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The age of crime: A cognitive-linguistic critical discourse study of media representations and semantic framings of youth offenders in the Uruguayan media

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Discourse and Communication
Issue number4
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)362-385
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date5/06/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study integrates corpus-assisted text analysis with frame semantics to study a social problem. Taking a cognitive-linguistic approach to critical discourse studies (CDS), in this article I examine the linguistic construction of minors (i.e. people aged 13–18) in a corpus of 489 articles from the Uruguayan newspaper El País in the context of the so-called ‘Criminal Imputability Referendum’. Throughout, I focus on the construal operation of framing and identify a host of discursive patterns via which minors and adolescents are recurrently placed within the semantic frame CRIME, and within this, they profile the frame elements (as per the mappings in the database FrameNet) of perpetrators of violent crimes rather than victims (e.g. of abuse and domestic violence). I argue that, in the context of the referendum, these discursive strategies run the risk of facilitating the consolidation of a strong conceptual link whereby youth become readily associated with criminality (ignoring other aspects of children’s situation in Uruguay, such as their waning access to education, child poverty, child protection laws and health issues), and are subservient to the political views of groups supporting a lower cut-off age for criminal responsibility and more stringent punishments. The observations arrived at in this instance set the foundations for a future experimental study testing whether the discursive patterns unearthed here have an effect on how readers conceptualize minors outside the texts.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Discourse and Communication, 11 (4), 2017, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2017 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Discourse and Communication page: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/dcm on SAGE Journals Online: http://journals.sagepub.com/