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Analysing aggression of social actors in political protests: combining corpus and cognitive approaches to discourse analysis

May L.-Y. Wong (School of English, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the newspaper representations of the aggressive behaviour of social actors in political protests and explore the benefits of integrating corpus linguistics and cognitive approaches to a critical discourse analysis in analysing press reports.


This paper uses methods from corpus linguistics and theoretical constructs from cognitive linguistics to examine patterns of representation around Occupy Central, a recent political protest in Hong Kong, in two corpora of English-language newspaper articles published in China Daily and the South China Morning Post (SCMP).


An analysis of the ten most frequent collocates of the word police showed that the China Daily corpus articles typically index the presentation of police as vulnerable yet professional in their handling of violent protesters, whereas in SCMP, police officers are often presented as aggressors. The analysis subsequently considered three discursive strategies, namely structural configuration, framing and identification that are mediated through conceptualisations that representations in text evoke.

Research limitations/implications

In the proposed integrated approach, quantitative investigations of corpus examples could be focussed and contextualised in such a way that particular linguistic instantiations in discourse which are proved statistically salient can be further analysed in relation to conceptual phenomena which serve specific ideological purposes.


Hopefully, the study could serve as the first ever attempt to adopt an integrative analytical framework in the study of aggression and conflict in news discourse.



The author would like to thank the audience at the Corpus Linguistics 2015 conference and the UK Cognitive Linguistics 2016 conference who provided useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Special thanks to Professor John Flowerdew at the City University of Hong Kong who kindly offered to read the author’s manuscript and gave constructive feedback to the author, which improved it considerably.


Wong, M.L.-.-Y. (2017), "Analysing aggression of social actors in political protests: combining corpus and cognitive approaches to discourse analysis", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 178-194.



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