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Exploring the identity construction of IS members through linguistic markers in online discourse

Project description

ISIS, identity construction and online discourse

The Islamic State (IS) has been using the internet to communicate information and recruit members, and has developed a particular ability to make online propaganda. As a consequence, the analysis of how they interact online is considered to be a key aspect to look into in discourse studies. This EU-funded ISICD project intends to investigate the IS’s discourse and establish a system that allows us to analyse how its ideology is represented discursively. The project will use a triangulation methodology to determine the role of some linguistic features in the construal of their online identity. The results will be transferable to other contexts of ideology construction among online communities.


The proposed research (Islamic State identity construction through discourse or ISICD) will explore the discourse of the Islamic State (IS) with the aim of contributing to a system of detecting, tracking, monitoring and studying such discourse in the Internet. As a tool, language allows us to establish our relationship with people discursively, to represent and distort reality, and to convince those with who we communicate to act in a certain way. This makes it a valuable resource for exploring larger motives and ideologies that are not explicit at the level of the text itself. The growing popularity of IS and its global influence depends on the ability of its members to communicate and share information online. As a consequence, its social identity as a political and religious group is established through online language in particular. The research will be carried out with a triangulation methodology, incorporating corpus linguistic methods with a discourse analysis frameworkand systemic functional linguistics, to determine four specific objectives (O): O1 how extremism is identified within language use through quantitative linguistic markers such as n-grams and collocations; O2 how extremism is identified through qualitative structural patterns such as transitivity, modality and appraisal; O3 how the use of these linguistic traits explains rhetoric and persuasive strategies used by IS; O4 what these findings tell us about how IS ideology is represented discursively. The findings from this research will provide a much-needed comprehensive account of the linguistic markers that characterise online identity of IS members. The project will develop original quantitative methodologies which will be transferrable to other contexts in which ideology is constructed in online communities. The findings will also have a wider relevance in areas such as sociology, the media, anti-terrorism research, politics and border control.


Net EU contribution
€ 160 932,48
Cuesta del hospicio sn
18071 Granada

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Sur Andalucía Granada
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00