Wright – “You need to speak in English, you’re in f***ing England”: how the British press fan the flames of linguistic discrimination

The FORGE is delighted to announce our second external guest speaker: Dr David Wright (NTU). Details of his talk are below:

“You need to speak in English, you’re in f***ing England”: how the British press fan the flames of linguistic discrimination

Every so often a story of linguistic discrimination makes the national news in Britain. Whether it’s offensive graffiti in an East London borough, tourists being verbally abused in the street, or acts of physical violence towards people on the tube, the motivation for these attacks is the same – the victims aren’t native English speakers.

In this talk, I demonstrate the ways in which such criminal behaviours have been at best legitimised, and at worst incited, by some sections of the British national press. I examine the ways in which non-native English speakers living in Britain are framed as a ‘problem’ for the native English majority, and how discriminatory, exclusionary and prejudiced ideologies about race, ethnicity and nationality are packaged in discourse about ‘language’.

Using a 5-million word corpus of British press reporting from 2005-2017, I explore the various ways in which non-native English speakers are vilified and demonised by the press. I also trace the development of certain discourses over time, and the means by which particular ideologies and arguments are ushered into the public debate, before being escalated and amplified. Most specifically, I observe the impact that the results of the 2011 Census had on the nature of such reporting, when it was revealed that 138,000 people (or 0.26% of the British population) do not speak English.

Dr David Wright is a forensic linguist at Nottingham Trent University. His research applies methods of corpus linguistics and discourse analysis in forensic contexts and aims to use language analysis to help improve the delivery of justice. His research spans across a range of intersections between language and the law, language in crime and evidence, and discourses of abuse, harassment and discrimination. He is co-author of An Introduction to Forensic Linguistics: Language in Evidence (with Malcolm Coulthard and Alison Johnson) and has published in international journals in forensic linguistics, corpus linguistics and critical discourse studies.

1100-1200, Wed 27th Feb, County South B89