SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 - Page 33

GENDER: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN PHOTO: 123RF abuse of children and the 2012 gang rape, torture and murder of a woman on a New Delhi bus by Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh. The book starts with a diachronic (or longitudinal) study of a decade’s worth of media reports and examines and compares language use during that period, including emerging (or constant) trends since the occurrence of #MeToo. The collection of texts – the ‘corpus’ – forms the basis for the analysis. Dr Tranchese uses corpus linguistics, a technologically advanced analytical method, as a research framework. This approach allows her to study large bodies of text and detect language patterns through advanced computer processing techniques. “Patterns in language use are never random but typically hide some form of ideology or discourse,” Dr Tranchese says. “That means when we spot a pattern, there’s usually something there to investigate.” Media conditioning Together with this quantitative approach to language analysis, Dr Tranchese uses a range of other techniques to study discourse; for example, systemic functional grammar (SFG) – selecting ways of saying (or writing) from a range of virtually endless choices. SFG allows researchers to systematically group such choices into specific grammatical categories, so that patterns can be detected not only at the level of words, but also at the level of grammar. In her previous research on media reporting of rape, Dr Tranchese has shown that rape survivors are often reported in the media as the central participants or actors in mental or emotional processes, such as thinking or feeling – she ‘thought’, she ‘felt’; not ‘she said’. This contrasted starkly with the language attributed to lawand-order institutions, whose words were conveyed as Patterns in language use are never random but typically hide some form of ideology or discourse. That means when we spot a pattern, there’s usually something there to investigate. – Alessia Tranchese clear and authoritative through the more neutral verbs telling or saying. “What’s the message when law-and-order institutions get to express ‘facts’, but women only present ‘opinions’?” Dr Tranchese asks. “Why aren’t the women ‘sayers’ when these articles are about them?” She says her research – which has also investigated the language used by misogynous online groups and in pornography – reveals the existence of ingrained male entitlement to override women’s right to their bodies and voices. This sense of entitlement, however, does not originate within the media, online discourse or pornography, Dr Tranchese stresses. It was already present, pervading society right down to its use of language, in which women have historically been made invisible. She says the internet and other media has simply amplified this. While a flurry of research papers and a book covering this subject are underway, Dr Tranchese is also keen to extend the impact of her research beyond the academic and teaching spheres, to bring it into the world at large. The desire to incorporate language research and social change is based on a view, common in linguistics circles, that society and language are interconnected: “Language mirrors society but does so in ways that also allow it to influence society,” she says. She has identified several opportunities for impact outside the immediate fields of academic research and teaching. For example, there are opportunities to assist police to detect online harassment of women based on linguistic features, or raise awareness through sex education. “It’s important to me that my research brings about social change. I would find it limiting if I just studied these things and left it at that. When you see injustice, you have to do something to make it right.” ISSUE 1 / 2020 33