Tracking Discoursal Shift in News Media Representation of Economic Inequality (DINEQ)

  • Horizon 2020-MSCA-IF grant reference 705247

This two-year H2020-funded project (2016-18) explores changes in the discoursal representation of degrees of economic inequality in selected British newspapers in 1971 and 2011. It is the first applied diachronic linguistic study to combine a consideration of the socio-political history in Britain in those forty years, a comparative analysis of selected public discourses in those two years, and a semantic, grammatical and lexical study of media representations of wealth inequality. The methodological approach used for this project is primarily Corpus Linguistic, but draws also on Systemic-Functional Grammar, and adopts a broadly Critical Discourse Analytic theory of discourse. This innovative study aims to demonstrate that rigorous and systematic corpus-based discourse analysis can establish discursive change over time, of a kind that is so dispersed and gradual that it is imperceptible in the day-to-day newspaper-reading of the ordinary reader.

Research Team

External resources

Research Objectives

DINEQ’s overarching aim is to show that with suitably controlled methods, a corpus-informed discourse analysis can establish discursive change over time, of a dispersed and distributed kind, that will be mostly imperceptible to the ordinary newspaper reader, habituated to these changes by minute daily increments. Additionally, the project will pursue three specific objectives (SO):

  • SO1: To show how mass media organs like the UK national newspapers have a double function, in both reporting but also construing and ‘making normal’ emerging trends. Those trends may be technological or cultural or social, chiefly, or, as in the case of growing wealth inequality over the period 1971 to 2011, more palpably political.
  • SO2: To show how usage of many words, phrases, and clausal constructions has changed, with some atrophying, other phrases arising in their place, and, crucially, systematic changes in the patterns of use (e.g. collocational changes).
  • SO3: To show how diachronic CL can combine with CDA objectives. This a comparatively new development, as previous historical approaches are more lexicographical or genre-focussed, evident in the pioneering work of the Helsinki corpus linguists (Taavitsainen and VARIENG) who study the development of medical writing in the 17th and 18th centuries using corpus methods.


Key outcomes of this project include:

  • Talks and presentations at international conferences on CDA, CL and Sociolinguistics
  • Several research papers in high-impact academic journals
  • A public presentation/workshop to be held at a central public building in Birmingham
  • An international symposium to be held at the end of the project’s term at the University of Birmingham
  • Book publication, with a leading publisher, based on papers prepared for the symposium