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An actor or an undefined threat? : The role of "terrorist" in the discourse of international news agencies

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The paper studies the use of the word terrorist in the dispatches of two major international news agencies, AP and Reuters. It can be assumed that the attacks on September 11, 2001, have changed the role of terrorist and affected the meaning of the word. While terrorists have been traditionally construed as violent actors, they are now, more and more, seen as a static threat. The paper examines three collocations — terrorist attack, terrorist threat and terrorist suspect — as grammatical metaphors (cf. Halliday 1994); the collocation terrorist network is analysed as a conceptual metaphor (cf. Lakoff and Johnson 1980). Linguistic strategies manifested in the data form a pattern that I call “anti-terrorism discourse”. Modality and general vagueness of the language are conspicuous features in the news agency dispatches on terrorism; the reports focus on what may happen or may have happened. This can be argued to undermine the factuality of news agency discourse.
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Keywords: anti-terrorism discourse; collocation; factuality; metaphor; modality; news agency discourse; terrorist; transitivity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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