Written by Monika Bednarek, Department of Linguistics, The University of Sydney

Late last year I participated in the 6th New Zealand Discourse Conference, held in Auckland from 6-9 December 2017 (http://www.nzdc2017.co.nz/). The conference hosts included the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), AUT Multimodal Research Center, AUT Institute of Culture Discourse & Communication, and Massey University. The New Zealand Discourse conference series is a regular event for researchers applying various types of discourse analysis, with this 6th conference including an emphasis on multimodal discourse analysis. This emphasis was reflected in the plenary speakers (Sigrid Norris, Theo van Leeuwen, Michael Bamberg, and David Barton), as well as in many presentations at this conference. These papers did not employ corpus linguistic techniques, as the focus was on multimodal discourse analysis, and multimodal corpora and analyses are still rare.

However, some conference papers did employ corpus linguistic approaches to discourse analysis. Among those, I attended a talk on ‘Examiners’ reports: A genre and corpus analytic study’ (by Helen Basturkmen & Michael Barlow, presented by Michael Barlow), which combined genre analysis and semantic tagging in its initial analysis of English-language Phd preliminary examiner reports. By combining these approaches, the researchers were able to categorise the reports in terms of their salient linguistic features as well as point to variation in the data. The use of boxplots was particularly useful in this regard.

In a different vein, Anthony Fisher used corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis to identify discourses in a small corpus of 29 texts taken from ‘alt-right’ affiliated websites in the wake of an incident where the American ‘alt-right’ leader Richard Spencer was punched by a protestor during an interview. The study used keyness analysis to uncover the discourses used by the alt-right in this context, such as an emphasis of freedom of speech and contrasting a ‘violent left’ with a ‘peaceful right’. Aptly-named ‘Is it ok to punch a Nazi? The American altright and the discursive construction of free speech’, this paper drew quite a crowd!

Of course, I also attended my joint paper with Helen Caple that she presented on our behalf (‘Visualising Multimodal Discourse Analysis using Kaleidographic: A Case Study of Discursive News Values Analysis in Most Shared News’). This paper focussed on how complex analyses can be visualised using a new tool called Kaleidographic (http://www.kaleidographic.org/). We developed this tool in collaboration with Laurence Anthony (AntLab Solutions), whom many will know as the developer of the popular free corpus software AntConc. Helen’s focus was on how the tool can visualise the results of corpus-assisted multimodal discourse analysis. However, purely corpus linguistic applications are also possible, as the tool can be employed to visualize variation among different texts in a corpus as well as variation among the frequencies of different words in a corpus.

On the last day of the conference I gave my own talk, ‘Corpus linguistics and the discursive construction of social identity in the media’. The paper presented a case study on how corpus linguistics can be used to examine social identities in the narrative mass media. I examined the frequency and distribution of the non-standard, stigmatised word form ain’t and its use by different characters in the Sydney Corpus of Television Dialogue (SydTV), which contains data from 66 different US TV series. The findings show that collocation analysis points to interesting packages that are used, and could thus be a useful way of combining corpus linguistics with sociolinguistic, stylistic and critical discourse analysis into indexicality, stereotyping, and characterisation.

Most of the conference participants came from New Zealand as well as the Asia-Pacific region, but there were also participants from Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Canada, Mexico, and the US. Immaculately organised, the event ran extremely smoothly, and even included a trip to the beautiful Piha beach! Food options were aplenty, with Vegetarians well catered for. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the conference dinner, but that would have provided additional opportunities for networking and socializing. For researchers interested in corpus-based discourse analysis, corpus-assisted discourse studies (CADS), or corpus linguistic CDA, this conference series is another great opportunity to present their research to an international community.

Further information about Monika Bednarek can be found on her personal website – www.monikabednarek.com