Using Sketch Engine to examine the presentation of Islam and Muslims in the UK press

Costas Gabrielatos, Paul Baker, Tony McEnery

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    The presentation reports on the outcomes of the ESRC-funded project, Presentation of Islam and Muslims in the UK press, 1998-2009. The project used a corpus-based approach, while also being informed by moral panic theory (Cohen, 1972), and notions central to Critical Discourse Analysis (e.g. Reisigl & Wodak, 2001). The project used a corpus of 143 million words, containing over 200,000 articles published in 12 national UK newspapers and their Sunday editions between 1998 and 2009. The corpus articles were derived from the Nexis UK online database, via a query containing the terms Islam*, Muslim*, and related words (e.g. Quran). The analysis used Sketch Engine (Kilgarriff et al., 2004), an online corpus tool which utilises a grammatically tagged and syntactically parsed corpus to produce “word sketches”, that is, the grammatical constructions that a word is frequently found in, as well as its salient collocates within these constructions. The analysis focused on the patterns of use of the word forms, Islam, Islamic, Islamist(s) and Muslim, Muslims (both as nouns and adjectives). The examination of their most salient sketches and strong collocates, as well as the most frequent nouns, adjectives and lexical verbs in the corpus lead to three interrelated observations: a) Islam is treated predominantly as an ideology, rather than a religion. b) The use of Muslim as an adjective is associated more frequently with issues of governance (e.g. politics, law) than with issues of religion. c) Irrespective of the stance towards Islam and Muslims that may be projected in particular articles or newspapers, the discussion of Islam and Muslims in the UK press is, overall, carried out within contexts of armed/social conflict and/or terrorism, and the attendant issues of social disruption, violence, destruction and death.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages0
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2010
    Event43rd British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Conference - University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
    Duration: 9 Sept 201011 Sept 2010


    Other43rd British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL) Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Corpus research
    • Muslims
    • Islam
    • word sketches
    • concordance analysis


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