversation analysis is so far not very popular, probably
also because detailed CA in English so much depends on subtle
properties of talk in English that are difficult to translate into
Spanish. Besides traditional text grammar, narrative analysis,
semiotic discourse studies, there is especially much interest in the
discourse dimension of more 'applied' areas, such as classroom
interaction, translation, literacy, reading and writing, and language
acquisition generally, as well as on media discourse. Political
discourse analysis has a long tradition in Latin America, at least
since the critical reading of Donald Duck ("Para leer el Pato
Donald") by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart in the early 1970s.
The recent events in Chiapas (Mexico) have rekindled some of this
earlier interest in political discourse, an interest that had waned
(or became marginalized and repressed) also due to the broad-scale
political repression in several Latin American countries during the
1970s and 1980s.

It is impossible to indicate in this short message who is working on
what and where in Latin America. In Brazil alone a recent inquiry by
Luiz Antonio Marcuschi (Universidade do Pernambuco, Recife) was
answered by hundreds of scholars from dozens of universities in this
huge country. Also Mexico and Argentina have many dozens, if not
hundreds, of scholars working in several fields of discourse studies.

Regional cooperation: ALED, BELIAR and other activities

The broad and lively interest in DS in Latin America also shows in
the creation, during a DS-congress in Caracas in February 1995, of
the first international organization of discourse studies, ALED
(Asociacion Latino-Americana de Estudios del Discurso), presided by
Profesor Adriana Bolivar of the Universidad Central de Venezuela,
with a board of representatives from several Latin-American
countries. Despite a brief preparation period, and the usual travel
restrictions of (generally low-paid) discourse scholars in Latin
America, the Caracas meeting was attended by hundreds of discourse
analysts, especially from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and
Colombia, as well as by some representatives from Chile and Puerto
Rico. Most Central American countries (Guatemala, Costa Rica,
Nicaragua, Salvador, Panama), most Andean countries (Ecuador, Peru,
Bolivia), as well as Paraguay and Uruguay, were not (yet) represented
at this first Latin-American congress.

The main aim of ALED is to promote Latin American studies of
discourse, to stimulate international cooperation, the creation of
data and documentation centers, and in general to enhance the
hitherto largely missing contacts among DS scholars in Latin America
who, so far, were mainly oriented towards Europe and the USA rather
than upon each other -- a well-known consequence of North-South
cultural domination. It may be expected that ALED will soon publish
(at least electronically) a list of its members. Its next meeting
will probably be held in Argentina in early 1997.

In preparation for this first discourse congress of Latin America, as
well as in its wake, national organizations and networks have been
and are being set up, especially in the larger countries with many
discourse analysts, such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. In February
1996 a first official national organization of discourse scholars was
founded in Cali (Colombia) during a conference of more than 100
participants. This organization, presided by Maria Cristina Martinez
(Universidad del Valle, Cali), is probably also the first national
organization of discourse analysts in the world (if we disregard the
Society for Text and Discourse in the USA).

Since last year the Argentinian linguistics newsletter BELIAR also
has an electronic list, organized by the indefatigable Laura Pardo
(CIAFIC, Buenos Aires -- see her earlier postings on the CRITICS-L
list). CRITICS-L subscribers who want to post messages to colleagues
in Latin America through the BELIAR list are invited to contact her
at the following address: postmast at Since many
Latin American scholars have e-mail, international contacts and
cooperation, both within and outside the region, have become much easier.

Critical Discourse Analysis

Also in Latin America, CDA is enjoying increasing interest. As usual,
local translations and publication of CDA articles and books will be
necessary to propagate further work in this area: Without texts in
Spanish, scholars in the region remain restricted in their teaching
of CDA, especially to their undergraduate students. Also, until
recently, the political situation in most Latin American countries
was not exactly such that critical discourse studies could be
undertaken without severe restraints (if not --sometimes lethal-- sanctions).

Again, this brief note does not pretend to be anywhere near complete
in its assessment of the situation of (critical) discourse studies in
Latin America. However, a few names of prominent scholars as well as
topics may be mentioned as a first indication of CDA-oriented
research, especially in the larger countries Mexico, Brazil and

[Unfortunately, all relevant accents on names are missing in this
e-mail message: another result of U.S. cultural --linguistic--
imperialism (or rather, provincialism) as codified in the --U.S.
based-- 7-bit ascii table of symbols]

In MEXICO Teresa Carbo (CIETSAS) has been writing on parliamentary debates
on Native Americans (the various indigena communities) in Mexico since
many years, on political discourse, as well as on other critical topics
(see her own posting on this list for details). Teresa Sierra (also at
CIETSAS) studied political decision making discourse in one such indigena
community (the Hnahnus [four relevant accents missing here in this ascii
version!!!] of the Valle del Mezquital). Rainer Enrique Hamel (UAM) has
since many years focussed on sociolinguistic conflicts in Mexico and
elsewhere in Latin America. Julieta Haidar (ENAH) has also worked on the
relations between discourse and power, and --among other things-- studied
union discourse. A group organized by Fernando Castanos (UNAM) is
preparing a study on the discourses on 'Chiapas.' Adrian Gimate-Welsch
(UAM) recently published a book on the discourse of the governing PRI

In VENEZUELA it is especially ALED president Adriana Bolivar (UCV,
Caracas) who has stimulated (critical and other) discourse studies,
e.g., through her own work on newspaper editorials, and on political
dialogue in Venezuela.

Despite its large discourse analytical community, critical and
political studies in BRAZIL have so far been scarce. Much earlier
work is explicitly oriented by French research, whereas more recent
approaches are largely influenced by various directions in
conversation analysis, interactional sociolinguistics and pragmatics
(see, e.g., the work by Ingedore Villaca-Koch, Luiz Antonio Marcuschi
and Branca Telles, among others). Eni Orlandi (Campinas) published on
several topics in critical discourse analysis, including on earlier
religious discourse on Brazilian 'Indios'. It is especially Carmen
Rosa Caldas-Coulthard (Florianopolis) who has more recently
stimulated CDA with several studies, e.g., on discourse and gender,
ideology and media discourse, partly in collaboration with Malcolm
Coulthard (Birmingham). Maria Christina Diniz Leal (Brasilia) also
works in a CDA framework in her studies of subjectivity, silence and
voice in discourse as well as in her work on critical language
awareness (see also the work by Izabel Magalhaes of the same
university). Maura Penna (Joao Pessoa) works on media and political
discourse. Ingo Voese (Maceio) studies the relationships between
ideology, power and discourse.

Much critical research on discourse in ARGENTINA was inspired and
influenced by the sociolinguistic studies of Beatriz Lavandera
(Ciafic, Buenos Aires), who --among other things-- directed a group
of scholars working on political discourse (Laura Pardo, Maria Marta
Garcia Negroni, Salvio Marin Menendez, Alejandro Raiter, Monica Zoppi
Fontana). Eliseo Veron (partly also working in Paris) is known for
much work in discourse analysis, among which a study (in French) on
the discourses related to the nuclear catastrophe at Three Miles
Island, as well as a book (with Silvia Sigal) on Peronist discourse.
Beatriz Lavandera continues her critical work with a new project on
(the discourse of) discrimination, especially in the media, and in
relation to U.S. discourse on affirmative action. Laura Pardo
(Ciafic, Buenos Aires) began her work on political discourse in the
group just mentioned, and studied presidential discourse, and the
discourse of the Armed Forces, and the Church, e.g., also in relation
to Missing People (desaparecidos) in Argentina during the period of
the 'Dirty War' and military rule. More recently she has focussed on
various types of legal discourse. A new book of her studies forms of
fiction in legal and media discourse (for details, see her earlier
postings on this list).

also in the mentioned countries, as well as in other countries of
Latin America, are engaged in the study of CDA-topics. So far we lack
sufficient data to briefly review this work here, but we hope to do
so in a new update of these notes. Also, a later version will (I
hope) be featuring a BIBLIOGRAPHY of CDA work in Latin America, to be
established in cooperation with the ALED (and national) documentation

- ----------------------------

Please send comments and additions (preferably by e-mail) to:

Teun A. van Dijk
University of Amsterdam
Program of Discourse Studies
210 Spuistraat
1012 VT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Phone: +31-20-525.3834 (office direct, 10-12 hrs)
Phone: +31-20-525.3865 (dept. secretary)
Phone: +31-20- (home --after 13 hrs)
FAX :  +31-20-639.1727
E-mail: teun at

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