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Oppositions in News Discourse: the ideological construction of us and them in the British press

By Matt Davies


This thesis seeks to explore textually instantiated oppositions and their contribution to the construction of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in specific news texts. The data consists of reports of two major protest marches taken from news articles in UK national daily newspapers. The aim of the thesis is to review and contribute to the development of existing theories of oppositions (often known as ‘antonyms’), in order to investigate the potential effects of their systematic usage in news texts and add an additional method of analysis to the linguistic toolkit utilised by critical discourse analysts. The thesis reviews a number of traditional theories of opposition and questions the assumption that oppositions are mainly lexical phenomena i.e. that only those codified in lexical authorities such as thesauruses can be classed as true opposites. The hypothesis draws on Murphy (2003) to argue that opposition is primarily conceptual, evidence being that new ones can be derived from principles on which opposition is based. The dialectic between ‘canonical’ and ‘noncanonical’ oppositions allows addressees to process and understand a potentially infinite number of new oppositions via cognitive reference to existing ones. Fundamental to the discovery of co-occurring textually-constructed oppositions are the syntactic frames commonly used to house canonical oppositions, which, this thesis argues, can trigger new instances of oppositions when used in these frames. I conduct a detailed qualitative analysis of textually constructed oppositions in three news articles, and show how they are used by journalists to positively and negatively represent groups and individuals as mutually exclusive binaries, in order to perpetuate a particular ideological point of view.\ud The final section is an examination of how critical discourse analysis studies into the construction of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in news texts can be enhanced by a consideration of constructed oppositions like those explored in the thesis

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