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Satiric news is often controversial by challenging current politicians. Consider online satiric newspaper The Daily Mash’s attack on Brexit supporters: “Can we please hurry up and commit economic suicide? ask Brexit Tories”. This headline uses metaphor (Brexit as economic suicide), hyperbole (hurrying towards suicide) and irony (ironic use of ‘please’). Moreover, a key genre characteristic is that satiric news is inherently ironic, and, thereby, inherently figurative.


As academic research has paid little attention to language in inherently figurative genres, we do not yet know how figurative language in satiric news is used across media to construct criticism, and which kinds of figurative language lead to which responses in which people. We will conduct a comprehensive and systematic investigation of language use and effects in satiric news across media and combine methods and insights from communication studies and linguistics in three subprojects.



The goal of sub-project 1 is establishing similarities and differences in use and effects of satiric news across media. Current research on satiric news, irony, and the role of media is scattered across disciplines (communication, linguistics, political science). Thus, the first study is a systematic review of the literature. Systematic reviews are a method in which large databases of research articles are searched for specific studies of interest under strict and explicit systematic rules. This methodology is further extended by systematically searching academic-literature databases for studies on satiric news. Studies are coded for various variables. This allows re-assessing current evidence by contrasting satiric news in online and offline media (print/TV) across modalities (textual, audiovisual).


Additionally, quantitative studies often yield contrasting results. To further zoom in on the effects of online vs. offline media and modality, the second study will be a meta-analysis on the impact of satiric news. Meta-analysis is a method to integrate sets of quantitative studies into a comprehensive overview, even when these studies differ in sample sizes, methods and measures. This meta-analysis establishes the quantitative impact of satiric news in online vs. offline media across modalities.


The third study establishes a theory-based and evidence-based model on the role of media and language in satiric news. This model integrates findings from Studies one and two, and the two PhD-projects. This bottom-up approach based on various methods to establishing a theory-based and evidence-based model is new to figurative-language research. Taken together, sub-project 1 integrates available empirical evidence to establish if an inherently figurative genre (satiric news) functions differently in online and offline media across modalities.

This project will run from 2018 - 2023 and is carried out by  Christian Burgers (Project leader). 


The goal of this PhD project is to study the linguistic features and communicative impact of medium in satiric news. In the first part of the project maps the general linguistic features of satiric news in both textual and audiovisual satire following the method of Biber (1995), and compares these to the linguistic features of regular news and political fiction. This study will determine whether satiric news is pre-generic (in that it does not differ in linguistic features from other registers like news), whether it forms its own register and whether these elements differ across medium (textual, audiovisual).


The second sub-study of the PhD project looks at the relationship between linguistic features of satiric news and audience effects in a naturalistic setting. Social-media responses to satiric news will be analyzed, which are collected through Coosto. Through computer-automated analyses in Coosto, social-media responses are coded for volume, positive and negative sentiment. Combining the corpus analyses of satiric news with these social-media data allows for predicting how linguistic features in satiric news across media trigger spontaneous social-media responses by audience.    


In the second part of the project, lab experiments will be conducted to further study the roles of  figurative language and medium in predicting audience effects. The third sub-study provides an overview of the effects of metaphoric frames in regular political communication, thus presenting a baseline. Subsequently, the fourth sub-study determines how figuration in satire relates to enjoyment and appreciation, and to subsequent perceptions of political topics. The fifth study, finally, determines the role of medium and modality in establishing audience effects.

This project will run from October 2018 - October 2022 and is carried out by Britta Brugmman (PhD Candidate), Christian Burgers, Elly Konijn and Camiel Beukeboom (supervisors).


The goal of this PhD project is to focus on the use and cognitive processing of figuration in the inherently ironic genre of satiric news. The first part of the project maps the use and processing of figurative language in satiric news. The first study is a manual corpus analysis to determine the use of figurative language such as metaphor, hyperbole, and irony in written and audiovisual satire. Results are contrasted with existing corpora of figuration in news and fiction (Burgers et al., 2018; Steen et al., 2010a) demonstrating how figuration is used differently in satire.


In the second study of Part I a lab experiment will be conducted in which eye-tracking procedures will be used to determine how figurative language is processed and comprehended in satire and if it is processed and comprehended differently than in regular news. This study determines the relation between figurative language, online satire processing and comprehension.

 The second part of the project focuses on the role of figurative images in audiovisual satiric news. The third study is a multimodal analysis of audiovisual satire. We use the Visual Metaphor Identification Procedure (VISMIP; Bolognesi & Steen, 2016) to identify visual metaphors and their relation to written language in the image and spoken language by the host. The fourth study of the project then is a lab experiment in which we use eye-tracking to study when and how visual figuration attracts the reader’s attention, and how this impacts comprehension and evaluation of the message.

This project will run from September 2018 - September 2022 and is carried out by Ellen Droog (PhD Candidate), Christian Burgers and Gerard Steen (supervisors).

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