Corpus Linguistics in Critical Discourse Analysis: A Case Study on News Reports of the 2011 Libyan Civil War


Libyan civil war
corpus linguistics
discourse analysis

How to Cite

Chen, S. (2013). Corpus Linguistics in Critical Discourse Analysis: A Case Study on News Reports of the 2011 Libyan Civil War. Stream: Interdisciplinary Journal of Communication, 5(1), 21–28.


This paper reports a comparative analysis of the news coverage of the 2011 Libyan civil war in two national media (China Daily and The New York Times). The 2011 Libyan civil war attracted wide attention and was extensively covered by various media around the world. However, news discourse regarding the war was constructed differently across various news agencies as a result of their clashing ideologies. Based on corpus linguistics methods, two small corpora with a total of 22,412 tokens were compiled and the comparative analyses of the two corpora revealed the following results. First, although the two corpora shared a lot of commonalities in word frequency, differences still exist in several high ranking lemmas. On the one hand, words such as “Qaddafi†and “war†ranked similarly in the two corpora’s lexical frequency lists; on the other hand, the frequencies of the lemma “rebel/rebels†were much higher in The New York Times corpus than in the China Daily corpus, which indicated that the image of the rebel received more attention in the reports by The New York Times than in those by China Daily. Second, although the word “Qaddafi†achieved similar frequencies in the two corpora, a follow-up collocation analysis showed that the images of “Qaddafi†contrasted with each other in the two corpora. In The New York Times corpus, the words and phrases collocating with “Qaddafi†were mainly negative descriptions and highlighted the pressure on Qaddafi whereas many neutral and even positive descriptions of Qaddafi appeared in the China Daily corpus. Based on these findings, the paper further discusses how discursive devices are applied in news coverage of warfare, as well as some methodological implications of the case study (Reprinted by Permission of Canadian Association for the Studies of Discourse and Writing).