Hassan, Sawsan Hazim (2019) Media Portrayals of Abrahamic Religions in Broadsheet Newspapers: A Corpus-Based Critical Stylistic Analysis. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Although there has been a proliferation in the study of religion across a range of disciplines, including media, sociology and theology, investigations of the representation of religion from a critical linguistic perspective are few. More specifically, this topic has not been approached using a range of corpus linguistics tools and approaches to carry out a detailed qualitative analysis of a large corpus. The aim of this thesis is therefore to investigate how three Abrahamic religions in the UK –Judaism, Christianity and Islam –are represented in a corpus of broadsheet newspapers from 2010. The focus of this research is to explore linguistic patterns and practices to investigate the question of whether the newspapers are biased in their representation of the three religions, and thereby whether such representations contribute to perpetuating stereotyped images through the construal of the characteristics drawn from the UK press.

The study draws on the contribution of the corpus methodology to critical stylistics to identify patterns of naturally occurring texts constructed by the media world. The textual analyses are based on three purpose-built corpora for each religion: Judaism (3.3 million words), Christianity (3.8 million words) and Islam (5 million words). The analysis focuses on investigating the significant collocates identified using the online corpus tool Sketch Engine (Kilgarriff et al. 2004), utilised as a starting point in examining the collocation choices co-occurring with the three religions. The results of the corpus analysis reveal that patterns of collocates reflect persistent differences and commonalities in the representation of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The identification of collocates can be ideologically significant for discourse analysis because collocations can help to expose hidden meanings. These collocational patterns are then examined qualitatively, employing the more textually grounded framework of Critical Stylistics (Jeffries, 2010a) to assist in describing and interpreting the data from a wider textual-conceptual perspective. The occurrence of various nominal choices collocating with the words Jewish, Christian and Muslim as adjectives helps to investigate how the three groups are labelled and defined linguistically.

The analysis of the collocational patterns demonstrates a stereotypical and imbalanced representation of the three religions in the British newspapers. This analysis also shows that there are commonalities in terms of the collocational choices but also discrepancies in the representation of the three religions. Such representation is explicitly shown in the choices of stories and events which newspapers prioritise over others. This has resulted in a marginalisation of contexts such as culture, social identity and profession, which are less frequently found in the corpus compared with the context of war and conflict. The study shows a set of stereotypical images associated with the different religions. For example, a strong association is made between Jews and suffering, creating an atmosphere of victimization. The linguistic choices present a balanced and sometimes neutral representation of Christians. However, Muslims are portrayed in negatively charged contexts resulting in a stereotypical prejudice. Focusing on my corpus, the salient finding of this study is that the British newspapers most frequently position both Jews and Muslims in the context of conflicts. The current study demonstrates cumulatively formed patterns in the representation of the three religions that are characterised by the linguistic construction of stereotype.

Finally, the analysis shows a significant degree of selectivity in the representation of the three religions which could inform us about the British press, and its commitment to democracy and human rights.

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