Linguistics ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-10-2019


Saudi Arabian women are often stereotyped, in Western media, not only as victims of the oppression of their male-dominant society but also as voiceless uneducated objects who are simply housewives. The aim of this paper is to challenge this representation of Saudi Arabian women by digging deeper into how these women are represented in the discourse of literature by an author from the United States. A mystery novel featuring Saudi Arabian women and their struggle inside Saudi Arabia has been chosen for Critical Discourse Analysis: Zoe Ferraris’ Finding Nouf (2009). The novel was chosen not only for its genre, location, year of publication, international recognition of a prestigious prize, and plot of finding a lost Saudi Arabian woman, but also for its author’s crucial ethnic and cultural backgrounds that are different from the women in Saudi Arabia. Finding Nouf is written by a U.S. female author who, being married to a Palestinian Saudi Arabian husband, had lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 9 months in 1990.

The analytical framework of this paper is informed by Van Dijk’s (1988) socio-cognitive approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, in particular the notion of ‘ideological square’ which argues for binary oppositions of in- versus out-group. In Van Dijk’s ideological square, members of a dominant society emphasize their positive actions and qualities (as in-group members) while emphasizing negative actions and qualities of others (as out-group). This polarization is manifested in their choice of lexicon and grammar. This paper analyzes how this polarization is achieved by looking, particularly, at descriptions of Saudi Arabian women and their use of the veil. This paper attempts to bridge the gap between stereotype and reality.




Saudi Arabian Women, Critical Discourse Analysis, Linguistics, Feminism, Van Dijk, Idological Square

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Linguistics

First Committee Member (Chair)

Holly Jacobson

Second Committee Member

Barbara Shaffer

Third Committee Member

Ruth Trinidad

Fourth Committee Member

Andrea Mays

Included in

Linguistics Commons