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Reading: Constructing National Identity in the British Press: The Britain vs. Europe Dichotomy


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Constructing National Identity in the British Press: The Britain vs. Europe Dichotomy


Anna Islentyeva ,

Universität Innsbruck, AT
About Anna
Anna Islentyeva is a post-doctoral associate and senior lecturer in the English Department at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Anna is interested in research that places a special emphasis on the social aspects of language and examines ideologically relevant linguistic patterns in different types of discourses. Her current research projects address media discourses surrounding European migration following the EU Referendum, as well as representations of Europe and Britain in the British media. Her recent publications include Corpus-Based Analysis of Ideological Bias (2020), “The Europe of Scary Metaphors” (2019) and “The Undesirable Migrant in the British Press” (2018).
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Mihera Abdel Kafi

Freie Universität Berlin, DE
About Mihera
Mihera Abdel Kafi is a MA student of English and Political Sciences at the Freie Universisät Berlin.
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Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) not only marks a crucial point in its history and politics, it also evidences growing concern over issues such as British self-determination and national identity. It is therefore revealing to trace the contrasting contemporary media representations of Britain and Europe within the context of the EU membership referendum of 2016 and migration within the EU. Immigration, in its broadest sense, provides a basis for ideological debates about the nature of identity and self-representation.

This corpus-based study analyses the discursive techniques employed by the national press in its representation of both Britain and Europe during the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in 2016–2018. The data represents a specialised corpus containing 500 editorials, opinion pieces and news reports from five British newspapers: The Guardian (The Observer) and The Mirror represent left-wing ideology, while The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun represent right-wing ideology.

In terms of methodology, the study applies a mixed-method approach that combines corpus-based analysis with a further examination of wider contexts and discourses. As a first step, the analysis focuses on the left-hand collocates of the words Britain versus Europe, as well as on the right-hand collocates of the adjectives British versus European and EU. As a further step, a concordance analysis of the most salient and distinctive collocates is used to identify the discourses constructed around these terms; the differences between the left- and right-wing newspapers are then analysed, and finally, the findings are situated in a broader socio-political context. The study uses this combination of methods to reveal how the British press creates the Britain versus Europe dichotomy.

How to Cite: Islentyeva, A., & Abdel Kafi, M. (2021). Constructing National Identity in the British Press: The Britain vs. Europe Dichotomy. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 4, 68–95. DOI:
Published on 17 Jul 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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