‘People’, ‘Products’, ‘Pests’ and ‘Pets’: The Discursive Representation of Animals


This collaboration by researchers and PhD students at King’s College London and Lancaster University is funded by the Leverhulme Trust from 2013 – 2016. It is exploring the different ways in which people talk and write about animals.

Our research examines how language choices realise specific stances towards animals. Findings will be relevant to both natural and social scientists, and will inform public debates about the ways animals feature in human experience: as companions, commodities, and quarry in hunting; in domains such as medical experiments, food production and food consumption.

We intend that our findings will:

  • deepen theoretical understanding of the relation between the linguistic system of English, choices made within it, and representations of animals
  • illuminate the degree to which established ways of talking and writing are attuned to describing the rapidly changing environment in which humans and animals co-exist
  • provide evidence about whether current ways of speaking and writing contribute to, or detract from, positive action in sustaining that co-existence.

Data and method

Our corpus-assisted discourse analytic methodology aims to create an overview of the many ways in which animals feature in human practices, and how the views of those communicating professionally about animals relate to the language they use and its effects.

We are correlating corpus linguistic analysis with qualitative analysis of the three kinds of data under investigation, from texts about animals, text producers and text receivers. Thus the corpus comprises discourse (both writing and transcribed speech) in which animals feature – drawn from sources such as newspapers, wildlife broadcasts, campaigning literature, food product labels, etc. Transcriptions of interviews with text producers (e.g. wildlife broadcasters, campaigners for animal rights and welfare, people who carry out laboratory experiments on animals) and focus groups of text receivers (in whose lives animals feature in a range of different ways) are also included as sub-corpora.


Principal Investigator: Professor Guy Cook, King’s College London

Co-Investigator:  Professor Alison Sealey, Lancaster University

Research Associates: Dr. Clyde Ancarno, King’s College London; Dr. Chris Pak, Lancaster University

PhD students: Anda Drasovean, King’s College London; Emma McClaughlin, Lancaster University

For more information, see our website: https://animaldiscourse.wordpress.com/