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Using Corpus Linguistics to Investigate Class, Ideology, and Discursive Practices in Online Political Discussions

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Chapter Summary

This study examines the use of epithets, hyperbole, lexical choices, word collocations, verbs of cognition, and personal pronouns in a 46,300-word corpus of online political discussions among residents of five northern New Jersey towns. Using tools from corpus linguistics, we performed qualitative and quantitative analyses on the data. We used a Critical Discourse Analysis framework to uncover factors that underlie the power relations and discursive practices of groups of individuals from different social classes, whose political ideologies clash in cyberspace. Our findings show that lexical choices and negative semantic prosody are used to deconstruct a candidate’s image. Singular first and second person personal pronouns occur more frequently than first and third person plural pronouns. Discussants accomplish five pragmatic functions with the second person personal pronoun: giving or requesting information; persuading prospective voters; admonishing a candidate not physically present; excluding those who hold different political ideologies; and addressing a cyber audience in a broad sense.



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