The discursive representation of British wildlife in The Times newspaper, 1785–2005

McClaughlin, Emma and Sealey, Alison and Culpeper, Jonathan (2019) The discursive representation of British wildlife in The Times newspaper, 1785–2005. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This diachronic study investigates the discursive representation of four key wildlife species in Britain—red squirrels, grey squirrels, badgers, and hedgehogs. The research takes a modern-diachronic corpus-assisted discourse studies approach (Partington, 2010) to examine the patterns of change and continuity in discourse about these focus animals published in The Times between 1785 and 2005. Corpus linguistic methods and tools, including the waves, peaks and troughs analysis (Gabrielatos, McEnery, Diggle, & Baker, 2012), diachronic collocates (McEnery & Baker, 2015), cluster analysis, keywords analysis, and concordances, identifed three major themes in the discourse, which were explored in depth: origin and national identity, life-cycle and health, and killing animals. The extent to which the findings are consistent with changing human practices and attitudes was considered in line with the discourse historical approach (Reisigl & Wodak, 2009). The major themes remain relevant over the period of interest but are associated with different focus animals at different times in response to text-external social, political, and cultural influences (such as changes in land management and human-human socio-political relations). Findings reflect a growing distance between humans and the focus animals over time, while (harmful) anthropocentric values underlying their representations are maintained in the discourse through strategies such as blame shifting and—often more subtly—anthropomorphism. Repetition of anthropocentric values in news discourse has real consequences for the animals. They are the focus of human actions that are a response to socio-political factors reflected in—and perpetuated by—discourse about them. Disruption to established narratives in the discourse polarises views and causes (actual and discursive) conflict and controversy, highlighting potential difficulties with accomplishing change. The findings can be used to inform understanding of future linguistic representations of wildlife and a number of recommendations for reducing harmful anthropocentric representations are included accordingly.

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Thesis (PhD)
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16 May 2019 08:05
Last Modified:
18 Feb 2024 00:19