The language of inequality in the news
Why in the early 1970s does The Times reject the idea of a national lottery, as rewarding luck not merit and effort, but warmly welcome one by the 1990s?
Why in the 1970s do the Daily Mail's TV reviews address serious contemporary themes such as class- and race-relations, whereas forty years later they are largely concerned with celebrities, talent shows, and nostalgia? Why does the Conservative Chancellor in the 2010s mention 'Britain' so very often, when the Conservative Chancellor in the 1970s scarcely does at all?
Published by Cambridge University Press, The Language of Inequality in the News: A Discourse Analytic Approach looks at how two major national newspapers have reported and commented upon the growing wealth inequality that has taken hold in the UK over the past 45 years, with well-documented pernicious effects (most notably, marked growth in child poverty). Professor Michael Toolan's broad hypothesis is that the centre-right national press (looking exclusively at the Times and the Mail) normalised and naturalised this inequality in the 1980s and later, but were much more critical of inequality in the 1970s.
Covering news stories spanning forty-five years, Professor Toolan uses corpus linguistic and critical discourse analytic methods to identify changing lexis and verbal patterns and gaps, all of which contribute to the way wealth inequality was represented in each of the decades from the 1970s to the present.
The book tries to develop a new way of doing corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, on a complex but well-recognised social category of wealth inequality. It repeatedly provides an historical context in which to place the texts that are discussed, and shows how discourse researchers might move from a large initial set of candidate words or phrases for analysis (e.g., about wealth inequality) to a most relevant and revealing sub-set, by replicable steps backed by reasonable justifications.