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Public and private discourses of lesbians: exploring the discourses surrounding lesbians in the Spoken BNC2014 and the British press in 2017

Author:

Frazer Heritage

Lancaster University, GB
About Frazer
My main area of interest is the representation of gender and sexuality. I am particularly interested in using corpus linguistic approaches to explore representations. Although my PhD focuses on the representation of gender in video games, I am also interested in the representation of gender and sexuality in British media in a more general sense and in large reference corpora. I am currently the secretary for the British Assosiation of Applied Linguist's Language, Gender, and Sexuality Special Interest Group (BAAL's LGaS Sig).
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Abstract

This paper explores the language used to discuss lesbians in both informal spoken British English and written British news media. The research draws on two data sources: the Spoken BNC2014 and a specialised corpus of 1.2 million words from newspapers written between January 2017 and December 2017 inclusive. Discourses (re)produced in both informal conversations and the mass media are ways of sustaining and maintaining ideological stances towards groups marginalised due to their sexuality (see Baker, 2014; Gupta, 2016). In this paper, I argue that the discourses surrounding lesbians found within both corpora are problematic and archaic. I discuss two prominent discourses in spoken British English (that lesbians are typically seen as masculine, which in turn is judged negatively, and that lesbianism is a choice), two prominent discourses in written British English (that lesbians are a threat to children and that lesbianism is a marked identity which is delegitimised), and one discourse which overlaps across both corpora (that all gender, sexual, and romantic minorities are a homogenised group). The discourses in both corpora appear to be damaging to how lesbians are viewed in general society and tend to mask underlying homophobic ideologies.

How to Cite: Heritage, F. (2022). Public and private discourses of lesbians: exploring the discourses surrounding lesbians in the Spoken BNC2014 and the British press in 2017. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 5(1), 61–89. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/jcads.18
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Published on 27 Sep 2022.
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