Monthly Archives: July 2012

Discursive constructions of Scots from the pre-devolution era to the debates on independence

University of Aberdeen


Language, and language attitudes, are becoming an increasingly important part of the discourse on Scotland’s identity, both within and outwith Scotland, but nevertheless remain a relatively low priority for politicians. In this paper, I will trace the construction of the Scots language in public policy and public perception from the pre-devolution era to the present using a critical discourse studies approach. I combine text analysis of ‘top-down’ language policy-related texts such as official documents, parliamentary debates, educational guidelines and school resources with analysis of  ‘bottom-up’ data from focus groups consisting of people affected by the policies. Through this, I will show that the seemingly positive evaluations of the Scots language both in official documents and amongst Scots speakers are problematic from a language policy and planning perspective. They employ a number of ‘macro-strategies’ to construct Scots in ways that potentially are barriers to the revitalization of the language. I will argue that despite the seemingly positive aspects of an increased interest in Scots among politicians and an apparent revitalization of the activist community, it is important to examine the content and form of language policies and discourse on the language, and to critically evaluate them in relation to latent language ideologies and political agendas. In particular, the current debates on independence could provide a strong incentive for politicians to instrumentalise the ideologies surrounding the Scots language, but this has not yet been particularly evident to date. I will conclude my paper by discussing some possible explanations for this.

New tools for critical discourse studies in new media contexts

University of Minho, Braga, Portugal



In this paper, I suggest guidelines for researchers who wish to study ‘new’ media contexts from a critical discourse studies (CDS) perspective, based on the findings of the Political Resistance Online Research Project. While there is a large and continually growing volume of work in computer-mediated discourse analysis (CMDA, see Herring 2008), and there have been a number of successful attempts to apply CDS in online contexts (e.g. Wright & Wodak 2006), CDS scholars have traditionally been rather reluctant to engage with new media (Mautner 2005), and CMDA scholars have not necessarily engaged with the socio-political contexts of data.

I examine some of the theoretical, methodological and practical implications of adopting a CDS framework in online contexts, particularly when faced with ‘web 2.0’ phenomena such as social networking, crowd-sourcing and participatory media. This is especially interesting to investigate in relation to activism and political resistance, where offline, online and hybrid practices rapidly evolve in response to political events, as could be seen in recent revolutions and political upheaval (e.g. the Arab Springs and the Occupy Movement). Different technologies, which are often controlled by governing elites, are nevertheless adapted and exploited by grass-roots activists to achieve their aims. Ultimately, CDS is advantageously placed, as a loose, adaptable theoretical approach rather than a rigid methodological framework, to investigate these new contexts, but it requires new tools to fully realise its potential.


Herring, S. C. (2008). Computer-Mediated Discourse. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, & H. E. Hamilton (Eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 612-634). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Mautner, G. (2005). Time to get wired: Using web-based corpora in critical discourse analysis. Discourse & Society, 16(6), 809-828.

Wodak, R., & Wright, S. (2006). The European Union in Cyberspace: Multilingual Democratic Participation in a virtual public sphere? Journal of Language and Politics, 5(2), 251-275.