Date of Award

5-27-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Lucy Pickering - Committee Co-Chair

Second Advisor

Patricia Byrd - Committee Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Diane Belcher - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Susan Conrad - Committee Member

Abstract

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest and most violent conflicts in modern history. The language used to represent this important conflict in the media is frequently commented on by scholars and political commentators (e.g., Ackerman, 2001; Fisk, 2001; Mearsheimer & Walt, 2007). To date, however, few studies in the field of applied linguistics have attempted a thorough investigation of the language used to represent the conflict in influential media outlets using systematic methods of linguistic analysis. The current study aims to partially bridge this gap by combining methods and analytical frameworks from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Corpus Linguistics (CL) to analyze the discursive representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in American, Arab, and British media, represented by CNN, Al-Jazeera Arabic, and BBC respectively. CDA, which is primarily interested in studying how power and ideology are enacted and resisted in the use of language in social and political contexts, has been frequently criticized mainly for the arbitrary selection of a small number of texts or text fragments to be analyzed. In order to strengthen CDA analysis, Stubbs (1997) suggested that CDA analysts should utilize techniques from CL, which employs computational approaches to perform quantitative and qualitative analysis of actual patterns of use occurring in a large and principled collection of natural texts. In this study, the corpus-based keyword technique is initially used to identify the topics that tend to be emphasized, downplayed, and/or left out in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in three corpora complied from the news websites of Al-Jazeera, CNN, and the BBC. Topics –such as terrorism, occupation, settlements, and the recent Israeli disengagement plan—which were found to be key in the coverage of the conflict—are further studied in context using several other corpus tools, especially the concordancer and the collocation finder. The analysis reveals some of the strategies employed by each news website to control for the positive or negative representations of the different actors involved in the conflict. The corpus findings are interpreted using some informative CDA frameworks, especially Van Dijk’s (1998) ideological square framework.

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