A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of the Arab uprisings : evidence from the Libyan case.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The Arab Spring, a period of revolutions and protests that spread across the Arab world in 2011, is considered to be one of the most important series of events that have affected the Middle East and North Africa in modern history. The Arab Spring, and the various issues involved, has been discussed by many scholars and commentators from different points of view - politically, economically, socially, and linguistically. However, most of these studies have used a relatively small amount of data, and relatively little attention has been paid to the newspaper coverage of different regions or different languages. This study combines two strands of research, namely, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Corpus Linguistics (CL) to identify the discursive practices relating to the 2011 Libyan civil war. It further examines how discourses around the regime of Qaddafi were constructed before, during, and after 2011, the year when most of the uprisings began. This is based on a new 27-million word corpus of four newspapers; two published in English (The Guardian and The New York Times), and two in Arabic (Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Khaleej) from 2009 to 2013. This research combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches to analyse the compiled corpus by applying corpus linguistic analytical techniques, mainly dispersion, frequency, clusters, concordance, collocation, and keywords. It demonstrates how the quantitative analysis must be coupled with qualitative analysis to provide functional interpretations of language patterns. The analysis shows that the 2011 Arab uprisings represented a turning point on how the former Libyan president, Qaddafi, is represented. For example, in the pre-uprisings period (2009/2010), the newspapers appear to be careful and conservative representing Qaddafi neutrally and sometimes positively, and covering his visits to other countries and contribution to solving some problems in the Arab world and Africa. During the uprisings (2011), the analysis shows that the four newspapers assume a more critical role in reporting the cruelty, corruption and violence of the Libyan leader representing him negatively, highlighting his use of excessive power against his own people during the 2011 Libyan civil war, and criticizing his policies and behaviours during his 42 years in power. In the post-uprisings era (2012/2013), and although Qaddafi died in October 2011, the newspapers tended to continue to describe him negatively, highlighting the different stations in his life, and referring to the terrorist activities he was involved in. These results are connected to the political and social contexts of the particular periods showing that there is a wide range of discursive construction for Qaddafi based on the agendas of the investigated newspapers and the countries where they are based. This study employs Van Dijk’s (2003) ideological square to analyse these changing discursive patterns. I show that the members of the ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ are not the same through time, and how this has visible effects on the key discursive strategies. For example, in the pre-uprisings period, Qaddafi’s identity was constructed as part of the self-group in the two Arabic newspapers being a president of an Arab country and frequently defending the rights of Arab and African countries in different international events. The same strategy was present in the Guardian and the NYT when talking about Qaddafi's giving up his nuclear ambition and taking part in the west’s ‘War on Terror’. After the outbreak of the 2011 uprisings, Qaddafi turned out to be part of the ‘other-group’ due to his violence against the ‘innocent’ Libyan people, while most of the Arab and Western countries were put together in one group forming an international coalition to save the lives of the increasingly desperate people of Libya. This study raises some questions about the extent to which previous studies have used the combination of CL and CDA approaches, and whether the qualitative and quantitative types of analysis are always distributed equally. This study also discusses the challenges researchers may face while analysing Arabic texts using corpus linguistic techniques; these are mainly related to the structure, morphology, writing style, spelling, and other fields of the Arabic language.