Critical Discourse Analytic and Corpus Linguistic studies of mass media have recently subjected public discourses by yielding varied findings on patterns of usage. In this context, DINEQ undertakes a multivariate tracing and demonstration of linguistic shifts in newspaper discourses in Britain, from 1971 to 2011, that have occurred in response to political and economic changes that have rendered the UK a significantly less economically egalitarian society in 2011 that 40 years earlier.
No serious commentator denies that economically the UK became more unequal over the last 40 years, and few would question that right-of-centre newspapers like The Times and The Daily Mail will tend to represent a broad rightwardmoving socioeconomic trend more approvingly than centre-left ones. We predict that over the 40 years, these newspapers will have (consciously or unconsciously) changed in their ways of speaking about rich and poor.
The CDA premise of our study is that mass media discourses not only reflect societal thought and action but also contribute to changes in societal attituded and expectations, representing those changed attitudes and conditions as habitual, the new ‘normal’, and commonsense. These ‘naturalising’ tendencies are stronger in news media that support and welcome the political and economic changes, which is why this study looks at these newspapers rather than those that may more often report the changes together with critique. The null hypothesis is that news discourses around economic inequality have changed randomly, in response to changed circumstances and with no detectable systematic shift in that discourse towards the normalising of a more unequal hierarchy of economic identities for different classes of UK citizens.