Representations of ‘Leftover Women’ in the Chinese English-language News Media

Miss Yating YU1

1The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Single women who are older than twenty-seven years have been labelled as ‘leftover women’ by the Chinese media since 2007. As Fincher (2014) argues, ‘The stigma surrounding “leftover” women intensifies pressure on women in their mid- to late twenties to rush into marriage with the wrong man’ (p.16). The scarcity of media studies from linguistic perspectives on the topic of leftover women, especially in the Chinese English-language news media, has provided a rationale for conducting this study. In order to fill this niche in the literature, this study investigates how leftover women are linguistically represented in the English-language news media in China by employing a corpus-assisted approach to critical discourse analysis. A specialised corpus of 303 English news articles (i.e., 236,254 words), covering the years between 2007 and 2017, was built for this purpose. Corpus linguistics techniques were employed to quantify the Meaning Shift Units (MSUs) of the lemma leftover women (Sinclair 1996, 2004) and van Leeuwen’s (2008) sociosemantic approach to social actors and actions was applied to inform the classification of MSUs in context. These findings shed light on media representations of leftover women, the contested ideologies emerging from these representations, and how shifting gender politics and identity shapes and are shaped by media in the world’s most populous nation.


Yu Yating is a PhD candidate from the Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research interests are in gender studies, corpus linguistics, (critical) discourse analysis, and metaphor studies. Her recent publications were accepted by the journals called Gender and Language and Social Semiotics.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd