Economic and financial terms in online interaction metalanguage in the Guardian comment boards during the 2010-2011 Euro crisis bailouts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The manifold connections between language and economic affairs have been approached intermittently from a variety of angles. Lack of a sustained focus, however, means less attention has been paid to financial and economic concepts in a nonspecialised public sphere, how their meanings travel through use, or how and to what extent they shape an audience's understanding of economic affairs.

The current thesis investigates how an online news audience draws attention to particular economic and financial terms, why some terms attract more attention, and which contextual features influence potential uptake of the terms. The data consists of media reporting during selected moments of the euro crisis (2010-2011), and subsequent online user-comments. Under investigation are comments produced in The Guardian/The Observer Online, and, to a lesser extent, The (Sunday) Times, around critical moments when Greece, Ireland, and Portugal applied for financial aid (23 April 2010, 21 November 2010, and 6 April 2011, respectively). The thesis employs an analytical lens of metapragmatics, incorporating insights from linguistic pragmatics and principles of Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis. The focus lies on how, and to what extent, news user-commenters engage with specific terminology of the reporting through their own metalanguage surrounding particular financial and economic terms. 
Drawing upon Agha's (2007) framework of language use in society, as well as processes of mediatization in online contexts, the thesis argues that three main categories of financial/economic terms may be established based on the amount and type of metalanguage they attract. Besides (i) everyday, common terms and (ii) terms that are highly contentious, (iii) a substantial portion of terms allows commenters to both strategically bring to the fore existing connotations surrounding them, as well as introducing connotations specific to the momentary interaction. The semantic ambiguity of theoretical economic/financial concepts in a public setting plays a key role in the processes witnessed in the third category. The thesis closes with a discussion of the findings' implications for ideology-in-language research, as the data reveal varying degrees of audience receptivity to particular lexis. It also reiterates the need for 'a turn towards the audience' in discourse-analytical investigations.
Date of Award1 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes (Supervisor) & Eva Ogiermann (Supervisor)

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