“Our Land – phraseology used by violent jihadists” a corpus linguistic approach.

The follow post is in response to a paragraph in The Guardian newspaper which reported on the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/22/woolwich-attack-cleaver-knife-jihadist

The paragraph in question comments on the language used by one of the assailants:

our land

My interest in this is that the reporter states that “violent jihadists” use this phrase to describe a Muslim country occupied by a foreign force. It isn’t my aim to refute this statement, but rather to attempt to observe how other groups may use this, as it does appear to be quite a common phrase.

To do this I will use the corpus of web-based English (GloBwE), an online corpus of 1.9 billion words collected from websites of 20 countries (http://corpus2.byu.edu/glowbe/).

Before going further, it’s interesting to look at the composition of the corpus.



When looking at the composition of the corpus, it can be seen that the data from each of the countries is not equal, and so this must be taken into consideration when frequency word lists are compiled.

Firstly, I wanted to do a search of the entire corpus of the phrase ‘our land’, and this is what the data provided:


Both US and GB have high frequency levels of this phrase, but as corpora from these countries are much larger than from the other countries, that is not necessarily unexpected. However, by quickly looking at a KWIC list, the following is produced:15

From this randomly chosen screen shot it can be seen that the phrase ‘our land’ is associated with strong emotions, as the following indicate: stolen our land, our land our people, trashing our land poisoning our people, noble defenders of our land, took away our land, honour the dead of our land, historical injustices in our land. And of course, these texts are not taken from jihadist discourse, although there does appear to be a semantic prosody of injustice and suffering associated with ‘our land’.

I hope to continue this in the coming days by looking at corpora from different countries and corpora of extremists texts other than those of jihadist discourse.