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About the project – University of Reading

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About the project

AHRC Developing Research Networks "Translating Cultures", February - July 2012

The project brought together researchers from France, Germany, Italy and the UK with a background in (critical) discourse analysis and/or corpus linguistics as well as cognitive linguistics and/or specifically migration discourse(s) to discuss ways of researching and documenting discourse key words in European migration discourses. The aim of the networking project is to lay the conceptual and methodological foundations from a Comparative Dictionary of European Migration Discourse Key Words as a follow-on project. For this purpose, two workshops were held in March and June 2012 at the University of Reading.

Without suggesting the 'discourse' as a phenomenon can be boiled down to the lexical level, the conceptual premise was an understanding of discourse key words (in the following: DKW) as nodes in the semantic network of discourses. DKW emerge, become prominent and decline in prominence in discursive contexts. They are semantically complex, as they often pertain to issues that feature a variety of aspects and a range of evaluations, such as multicultural society. They occur as part of an ensemble of DKWs that feature in specific discourses and that may be designed to express a certain perspective, such as illegalised as opposed to illegal immigrants. DKW must be studied in discourse context, but they are phenomenologically distinct enough to realistically accommodate the complexities involved in comparative discourse analyses and they also allow accommodating a combination of methodological approaches; corpus linguistics, discourse analysis and cognitive linguistics. The network participants discussed a number of issues that pertain to different dimensions of such a project:

  1. Conceptual clarification; arrive at a shared understanding of the phenomenon 'DKW' to identify migration DKW across the involved discourses and languages;
  2. Corpus foundation; to establish sub-corpora in the different languages of desirable yet manageable size, to determine domains, genres and time spans that need to be included, and to discuss issues of comparability of corpora across discourse communities and languages;
  3. Methodology; to discuss procedures for identifying and analysing DKW in relation to corpora/corpus building;
  4. Discourse representation; to capture and to do justice to the constrastive element of the project, avoiding a merely additive (France A-Z, Italy A-Z etc.) approach;
  5. Presentation format; to create an electronic resource and to make full use of the advantages of this in integrating examples, organising the dictionary entries in tabs and using software for visualising e.g. frequencies and/or the strength of collocation.

The networking project was a necessary first step towards the envisaged Comparative Dictionary of European Migration Discourse Key Words. Resulting from the network, the group of researchers agreed on suitable ways for DKW finding, corpus building and methodology (see outline methodological procedure), for structuring dictionary entries (see the June workshop report), on creating an outline resource (see workshop reports). A preliminary list of key words was created as a trigger for discussion, and a list of references to literature about DKW in different languages was created (see materials).

The network participants are determined to carry the project forward, i.e. to try to find funding to work on/towards a documentation of migration DKW and to engage in co-operation with one another to further the constrative analysis of DKW through joint conference presentations and co-authored articles. The results of the discussions within the network will remain publicly accessible on this website in order to promote comparative discourse/DKW analysis.

A blog has also been set up on for the participants to maintain contact, discussion and exchange news, CfPs, interesting new publications, progress of work on DKW and funding opportunities etc.

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