An Analysis of David Cameron’s “Isil poses a direct and deadly threat to Britain” letter in The Telegraph

isis threat


The British Prime Minister David Cameron published a letter concerning Isil in the British newspaper The Telegraph.

I found the text and the reader responses quite interesting and so analyzed the text of the letter using corpus linguistic methodologies.

Using Sketch Engine tools, I looked at keywords:

isis keywords


Considering the topic of the letter, the themes of the keywords are not unexpected, however our is a word of interest, as it is often used to frame the in-group.

isis our

When the concordance lines are searched, it can be seen that a discourse related to the material cost of war and armed conflict is present. Another discourse is related to the the construction of what defines being British: our country, our values, our way of life, our history. It is interesting that the Prime Minister should use discursive strategies related to the defense of the material cost of war in relation to the defense of the ‘British way of life’ in order to argue the validity of entering into an armed conflict on foreign soil.



A look at collocates of ‘man up’

man up



For this post, I want to take a closer look at the collocates of ‘man up’, as I find it to be a somewhat problematic phrase used by John Kerry when advising Edward Snowden to return to the US from Russia and face the consequences of his NSA revelations.

The looking extract is taken from the BBC:

“A patriot would not run away,” Mr Kerry said on Wednesday. “If Mr Snowden wants to come back to the United States… we’ll have him on a flight today.”

Mr Kerry also called the former National Security Agency contractor “confused”, adding “this is a man who has done great damage to his country”.

“He should man up and come back to the US,” Mr Kerry said.

For this blog, I use Sketch Engine and look at the enTenTen12 corpus, which is a 12 billion word corpus of English texts taken from the Internet.

A search of the corpus produced 6,613 instances of the phrase ‘man up’, 0.5 per million.

I am interested in looking at the collocates of this phrase, which produced the following list ordered by MI score:

collocates of man up


However, as I am interested in the verbal phrase ‘man up’ and not the prepositional phrase, I had to study concordance lines in order to eliminate collocates which were not associated with the verbal phrase. A second list of collocates was then produced, again ordered by MI score:

1) pussies, 2) admit, 3) apologized, 4) apologize, 5) whining, 6) gotta, 7) fucking, 8) admitting, 9) whoever, 10) dude, 11) Guys, 12) complaining, 13) decides, 14) excuses, 15) bitch, 16) responsibility, 17) balls, 18) pussy, 19) fuck, 20) quit

Although the phrase ‘man up’ appears to be associated with the act of taking responsibility and accepting the consequences of certain actions, there also appears to be other potential discourses associated with the phrase which may be considered as sexist, demeaning and derogatory. In the next post, I will look at these collocates in context in order to study the discourse prosodies of this verbal phrase further.


‘Man Up’. A Look at Corpus Data

Recently, US secretary of state John Kerry told intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to ‘man up’, return to the US and face justice.

I looked at the COCA corpus  for examples of this phrase, as I thought it was an interesting term for such a high ranking, powerful states person to use.

In the 450 million word corpus there were 253 instances of this phrase, although not all of them were in the form of a verb phrase. Of the first one hundred concordance lines, the follows are examples of the verb phrase usage:


(EXPLETIVE DELETED) off. ” You know, what Chris? Time to man up. Time to rise up. You’re a grown man now.

Rusty got show. Now, Hemy, you were there. You got to man up. The jig is up, you know? You’re our guy.

And you told him to man up. He did just that. But what has it been like for you

a case of being a weenie. I mean, come on, man up. I mean, this — can you imagine… 

y a woman and then you’re going to sue — like, dude, man up, come on. GUTHRIE: Can I say that on…

you look a little bit like a punk. SNYDERMAN: I’m with Donny, man up, move on. Mr-DEUTSCH: Come on. GUTHRIE: She says the claims are

, dad, I did it. I was wrong, I’m sorry. Man up. Put your pants on, sit at the table. You got everything

time and effort. When stuff like this happens, I wish Scott would just man up, deal with random repair hiccups, and in general, do more traditional

Part of the reason is the societal pressure they are under to ” man up ” and not appear vulnerable. ” One of the most powerful things a

But Ive told him he ought to man up and run against a country boy from Dresden, Tennessee. 

 Man up, Harry Reid. You need to understand that we have a problem with

She wants to abolish Social Security entirely. KING: Roland is trying to man up. (CROSSTALK) MARTIN: John, I will bring up gender in this case

A woman can say to a man, man up. But if Reid made any kind of reference to gender 

 I got to man up and call a time-out. That’s all we have, everybody. Thanks

Man up, Harry Reid. You need to understand that we have a problem with

And, like I said, he needs to man up and leader up and — and run his own race.

a little bit in the campaign that just ended, tell your colleagues to man up? BROWN: Well I don’t use that term. I think it

Later in the program, we’ll man up with our vuvuzelas, the most overused words of 2010. 

 For republican women. Man up. Grow some hair on your lip. Thanks, everybody.

 ” Why don’t you man up and come out for football, Junior? Scared? ” 

side of the face he started it son now you hit him back go on man up don’t be such a goddamn pussy only Caleb’s being a goddamn pussy

” None of them spoke. Come on, Ulrich thought. Man up. We can do this. ” Look, ” he said, “

What We Want You to Do If we love you, we will man up. But there are a few things you can do to help. When

You know what? Im going to do this. Im going to man up and taste it. 

 Maybe I’m just being sad. ” # ” Maybe you need to man up a little. ” Isaac grinned but Poe stayed serious.

People’s expectations should be higher. All of us have to man up a little and be like, Okay, we’re not going to see

urned a blind eye when other men are mistreating women. We definitely need to man up

Everybody in the Houston Fire Department ought to man up and show their support for their two targeted comrades. 

For God’s sake, Mr. President, man up. Calm down and listen

 Pain won’t ever go away, so man up to it. LAUER: Severe pain, or is it — is it

And you can handle it — you just have to man up. ” Dry laid ” means there’s no mortar holding the stones together

be headed for a long run of playoff berths and championship chatter. Want to man up like Roy? His manual follows. RULE 1 You have to show respect

and twisted his ankle the second, I had gently suggested that he should ” man up and keep walking “? Why did he insist on holding on to the

 So I decided I would man up and gather some firewood (we had indeed burnt our entire supply the night

And you got to just man up and do your job.


The examples appear to indicate that the phrase is often used to express taking responsibility, however it is sexist, aggressive term as the follow indicates:

For republican women. Man up. Grow some hair on your lip. Thanks, everybody.

side of the face he started it son now you hit him back go on man up don’t be such a goddamn pussy only Caleb’s being a goddamn pussy

It is therefore quite surprising that the US secretary of state would use such a phrase in a public address.

Gender in the Far-Right: An Observation of Masculinities in the EDL using Corpus Linguistics


I’m interested in looking at gender in the far-right. I collected at a corpus of texts from the Facebook page of the English Defence League (EDL), a far-right, Islamophobic, street-protest group. I collected threads written by EDL supporters, cleaned them of images etc. and used WordSmith to analyse the data. The reason for looking at gender is that when I compiled frequency data of non-function words, I found the following:

edl frequency


I found it of interest that both man and woman were frequent within the data, and thought it would be worthwhile to study this further.

In this post, I’ll be focusing on man and men.

The most frequent collocates of man or men were as follows:

women (with men) 46, Muslim (with men) 39, Muslim (with man) 22, white (man) 17, woman (with man) 13

women (with men) 

When concordance lines are searched, the phrase men and women can be seen as follows:

concordance men and women

Men and women are described as brave, decent, great, real English and magnificent. It’s interesting that the phrase is used to describe non-Muslims. The data does not provide any examples of men and women used to describe Muslims. As the above concordance lines demonstrate, the in-group is constructed positively.

Muslim (with men/men)

muslim man

Muslim men are constructed as being violent, both towards Muslim women and men from other social groups. They are also constructed as being polygynous, and thus being culturally incompatible with with the accepted norms of British society. Furthermore, marriage to young wives is also focused upon, which is seen as unacceptable to British culture.

White man 

white men

The construction of white man / men  is more ambiguous than discourses found on white supremacist forums. In the concordances there does appear to be an acknowledgement that certain white men commit crimes. However, they are also constructed as being victims and less likely to commit a crime than a non-white male.


It is of interest that the EDL supporters appear to focus on sexual violence when defining and constructed masculinities.

muslim men






Threat from the White House: Using corpus linguistics to look at White House press briefings

nsa word cloud

Since the intelligence breach by Edward Snowden at the National Security Agency in the United States, I’ve been interested in the messages coming out of the White House to counter the claims made concerning the issues surrounding the widespread surveillance which has been taking place.

For this study, I have looked at a corpus of texts of transcription of press briefings given by the house from June 2013 until January 2014. This gave me a corpus of 1,142,774 tokens.

When I looked at the most frequent non-function words, I found the following:

president (8,315), people (3,122), house (2,335), congress (2,002), government (1,985), states (1,758), united (1,670), care (1,611), right (1,526), security (1,496), work (1,468), important (1,441), insurance (1,400), republicans (1,352), American (1,324), white (1,311), health (1,259), president’s (1,254), affordable (1,246), issue (1,171)

By looking at the most frequent non-function words, it appears that the White House briefings contained a large amount of information related to the health care insurance program which the Obama administration has been trying to implement. It was quite interesting that the issues related to the NSA revelations were not more prominent, although the word security may have been used in relation to this issue.



security interests

Although security was prominent, I want to focus on the usage of another word within the corpus: threat. Lemmas of this word occurred 629 times.



threat that

Not all threat were associated with terrorism, as economic issues and concerns were also discussed in terms of threat. However, when looking at the collocates of the lemma THREAT, terrorism does appear to be a major concern.

collocates of threat

threat is

By looking at the selected concordance lines above, threat is described as vague, current, changing, imminent, real, significant, ongoing, and global.

What the threat actually consists of is not apparent in these concordance lines, but the administration appears to consider them all good reasons to allow the NSA to keep going with its work.






A Corpus Linguistic Approach to the Study of Writer Identity in Second Language Writing

Recently, I’ve been looking at a corpus of texts produced by ESL learners. The texts were produced by about 70 English major college students and the themes of the texts were autobiographical in nature. I’m interested in looking at how corpus linguistics can contribute to the study of identity in the corpus.

Firstly, I’d like to present a few references which give a certain direction to the study:

“All our writing is influenced by our life histories. Each word we write represents an encounter, possibly a struggle, between our multiple past experience and the demands of a new context. Writing is not some neutral activity which we just learn like a physical skill, but it implicates every fibre of the writer’s multifaceted being.”            Ivanic 1998: 181

The autobiographical self focuses on connecting identity with a writer’s sense of their roots, of where they are coming from, and the knowledge that the identity they bring with them to writing is, in itself socially constructed and constantly changing as a consequence of their developing life history.

3 ways to understand writer identity:

a. Autobiographical self: gives sense of roots.

b. Discoursal self: the impression (multiple) a writer conveys relating to values, beliefs and power in a  social context.

c. Self as author: writers’ voice relates to position, opinions and beliefs. (Park, G. (2013))

Identity is related to how a person has been socialized in a community – which is layered with certain values, beliefs, dispositions and power relations.

Writers’ identities are constructed by negotiating the past and present practices, this hopefully will demonstrate cultural values of the writers.

Writing is a situated, social and political practice offering writers of English an opportunity to find power and legitimacy in a second language.

Not focusing on the ‘linguistic code’ – but seeing how learners negotiate their identities may achieve insights into teaching writing settings. (Fujieda 2013)

Students whose written language does not fit the standard are typically linked to a group called ‘basic writers’ and labelled as deficient, incompetent, or even lacking in cognitive ability – therefore students can feel marginalized.

Rather than focusing on negativity –  learners may hear more clearly the voices of their histories and negotiating the ideological boundaries that have both enclosed and excluded them can be critical.

Writers are too frequently labelled as inferior – yet writer identity can be seen as social, political and related to issues of race, class and gender. Writing can be seen as social and cultural processes rather than cognitive or literary. (Fernsten 2008)


Students wrote three autobiographical texts based on a selection of questions. These were collected and stored in a computer-readable format. The data were analysed using either Wordsmith (Version 6) or Sketch Engine.

The approach I used is corpus-driven: A corpus-driven analysis is an inductive process. The corpus is the data and the patterns in it are noted as a way of expressing regularities in language. (Tognini-Bonelli, 2001)

Using the corpora in discourse analysis: a focus on frequency, collocation, keyword analysis and concordances (KWIC). (Baker, 2006)

A look at a frequency list of non-function words is a good started point as it allows a certain understanding of the context of the corpus.


A keyword list will facilitate an understanding of what is salient in the corpus.












A Word Sketch of ‘Foreigners’

Using Sketch Engine it is possible to make a word sketch of the word foreigner.

word sketch



The verbs collocating with foreigner are quite interesting.

There are: target, deport, abduct, expose, kidnap, warn and kill.

On a more positive side there are: hire, assist, appoint, include and attract.

It does appear though that there is a substantial amount of negativity attached to individuals labelled as a foreigner.