Controversial reform: the linguistic construction of present-day Britain in the speeches of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Dornan, Jennifer (2015) Controversial reform: the linguistic construction of present-day Britain in the speeches of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis analyses the linguistic construction of Britain by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in his public speeches from May 2010 to October 2012. It does so in the context of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 by focusing on three main areas of construction: the welfare system itself, the concept of “worklessness”, and the relationship between government and citizens. In chapter 3, I apply the metaphor theories set out by Lakoff (1996) to contemporary British politics to explain and examine the moral origins of arguments for austerity and the focus on welfare in particular, whilst analysing the linguistic features used to present the welfare state as “unsustainable” in its present form.

In chapter 4, the argument that there exists in Britain a “culture of worklessness” is closely examined and I ask what this means, analyse the linguistic construction of this culture and the people who are alleged to live in it, ask how its existence is evidenced in the dataset, and explore external evidence for its existence and consider the impact of both the widespread acceptance of the existence of this culture and the dangers it poses both to those supposedly within and those living outside of it.

In chapter 5, I return to the metaphor systems on which political ideologies are based and analyse the dataset in detail to reveal to which moral framework – and corresponding metaphor systems – Duncan Smith is most closely adhering (shown to be Lakoff’s Strict Father model). I then examine the consequences of this on the representation of the citizens living under this father figure. With consideration throughout of Jeffries’ (2010) work on the construction of oppositional meaning, Sinclair (1971) and Louw’s (1993) work on semantic prosody and utilising Simpson’s (1993) framework for transitivity analysis, I explore the assignment of agency with regard to the problems being argued to necessitate these welfare reforms. Alongside this, I look at how the linguistic features of these speeches contribute to the creation of an in- and out-group and consider the impact of this. The thesis applies some contemporary theories in cognitive linguistics, evolutionary psychology, and discourse and metaphor analysis to recent political speeches which contain information crucial to understanding the changing face of British politics today.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Welfare Reform Act 2012, culture, worklessness, austerity, morality, fairness, metaphor, transitivity analysis, the nation as family, constructed opposition, constructed equation.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Alexander, Dr Marc
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Miss Jennifer Dornan
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6842
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2015 15:13
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2015 15:29

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