The discourse of disease : the representation of SARS : the China Daily and the South China Morning Post

  • Jie DUAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis is a case study on newspaper discourse representation of SARS. The study uses two representative English newspapers in Asia – the China Daily (“CD”) and the South China Morning Post (“SCMP”). By comparing the discursive construction of the same event – the outbreak of SARS - in the two newspapers, it aims to reveal that the practice of news follows institutional, cultural and political assumptions, and also make visible the two newspapers’ embedded attitudes and ideological positions. The methodology is a critical corpus linguistics (CCL) approach, especially using KWIC format (Key Word in context), word frequency, collocation, and concordance data, which is analyzed according to transitivity systems of systemic functional grammar (SFG). The main approach of the study is achieved by a computer-assisted corpus analysis with the help of software “Wordsmith 3.0” (on line version). Results indicate that through the comparison of the newspapers’ corpora, there are statistically significant differences between the two newspapers’ word patterns. First, in the context of SARS, the CD corpus and the SCMP corpus shows different word choice and words frequency in occupying disease-relevant and human-relevant words. Second, when SARS is situated as the node word, the collocation results discuss the observation that the CD tends to treat the SARS epidemic from a national struggle perspective, while the standpoint of the SCMP is more based on the human health and safety, and its social role as the fourth estate. Moreover, the collocation of the three selected keywords is summarized for finding out the general patterns of their concordance lines. Third, according to further concordancing analysis, the study investigates to what extent critical corpus linguistics and transitivity systems of systemic functional grammar can be mutually reinforced and interpreted within the disease discourse context, textually, culturally and ideologically. In particular, a power hierarchy model is established and used in the transitivity analysis. Results show that the two selected newspapers discursively constructed the SARS-issue in a different way, and these differences help to understand how the ideologies work in both newspapers.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of English
SupervisorAndrew Peter GOATLY (Supervisor), Michael Anthony INGHAM (Supervisor) & Ersu DING (Supervisor)

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