Media Linguistics

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Geert Jacobs, University of Ghent

Daniel Perrin, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences


The research network Media Linguistics links applied linguists who address crucial aspects of text production (written, oral and online) in the domain of public discourse in general and news media in particular. The aim of the newly emerging field of media linguistics is to investigate the highly complex and dynamic interplay of language use in public spheres, newsrooms, and news source domains such as business or politics. Appropriate inter- and transdisciplinary theories, methodologies, and solutions to practical problems in this emerging field of applied linguistics will be developed. It is suggested that media linguistics (in particular knowledge about news production processes) can significantly improve our understanding of language dynamics in an increasingly mediatized world.


Field of activity

“[T]here is a dearth of work on the production of news language (…)” That was how Allan Bell concluded his 2006 encyclopedia article about news language” (Bell 2006). How right he was. Investigating text production processes in media workplaces remains a gap in all the disciplines involved: writing research, communication studies, and applied linguistics. Linguistics first focused on written language, later describing conversations as processes, and only then rediscovered written language from a process perspective. But even today journalism and news media seem of little interest to most linguists investigating text production processes. Media discourse continues to be predominantly investigated from a product-oriented perspective or even as easily accessible everyday language.

In our ReN we will contribute to filling the gap mentioned not only by the sociolinguist Allan Bell, but also, among others, by Charles Bazerman (2008), in written communication and by Mathias Broth (2008), in media studies. Combining computer logging and ethnography from text production research, micro-macro perspectives from sociolinguistics and language teaching and training approaches from applied linguistics two of the future ReN participants (Daniel Perrin for the domain of journalism and Geert Jacobs for PR) began a series of increasingly complex field studies of professional text production in the mid-nineties: first local projects, then national, and finally those of European scope and framework. More and more researchers are now building on the research designs developed in these and other projects, not only for news production research, but also for investigating text production processes in domains such as translation, education, and academia. This experience of applying a process perspective to the linguistic analysis of media discourse is what we plan to develop further in an interdisciplinary framework and to take into the international community of applied linguistics.

We take the new brand of ‚media linguistics‘ described above to be the starting point for investigating socially relevant questions of language use such as how news comes into being. In our individual or joint publications, our conference panels, and other coordinated research activities, we will

  • outline the main research questions and methods, explain how media linguistics can be related to other disciplines and identify the added value that it brings to applied linguistics, to related academic disciplines and to the professional field under investigation.
  • develop research frameworks and questions for projects in which e.g. newswriting is investigated as a situated activity of language use and then related to psychobiography, social settings and cultural resources – to individual, organizational, and political empowerments and constraints.
  • systematically present and discuss new scientific knowledge – and the transformation of this knowledge, i.e. the application of linguistic knowledge generated by investigating individual, collaborative and organizational text production processes in the sample domain of journalism.

To sum up, this ReN is meant to show that a) the question of Allan Bell’s “dearth of work” is currently being addressed, and b) applied linguistics is in pole position to fill “the gaps”.


Activities of the ReN Media Linguistics

  • Joint research activities and endeavours which have already taken place
  • AILA 2008 symposium, featuring Aleksandra and Daniel
  • NT&T research network, featuring Geert, Tom, Ellen, Colleen and Daniel
  • IPRA 2009 panel, featuring Tom, Daniel and Ellen
  • ICA 2009 conference, featuring Daniel, Tom and Richard


The members of this ReN commit themselves to engaging in the following general activities in 2011-2014:

  • providing an overview of and bringing together the field of media linguistics as a distinct research area within applied linguistics;
  • documenting joint research activities in joint publications;
  • ostering the multinational and multilingual potential of the network;
  • encouraging new researchers to work in the field of media linguistics by promoting and supporting PhD studies and similar projects;
  • holding joint symposia and conferences prior to AILA 2014;
  • establishing the website for information exchange and news publications in connection with the AILA website.


AILA Commitment

The members of this ReN commit themselves to filling a slot reserved for AILA Research Networks with a symposium at AILA 2014 and to bringing together the work of the three years in a joint proposal for a volume in the John Benjamins / AILA book series on the important aspects of this emerging field, to further establish it as a relevant area in AL.





For activities of the ReN members see

From the What to the Why: Combining etic and emic perspectives in studying language, media, and digitization

The research network Media Linguistics links applied linguists who address crucial aspects of text production (written, oral and online) in […]

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