A Critical Discourse Study of a German Children’s Book Series: Representation of Social Actors and Construction of Legitimation

Ray C. H. Leung


Among practitioners of critical discourse studies (CDS), German storybooks for children are relatively unexplored in comparison with storybooks targeted at the Anglophone communities. In this study, I investigated a German children’s book series called Siggi Blitz. Containing a total of 23 639 words, this series comprises twelve storybooks which were released between 2013 and 2014. Focus was given to the discursive representation of characters and the legitimation strategies used to convey ideologies. Specifically, I would like to explore how female and male characters are represented. To this end, two analytic frameworks from van Leeuwen (1996, 2007, 2008)—the Social Actor Theory and the discursive construction of legitimation—were employed. The findings indicate that gender stereotyping is pervasive in the storybooks. For instance, on the dimension of “categorization,” female characters tend to be represented by reference to their physical appearance (viz., “physical identification”) while male characters are regularly associated with their occupations (viz., “functionalization”). Analysis of the legitimation strategies used demonstrates that “rationalization” is the most frequent form of legitimation. “Rationalization” has two functions in the storybooks: (i) to justify acceptable and/or unacceptable behaviors; (ii) to mark the utility of common artifacts. Furthermore, it was found that “role model authority” is exclusively applied to male characters, echoing the findings regarding gender stereotyping in the earlier part of the study. Given the “socializing” nature of storybooks for children, the present study reveals that awareness in relation to the representation of gender has to be increased among story contributors.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v8i5.10057

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