A Critical Discourse Analysis Of Editorial Cartoons, Selected From The Guardian Newspaper

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

A Critical Discourse Analysis Of Editorial Cartoons, Selected From The Guardian Newspaper


The Critical Discourse Analysis of selected editorial cartoons aims at revealing the intended meaning hidden in the discourse used in editorial cartoons, to his readers and explains the theory and tools used in extracting out this meaning and its social relevance.

The tools; text analysis; interpretation and social analysis have been able to reveal the inbalance in the use of language among the highly placed over the lowly placed, thus the use of language reflects power dominance, injustice and inequality.

Chapter One

1.1 Introduction

Language is the only endowment from God to humans, which makes us totally different from other creatures. Though, these other creatures have a language, yet they do not communicate intentionally, habitually and sensitively as humans do. Language is basically vocal, its use brought the need to converse and communicate. So then, the use of language in communication is called Discourse.

Discourse enables one to see utterances beyond their sentence, level, beyond what Brown (189) calls “sentence – level phenomena”. It is also a piece of information exchange between two or more people, the study of conversation and not the formal properties, although it could be in written or spoken context. Texts either oral or written media, events like advertisements, commentaries, news items, editorial and cartoons are all forms of discourse.

Over the years, this discipline has been described by scholars like Brown and Yule, still there is a reason to look intently to how discourse operates, this brought about the “analysis of language in use” which is called Discourse Analysis. Since the only permanent thing in life is changes, there came a reason to critically analyse language use, as used in our society.

Critical discourse analysis, analyses the use of language in areas of power abuse, power and dominance, discourse structures and strategies, injustice, inequality, social cognition and communication in leadership while cartoons, especially in newspapers are very important, though most readers of newspapers see them only as a piece for entertainments ,which rather, is basically for information, education and entertainment

This research work aims at examining the words that constitutes this discourse and the intended meaning in which they portray, through so far, there has been some findings and researches on the critical discourse analysis of cartoons mostly editorial / political cartoons. It intends to correct the imbalance use of language in the society between the privileged over the unprivileged, the influential and powerful over the lowly.

1.2 Purpose of the Study.

As a result of the notion people have on cartoons, this work aims at enlighten them and proving to them, that cartoons goes beyond entertaining, educating and informing, but also that the use of discourse, intentionally by the cartoonist, has some things or carry issues it portrays. Critical discourse analysts, have over the years examined why language in use varies between the educated over the uneducated, rich over the poor, the highly placed over the lowly or averagely placed.

This research work aims at bringing out these lapses and finding a way it can be tackled. The chapter three of this research work would bring this out fully and identify the lapses.

1.3 Justification

The essence of language in communication is to pass across a message and be decoded correctly by the listener, but it will be a sin to nature when the use of language is used to exploit, overpower, abuse and override each other. This research work has come to widen the horizon of people to the vices involved in the use of language, especially in editorial cartoons, so as to change the readers orientation towards what they count only as entertainments.

Some political cartoons have been chosen, to give this research work a good critical analysis of the discourse in use and possibly bring out a hypothesis to help in bridging the gap, the misuse of discourse has caused.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The cartoons to be used have been extracted from the “the Guardian” newspaper. Specifically the works of D.D. ONU and OBEESS of the same newspaper. “The Guardian”. This particular newspaper has been chosen, since it is regarded as one of the best newspapers in Nigeria, whose conscience is transparent in terms of speaking the truth and possesses the best cartoons in the country in meaning and potency. The cartoons are widely read, since the newspaper is as well, a first class.

Twenty one cartoons will be examined for this research work. These editorial cartoons are chosen mostly because of their relevance to this research topic which is a critical discourse analysis of a selected Nigerian newspaper. The span is within a period of four weeks,from January 2, 2011 to January 26, 2011.

1.5 Research Methodology

The term critical discourse analysis would be studied intensively, its analysis, tools and benefits to the society. Also, editorial cartoons would be examined, how the language is studied and how critical discourse analysis can be used to give a thorough analysis of these cartoons in order to extract the intended meaning and the social relevance of the cartoons.

1.6 Data Description

The data chosen for this study is twenty one political cartoons from the Guardian newspaper.

Chapter Four

4.0 Introduction

This chapter which is the last in this study gives a summary of what we have alone in chapters one to four. The findings are presented and it ends with the conclusion is this study. Summary So far this research work has been able to explain that language use brought the need to converse and communicate also that humorous pieces are designed mostly to evoke laughter Editorial cartoons know as political cartoons are used to satirize the society and bring back sanctity to every house in the society. Meanwhile, critical Discourse Analysis studies the way social power abuse, dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted by text and talk in the society. Our main tool for CDA, was discussed explicitly, the tools and the metafunction. They are:

  1. The text analysis
  2. Interpretation
  3. Social analysis Chapter three presented and analysed the data by bringing out such elements as,
  4. The mood structure
  5. The theme
  6. The transitivity.

In chapter three, this research work was able to analyse the given data which is the editorial cartoons using the above mentioned tools. Lastly the chapter four, gives the summary of the last three chapters and most importantly the findings and conclusions. FINDINGS This research work has discovered that when we take a close look at statements and questions and at various responses, to which these naturally give rise, we find that in Englishthey are typically expressed by means of a particular kind of grammatical variation which extends over a clause. So then, mood carries the burden of the clause. In declarative sentence, we discovered that marked declarative themes,are marked, because they carry a serious message. When the words or sentences are unusual and stands out in the context they appear. Unmarked themes are the usual sentence structure of SPCA.

Basically declarative mood gives information. In an interrogative mood structure we discovered that the basic purpose, is to ask a question, the speaker wants to be told something. Also that in a yes (no interrogative, the finite verbal operator functions as the element that embodies the expression of polarity either negatively or positively. E.g. is, isn’t, do, don’t, can, can’t. While WH- interrogative, search for missing piece of information and expressing the missing nature of who, what and how. Also it carries mostly unmarked themes and marked in rare cases, when the circumstances, proceeds the infinite or the WH- word as the first element in the clause, then ending it with a question. It was observed as well that imperative statement is the only type of clause in which the predictor (the verb) in exceptional cases, either used as a command, request or invitation reflects in the theme and when this happens, it is a marked theme, because the verb is in a thematic position. Furthermore , we discovered that a theme orients the clause in the whole message while under transitivity we observed that it, gives our research work a sense of reality because it consists of thing ‘going on’ e.g. goings on of

  1. Doing (material)
  2. Saying (verbal)
  3. Sensing (mental)
  4. Being (relational)
  5. Having ( behavioural)
  6. Things (existential process)

Text analysis has we got, has guard us into knowing the typesof statements we make, the theme which carries the message, the transitivity which reveals to us the speaker or decoder. Also how the use of power, influence and authority reflect the use of our everyday language. In interpretation we discover that it took intently at the way each discourse is issued and the meaning each word carries, so also the message it passes. We found also that social analysis explains how each discourse made affects the society at large, its implications and affects in the society.


In all, this research work has been able to conclude that Critical Discourse Analysis as a theory, reveals the hidden meaning embedded in discourse, made in communication and how it affects the society (positively or negatively)

The analysis of our data (editorial cartoons) has brought out the use of text analysis, interpretation and social analysis.

This research work hopes that more work would be done on Critical Discourse Analysis of other types of cartoons, to as well, bring out the intended meanings in the discourse used.

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