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Myth that Andy Murray’s nationality is linked to success smashed

Andy Murray Wimbledon 2012
Andy Murray Wimbledon 2012 - Photo credit Su-May

The notion that success plays a part in media descriptions of tennis ace Andy Murray’s nationality has finally been dispelled by a postgraduate student at the University of Stirling. The commonly held view that Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses has been dismissed by Ben Dickson in a recent research project.

The dissertation study, which formed the final part of Dickson’s MSc in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, set out to examine the use of national identity in sports reporting and saw in the region of 200 press reports scrutinised.

Analysing UK press reports on Murray’s Wimbledon matches from 2005 – 2014, Dickson found that, despite the result, patterns in the reporting of his national identity were consistent. Despite Murray’s losing or winning his match, all sections of the press remained consistent when describing his national identity.

Dickson also discovered that reporting on Murray’s national identity depended more on the type of newspaper and where it was published. Scottish newspapers referred to Murray as Scottish twice as frequently as they referred to him as British. In the UK national press, broadsheets had an increased tendency to refer to Murray as Scottish while tabloids referred to him as British.

Speaking on his findings Ben Dickson said: “Following on from a previous small-scale study I had done for my Corpus Linguistics module – and as a tennis fan – I was determined to put this issue to bed once and for all. My research shows that the result of Andy Murray’s matches does not affect the way the UK based press refer to his national identity. What has been identified, however, is that nationalism is key to the language of sports reports in the UK.”

Sampling both broadsheet and tabloid titles, the research threw up interesting results on the use of language. Analysis of key words showed that broadsheets tended to give a voice to Murray only when he was successful and that tabloids tended to use more personal language like first names and nicknames. Nationalistic terms were used to refer to Murray’s opponents in all newspapers except one broadsheet.

Dr. Vander Viana, Lecturer in TESOL and Applied Linguistics at the School of Education, who supervised the study, said: “The analysis of language constantly throws up surprises. Our intuitions on how we think we use language and how we actually use it are not the same as this fascinating corpus research shows. Dickson’s study dispels a long-standing myth on the basis of a thorough linguistic analysis.”


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Background information

University of Stirling

The University of Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Stirling is committed to carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society.

Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community.

At almost 50-years-young, Stirling retains a pioneering spirit and a passion for innovation. Its scenic central Scotland campus – complete with a loch, castle and golf course – is home to more than 11,000 students and 1400 staff representing 115 nationalities. This includes an ever-expanding base for postgraduate study.

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