‘Our Land’ not just for jihadists: A Corpus Linguistic Approach

I wish to continue the theme of how the phrase ‘our land’ is used by different groups in response to a recent article in The Guardian newspaper, in which a journalist described it as jihadist rhetoric. My immediate reaction to that comment was that it appeared to be a stereotypical labeling of an out-group and not necessarily a phrase used exclusively in jihadist discourse. The approach I wish to take is a corpus linguistic analysis of this phrase using the 1.9 billion word corpus of web-based English available online at http://corpus2.byu.edu/glowbe/

My aim is to look at how ‘our land’ is used in different countries rather than looking at the whole corpus which has collected data from 20 different countries.

I wish to look at three developed countries which have been the most involved in the ‘War on Terror’, the U.S.A., the U.K. and Australia. The most frequent collocates of ‘our land’ are:

U.S.A.

heal (23), water (17), took (14), law (14), across (13), highest (10), laws (10), air (9), resources (8), defend (8)

U.K.

law (11), laws (9), hands (9), water (9), campaign (7), occupied (6), electricity (6), gas (6), resources (6), gave (5)

Australia

water (13), nature (9), abounds (8), languages (8), see (8), resources (8), buy (6), mass (5), control (5), adore (5)

When these sets of collocates are considered, there appears to be two clear patterns emerging. One appears to be centred around the notion of legality (law/laws), while the second is associated with natural resources (water, air, electricity, gas, nature). However, when ‘our land’ is viewed in context, another pattern emerges. The following concordance lines were randomly selected.

U.S.A.

33

 

 

 

As can be seen, although the data was taken from websites in the U.S.A., they are not all referring to the U.S. when they use the term ‘our land’. However, it is interesting to highlight words and phrases found in these concordance lines:

reclaim/ take…by force/ protect/ immigrants…first arrived/ heal/ power of darkness/ submit ourselves/ wicked ways/ healed/

Certainly there appears to be a great deal of struggle attached to the notion of ‘our land’.

U.K.

31

 

In texts taken from the U.K. we have:

fundamental law/ destruction/ taken away/ destroying/ replacing/ stain of blood shed/ terrorism that stalks/ take over/ expelled/

In texts taken from the U.K. there appears to be a higher degree of conflict associated with ‘our land’ than was found in the texts taken from the U.S.

Australia

32

 

In data collected from Australia there is:

stem the tide of terror/ keep freedom/ wanton destruction/ broke our spirit/ given away/ become bystanders/

This very brief observation of ‘our land’ appears to indicate that there are clear patterns of meaning associated with this phrase and although individuals described as jihadists may use it in their rhetoric, it is most certainly used by other individuals and groups around the world with strong emotions, often related to struggle, conflict and victimisation in ways not dissimilar to the rhetorical strategies which certain journalists characterise as jihadist rhetoric.

 

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