[New publication] Special Issue of Palgrave Communications

Genealogies of knowledge

Special Issue of Palgrave Communications

Prof Mona Baker (University of Manchester, UK) and Dr Henry Jones (University of Manchester, UK)  


The value of corpus-based analysis of language has been widely demonstrated across numerous disciplines, most notably in the fields of lexicography and language learning, but also in areas such as linguistics, discourse analysis, literary studies and translation studies. This special issue extends the application of corpus analysis to new areas of scholarship, including classical reception, medieval and modern Arabic studies and digital culture. Rather than identifying the patterning of linguistic items for lexicographical or pedagogical purposes, or the distinctive features of a genre or type of language use, the articles in this collection draw on the Genealogies of Knowledge corpora and visualization tools to address the broader and more complex role that various forms of mediation, including translation, play in guiding our understanding of key aspects of social and political life.

All articles are published as open access. More articles to appear over the coming weeks.

Community and authority in ROAR Magazine

Jan Buts


This article responds to a common critique of corpus-based studies as decontextualized exercises in linguistic analysis by illustrating how, in the case of internet-based data, the concordance line can reveal rather than obscure aspects of a textual body’s cultural constitution. The data for the study consists of 100 articles of the online political journal ROAR (Reflections on a Revolution) Magazine, which has reported on global instances of public unrest and dissent since 2011. After sketching the relation between the financial crisis commencing in 2007 and the global protests that followed in its wake, the article investigates textual patterns within ROAR’s varied output. These patterns, ranging from the collocational profile of the keyword democracy to quotation practices, are shown to be constitutive of a virtual sense of community. This process of identity formation is then shown to have a mythopoetic effect, which ultimately impacts the emplotment of the various events covered and considered by the magazine. Additional attention is paid to ROAR as a cross-platform enterprise. In this respect, the fragmentary nature of the Internet is shown to both facilitate and frustrate the creation of a symbolic sense of community.

Rehumanizing the migrant: the translated past as a resource for refashioning the contemporary discourse of the (radical) left

Mona Baker

This study examines conceptions of outsiders to the polity, focusing on the lexical items migrant(s), refugee(s), and exile(s) in both internet- and print-based sources. Drawing primarily on a subsection of the Genealogies Internet Corpus consisting of left-wing sources, I argue that left-wing politics is currently caught up in the rhetoric of the right and of mainstream institutions in society, largely reproducing the same discursive patterns even as it sets out to challenge them. Dominant patterns in left-wing Internet sources reveal, for example, that the economic migrant vs. political refugee distinction enforced by mainstream institutions remains largely intact, that the assumption of a “refugee crisis” unfolding in Europe is accepted at face value, and that the left is entangled in the same politics of labeling imposed by the right, reproducing designations such as “undocumented migrants” uncritically. Refugees and migrants, moreover, are represented as victims with no agency, are discussed in legal terms that serve to dehumanize them, and are repeatedly “quantified” as a homogenous and potentially problematic category. Acknowledging the contagious nature of dominant discourses and the difficulty of finding an alternative language with which to argue against established institutional rhetoric, the study further explores historical models that appear more consistent with the values espoused by left-wing politics today. It examines a subcorpus of modern English translations of ancient Greek texts such as Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War and Herodotus’s Histories to demonstrate the viability of adopting a different conceptualization of refugees and other outsiders to the polity that may be drawn from classical antiquity—and/or from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century receptions of texts originating in classical antiquity—and the possibility of developing an alternative discourse with which to speak about migrants in the present.

Editions, translations, transformations: refashioning the Arabic Aristotle in Egypt and metropolitan Europe, 1940–1980

Kamran I. Karimullah


Like translations, critical editions can play an important role in the language-mediated evolution of political concepts. This paper offers a case-study of a modern edition of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics by the famous twentieth-century Egyptian philosopher and father of ‘Arab existentialism’ Abd al-Rahman Badawi (d. 2002). It draws on ancient Greek and medieval Arabic corpora developed by the Genealogies of Knowledge project and a modern Arabic corpus accessible through Sketch Engine to examine the lexical patterning of key political items relating to the concept of citizen in the Arabic and Greek versions of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This corpus-based analysis of lexical patterns is contextualised against discursive and disciplinary parameters that shaped Badawi’s edition. Supplementing this collocational analysis of relevant lexical items with a more traditional analysis of Badawi’s paratexts, I argue that the editing process produces a hybrid ‘third text’ that is neither a transcription of the original manuscript nor a reconstruction of the manuscript’s archetype. The paper concludes that, like translations, editions transform the texts they are based on.

Shifting characterizations of the ‘Common People’ in modern English retranslations of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War: a corpus-based analysis

Henry Jones


Little research has yet explored the impact of (re)translation on narrative characterization, that is, on the process through which the various actors depicted in a narrative are attributed particular traits and qualities. Moreover, the few studies that have been published on this topic are either rather more anecdotal than systematic, or their focus is primarily on the losses in character information that inevitably occur when a narrative is retold for a new audience in a new linguistic context. They do not explore how the translator’s own background knowledge and ideological beliefs might affect the characterization process for readers of their target-language text. Consequently, this paper seeks to make two contributions to the field: first, it presents a corpus-based methodology developed as part of the Genealogies of Knowledge project for the comparative analysis of characterization patterns in multiple retranslations of a single source text. Such an approach is valuable, it is argued, because it can enhance our ability to engage in a more systematic manner with the accumulation of characterization cues spread throughout a narrative. Second, the paper seeks to move discussions of the effects of translation on narrative characterization away from a paradigm of loss, deficiency and failure, promoting instead a perspective which embraces the productive role translators often play in reconfiguring the countless narratives through which we come to know, imagine and make sense of the past, our present and imagined futures. The potential of this methodology and theoretical standpoint is illustrated through a case study exploring changes in the characterization of ‘the common people’ in two English-language versions of classical Greek historian Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, the first produced by Samuel Bloomfield in 1829 and the second by Steven Lattimore in 1998. Particular attention is paid to the referring expressions used by each translator—such as the multitude vs. the common people—as well as the specific attributes assigned to this narrative actor. In this way, the study attempts to gain deeper insight into the ways in which these translations reflect important shifts in attitudes within key political debates concerning the benefits and dangers of democracy.

Genealogies of Knowledge Project


Genealogies of Knowledge Research Network