Research


I have a PhD in linguistics from Lancaster University with the thesis, The discursive representation of British wildlife in The Times newspaper, 1785-2005.  This research was funded by The Leverhulme Trust as part of a wider collaborative project 'People', 'Products' Pests' and 'Pets': the Discursive Representation of Animals.

My PhD thesis investigated the discursive representation of four key wildlife species in Britain—red squirrels, grey squirrels, badgers, and hedgehogs.  The research took a modern-diachronic corpus-assisted discourse studies approach to examine patterns of change and continuity in the discourse about these focus animals published in The Times newspaper between 1785 and 2005.  

I used corpus linguistic methods and tools to identify three major themes in the discourse, which I then explored in depth: origin and national identity, life-cycle and health, and killing animals.  I found these themes remain relevant over the period of interest but are associated with different focus animals at different times in response to text-external social, political, and cultural influences (such as changes in land management and human-human socio-political relations). 


My findings reflect a growing distance between humans and the focus animals over time, while (harmful) anthropocentric values underlying their representations are maintained in the discourse through strategies such as blame shifting and—often more subtly—anthropomorphism. 


Repetition of anthropocentric values in news discourse has real consequences for the animals. They are the focus of human actions that are a response to socio-political factors reflected in—and perpetuated by—discourse about them. Disruption to established narratives in the discourse polarises views and causes (actual and discursive) conflict and controversy, highlighting potential difficulties with accomplishing change. 


I conclude that the findings can be used to inform understanding of future linguistic representations of wildlife and make a number of recommendations for reducing harmful anthropocentric representations accordingly.  I am currently working with Palgrave Macmillan to produce a monograph based on this research.


You can view my thesis in The British Library catalogue here.