Multimodality, intertextuality and national identity in online media: Discourse of Scottish and Catalan independence (A Comparative Perspective)

Author: Olga A. Blinova (MGIMO University, Russia)
Speaker: Olga A. Blinova
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
COMELA 2022 General Session


The paper looks at how national identity is construed by the online “new media” platforms, with a particular focus on comparing the cases of Scotland and Catalonia. The choice of these two nations was prompted by the fact that they both held an independence referendum in the past decade (an officially recognised one in Scotland in 2014 and an illegitimate one in Catalonia in 2017). The ripple effect of both events has reached far and wide, and is still on top of the media agenda. 

The so-called “new media” — online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. — are first to respond to the changing social and political agenda. At the same time, they are also actors who shape this agenda. New media disseminate both professional content (e.g. official accounts of political leaders and traditional media outlets) and user-generated content created by amateurs, which makes them a particularly interesting research case.

The pro-independence discourse typically revolves around asserting regional Scottish / Catalan identity, envisioned as radically different from the English / British or Castilian / Spanish identities. This framework rests on specific linguistic features, such as use of metaphors, dialect, cultural or historical references and intertextuality, and manifests itself in not only verbal but also multimodal communication (memes and political cartoons).

Building on the existing research into the multimodal discourse construal of identities in Spain (Forceville & Urios-Aparisi 2009; Negro Alousque 2014) and the UK (Spinzi & Manca 2017), and drawing on a corpus compiled from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I adopt the traditional and multimodal discourse analysis to explore how Scottish and Catalan national identities are constructed. I then demonstrate that Scotland’s push for independence has had direct implications for the discourse of the Catalonian secession movement. In other words, some elements of the Scottish pro-independence coverage have become a yardstick and have been adopted as multimodal templates by other similar movements.


Forceville C and Urios-Aparisi E (eds) (2009) Multimodal Metaphor. Berlin: De Gruyter. 
Negro Alousque I (2014) Pictorial and verbo-pictorial metaphor in Spanish political cartooning. Círculo de Lingüística Aplicada a la Comunicación 57: 59–84.
Spinzi C and Manca E (2017) Reading figurative images in the political discourse of the British press. Textus 1: 241–56.

Keywords: identity, national identity, discourse analysis, multimodality, multimodal analysis, online discourse, new media, Scotland, Catalonia.