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About this book

This book focuses on the language of two unions (the United Kingdom and the European Union), tracing the emergence of divisive discourses from indyref to Brexit. It explains the background to the creation of these unions and summarizes recent political events that have brought their future into question. It considers which identities (national, supranational, social, ethnic or racial) were invoked during the indyref and EU referendum campaigns, emphasising the crucial role played by language in maintaining these identities, in conceptualizing the nation, to do politics, and its power to unite or divide. Based on analysis of three specialist corpora totaling over 143 million words and comprising multiple text types (newspapers, speeches, Twitter posts, parliamentary debates, party political websites and campaign materials), it interrogates the language used by politicians, the media and the public, uncovering increasingly problematic, scaremongering, xenophobic and incendiary linguistic strategies used to divide us from them.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter sets the scene by summarizing the key political events that have brought the future of two political unions (the United Kingdom and the European Union) into doubt. It argues that the Scottish Independence Referendum and the European Union Referendum are part of wider diachronic trends towards fragmentation and disunion. The chapter emphasises the importance of language to do politics, for our sense of identity and ultimately its power to unite or divide. It concludes by briefly summarising the scope of the three specially designed corpora of political, media and public discourse totalling over 143 million words that underpin the analysis in subsequent chapters.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 2. Contexts of Union

Abstract
This chapter gives the historical background to the United Kingdom and Britain’s membership in the European Union. It traces Acts of Union between the four UK partner nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) from the sixteenth century to the present day, highlighting key issues that have threatened their establishment and continuation: nationalism, sovereignty, language, religion and violence. It considers the desires for greater independence that led to the (re)establishment of national Parliaments/Assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, devolved powers for the partner nations, and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. It outlines the history of the UK’s membership of the European Union, and the 2016 Referendum that resulted in Brexit. It concludes by asking what the future holds for an increasingly (dis)United Kingdom.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 3. Acts of Identity and (Dis)Union

Abstract
This chapter explores questions of identity, the crucial role played by language in constructing and maintaining identities, ingroups and outgroups, the importance of ‘othering’ and ‘difference’, and which identities are the most significant in the context of political, media and public discourse from indyref to Brexit. It focuses on national, supranational, racial, ethnic and social class identities, and considers the extent to which these identities are complementary, inclusive or divisive. It asks what effects migration and multiculturalism have had on these identities, and the extent to which these trigger fear of the ‘Other’ and disunity.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 4. Language, Identity, Politics

Abstract
This chapter opens by defining political discourse and goes on to outline the key theoretical and methodological approaches that underpin the study: (critical) discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, the study of rhetoric and multimodal analysis. It argues for an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach, and explains some of the linguistic terminology used in subsequent chapters such as modality, tense and aspect, deixis and corpus linguistics concepts such as collocations, keywords, KWIC and n-grams. It considers the importance of the deictic centre and the role played by metaphor in conceptualising the nation.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 5. This Fractured Isle: Indyref

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the language of the Scottish Independence Referendum, considering the language used in the build-up to the Referendum, the ‘Yes Scotland’ and ‘Better Together’ campaigns, and reactions to the vote. The analysis is based on a 60 million words indyref corpus and compares reporting of the campaigns by Scottish and UK newspapers, alongside a subcorpus of Guardian readers’ comments. It looks at how questions of independence, nationalism and unionism were dealt with, and the importance of symbolic nationalism and Scottish identity, finding evidence of othering, both in nationalist vs. unionist and Scotland vs. England discourses and in racially defined conceptions of us and them. It concludes by examining party political texts such as party websites and the speeches given by key political protagonists.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 6. Breaking with Europe

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the language used in the run-up to the EU Referendum. Based on analysis of a 33 million words pre-EU Ref corpus, it compares the language of the Leave and Remain campaigns, including consideration of the powerful semiotics of Leave’s multimodal campaign materials and the mostly negative campaigning style of the Remain camp, dubbed Project Fear by its opponents. It includes analysis of the language used in newspaper coverage of the campaigns, and a sizeable Twitter corpus. Analysis considers questions of nation, independence, sovereignty and taking back control. It compares the language surrounding migrants, migration and specific racial groups with the indyref campaigns, and anti-immigration and sometimes xenophobic discourses.
Fiona M. Douglas

Chapter 7. Brexit and Beyond

Abstract
This chapter compares the language of the post-Brexit period (based on a 50 million words corpus) with that of the run-up to the EU Referendum and the Scottish Independence Referendum to identify diachronic trends. It finds a noticeable drop-off in racist discourse post-EU Referendum and concerns about immigration alongside changes in the representation of migrants and migration, and articulation of worries about racism. It finds a shift in focus from sovereignty to discussion of democracy and independence. The three corpora track the rise of nationalism from indyref to Brexit, and the development of increasingly divisive and sometimes incendiary language in Parliamentary discourse and elsewhere. The chapter concludes by considering the destructive consequences of using such language and argues that the language we use matters.
Fiona M. Douglas

Backmatter

Additional information