CASS affiliated papers to be given at the upcoming 5th International Language in the Media Conference

In two weeks, several scholars affiliated with the Centre will be heading south to attend the 5th International Language in the Media Conference, taking place this year at Queen Mary, University of London. We are particularly excited about the theme — “Redefining journalism: Participation, practice, change” — as well as the conference’s continued prioritization of papers on “language and class, dis/ability, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality and age; political discourse, commerce and global capitalism” (among other important themes). As a taster for those of you who will be joining us in London and an overview for those who are unfortunately unable to make it this year, abstracts of the CASS affiliated papers to be given at the conference are reproduced below.


“I hate that tranny look”: a corpus-based analysis of the representation of trans people in the national UK press

Paul Baker

In early 2013, two high-profile incidents involving press representation of trans people resulted in claims that the British press were transphobic. For example, Jane Fae wrote in The Independent, that ‘the trans community… is now a stand-in for various minorities… and a useful whipping girl for the national press… trans stories are only of interest when trans folk star as villains” (1/13/13). This paper examines Fae’s claims by using methods from corpus linguistics in order to identify the most frequent and salient representations of trans people in the national UK press. Corpus approaches use computational tools as an aid in human research, offering a good balance between quantitative and qualitative analyses, My analysis is based upon previous corpus-based research where I have examined the construction of gay people, refugees and asylum seekers and Muslims in similar contexts.

Using a 660,000 word corpus of news articles about trans people published in 2012, I employ concordancing techniques to examine collocates and discourse prosodies of terms like transgender, transsexual and tranny, in order to identify repetitive patterns of representation that occur across newspapers. I compare such patterns to sets of guidelines on language use by groups like The Beaumont Society, and discuss how certain representations can be enabled by the Press Complaints Commissions Code of Practice. While the analysis found that there are very different patterns of representation around the three labels under investigation, all of them showed a general preference for negative representations, with occasional glimpses of more positive journalism.


“I think we’d rather be called survivors”: A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of the semantic preferences of referential strategies in Hurricane Katrina news articles as indicators of ideology

Amanda Potts

In times of great crisis, people often rely upon the discourse of powerful institutions to help frame experiences and reinforce established ideologies (van Dijk 1985). Selection of referential strategies in such discourses can reveal much about our society; for instance, some words have the power to comfort addressees but further oppress the referents. Taking a corpus-based critical discourse analytical approach, in this paper I explore the discursive cues of underlying ideology (of both the publications and perhaps the assumed audience) with special attention on journalists’ referential and predicational strategies (Reisgl and Wodak 2000). Analysis is based on a custom-compiled 36.7-million-word corpus of American news print articles concerning Hurricane Katrina.

A variety of forms of reference have been identified in the corpus using part-of-speech tagged word lists. Collocates of each form of reference have been calculated and automatically assigned a semantic tag by the UCREL USAS tagger (Archer et al. 2002). Semantic categories represented by the highest proportion of collocates overall have been identified as the most salient indicators of ideology.

The semantic preferences of the referential strategies are found to be quite distinct. For instance, resident prefers the M: Movement semantic category, whereas collocates of evacuee tend to fall under N: Numbers. This may prime readers to interpret Gulf residents and evacuees as large, threatening, ‘invading’ masses (often in conjunction with negative water metaphors such as flood). The highest collocate semantic category for victim, displaced, and survivor is S: Social actions, states and processes, indicating that the [social] experiences of these referents—such as being helped or stranded, or linked to social identifies such as wife—are foregrounded rather than their numbers or movement.

Finally, the plummeting frequency of refugee following a unique debate in the media over the word’s meaning and even its semantic preference will also be discussed as an illustrative example of how unconscious language patterns can sometimes come to the fore in contested usage and influence the journalistic lexicon. Following from this, a more considered use of referential strategies is recommended, particularly in the media, where this could encourage heightened compassion for- and understanding of those gravely affected by catastrophic events.


Journalism through the Guardian’s goggles

Anna Marchi

‘Journalism is an intensely reflexive occupation, which constantly talks to and about itself’ (Aldridge and Evetts 2003: 560). Journalists create interpretative communities (Zelizer 2004) through the discourses they circulate about their profession, the meaning and role of journalism are constituted through daily performance (Matheson 2003) and can be studied by means of the self-reflexive traces in texts. That is, they can be detected and studied in a newspaper corpus.

This paper proposes a corpus-assisted discourse analysis (Partington 2009) of the ways journalists represent their trade in their own news-work. The focus of the research in one newspaper in particular: the Guardian. Previous research (Marchi and Taylor 2009) suggested that among British broadsheets the Guardian is by far the most interested in other media, as well as the most inclined to talk about itself. Using newspaper data from 2005, a particularly relevant year in the newspaper’s biography (it changed format from traditional broadsheet to berliner) and rich with self-reflexivity, I examine the discursive behavior of media-related lexical items in the corpus (such as journalist, reporter, hack, media, newspaper, press, tabloid) exploring the ways in which the Guardian conceptualises the role of the news media, how it represents professional values and the divide between good and bad journalism, and, ultimately, how it constructs its own identity. The study relies on the typical tools of corpus linguistics research – collocation analysis, keywords analysis, concordance analysis – and aims to a comprehensive description of the data, following the principle of total accountability (McEnery and Hardie 2012: 17), while keeping track of the broader extralinguistic context. From a methodological point of view this work encourages interdisciplinary contamination and a serendipitous approach to the data and wishes to offer an example of how corpus-based research can contribute to the academic investigation of journalism across disciplines.


Visit the conference website for more details, including a list of plenary speakers.

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