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The Discursive Construction of National Identity

Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl, Karin Liebhart

Edition: 2

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How do we construct national identities in discourse? Which topics, which discursive strategies and which linguistic devices are employed to construct national sameness and uniqueness on the one hand, and differences to other national collectives on the other hand? The Discursive Construction of National Identity analyses discourses of national identity in Europe with particular attention to Austria.

In the tradition of critical discourse analysis, the authors analyse current and on-going transformations in the self-and other definition of national identities using an innovative interdisciplinary approach which combines discourse-historical theory and methodology and political science perspectives. Thus, the rhetorical promotion of national identification and the discursive construction and reproduction of national difference on public, semi-public and semi-private levels within a nation state are analysed in much detail and illustrated with a huge amount of examples taken from many genres (speeches, focus-groups, interviews, media, and so forth).

In addition to the critical discourse analysis of multiple genres accompanying various commemorative and celebratory events in 1995, this extended and revised edition is able to draw comparisons with similar events in 2005. The impact of socio-political changes in Austria and in the European Union is also made transparent in the attempts of constructing hegemonic national identities.

Key Features

  • Discourse-historical approach
  • Interdisciplinarity (cultural studies, discourse analysis, history, political science)
  • Multi-method, multi-genre
  • Qualitative case studies

About the Author

Ruth Wodak is Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies at Lancaster University.

Rudolf de Cillia is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Vienna.

Martin Reisigl is a Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, University of Vienna, and an Austrian Programme for Advanced Research and Technology (APART) Research Fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Karin Liebhart is a Researcher in the Department of Political Sciences, University of Vienna.


Without exaggeration, the re-edition of the book is crucial. As a founding editor of four international journals (such as Discourse & Society) and as thesis director, I often have to recommend students to read up on discourse and national identity, and there are virtually no books on the topic. This book has become the standard reference, and I was very glad it was translated into English.
- Teun A. van Dijk, Visiting Professor, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona
There is a clear case for a second edition of this book because there have been significant developments in the last decade which the new edition will address.
- Norman Fairclough, Emeritus Professor, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster
The revisions to the volume will be of value both to those who are familiar with the original work, and to those who encounter it for the first time. Changes in the European Union in the years since the initial volume was published mean that this second edition is very timely and topical. The authors are highly experienced, with extensive publishing records. The revised volume will be an important text for students taking postgraduate courses in Discourse Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis, and Nationalism Studies. The book will also be of considerable value to academics working in these and related fields.
- Adrian Blackledge, University of Birmingham
Ruth Wodak is one of the most important critical discourse analysts and her work has contributed significantly to our understanding of contemporary political discourse. The Discursive Construction of National Identity constitutes both an important analysis of the ways that national identity is formed through discourse and also is a major exemplar of Wodak's work. Experts will welcome a new edition of such a well regarded book.'
- Professor Michael Billig, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University
I have cited this work and consider it to be a foundational work in critical discourse and sociohistorical analysis. The book's main contribution is in its ground-breaking, richly textured methodology which can be applied to the ever changing circumstances of Austria, Europe, and indeed the entire world.
- Thomas Ricento, Professor and Chair, English as an Additional Language, University of Calgary
Many exceptional scholars have already praised this book, and rightly so. It is an excellent exploration of the means with which we construct identity through discourse, focusing in on the particular case study of Austria with outstanding attention to patterns in very detailed data. It is translated outstandingly by Angelika Hirsch, Richard Mitten and J.W. Unger, meaning that there is an effort to preserve those parts of the initial data which can inform our understanding of the linguistic issues while simultaneously maintaining thorough comprehensibility for non-German readers...I would certainly recommend this book as an excellent study on nation and identity, and a fascinating read on Austrian culture as well.
- Derek Irwin, LINGUIST list

The Discursive Construction of National Identity fills an important gap, not only contributing to our knowledge of identity issues in one country, but more importantly, helping us gain a deeper understanding of how we can go about investigating these complex questions.

- Ruth Breeze, University of Navarra, BAAL News