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“Our biggest killer”: multimodal discourse representations of dementia in the British press

Brookes, Gavin; Harvey, Kevin; Chadborn, Neil; Dening, Tom

Authors

Gavin Brookes

Kevin Harvey

Neil Chadborn

Tom Dening tom.dening@nottingham.ac.uk



Abstract

A recent (2016) Office for National Statistics report stated that dementia is now “the leading cause of death” in England and Wales. Ever fixated with the syndrome (an unfailingly newsworthy topic), the British press was quick to respond to the bulletin, consistently headlining that dementia was the nation’s “biggest killer,” while (re)formulating other aspects of the report in distorting and emotive metaphorical terms. In this paper we examine how the media, through use of a recurring set of linguistic and visual semiotic tropes, portrayed dementia as an agentive entity, a “killer,” which remorselessly attacks its “victims.” Such a broadly loaded and sensationalist representation, we argue, not only construed dementia as a direful and pernicious disease, but also, crucially, obscured the personal and social contexts in which the syndrome is understood and experienced (not least by people with dementia themselves). This intensely lurid type of representation not only fails to address the ageist misinformation and common misunderstandings that all too commonly surround dementia, but is also likely to exacerbate the stress and depression frequently experienced by people with dementia and their families.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 27, 2018
Journal Social Semiotics
Print ISSN 1035-0330
Electronic ISSN 1470-1219
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 3
Pages 371-395
APA6 Citation Brookes, G., Harvey, K., Chadborn, N., & Dening, T. (2018). “Our biggest killer”: multimodal discourse representations of dementia in the British press. Social Semiotics, 28(3), 371-395. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2017.1345111
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2017.1345111
Keywords Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Media; Office for National Statistics; Multimodal critical discourse analysis; Photography; Neuroimaging
Publisher URL http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10350330.2017.1345111
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social Semiotics on 30/06/2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline....0/10350330.2017.1345111

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/end_user_agreement.pdf





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