Realization Of The “Football Match” Cognitive Model In The Sports Internet Discourse


The present paper is devoted to the cognitive model of a socially significant event in the sphere of sport, which is a football match. The undertaken research is determined by the fact that sport nowadays has been widely mediated, it also plays a significant part in life of society. The discursive fragments in the form of match reports subjected to analysis were collected from the News section of the official web-sites of the British football clubs; each of them covers the fixtures of 2020 football season. The article provides the analysis of the constituents of the cognitive model (such as “participants”, “time”, “location”, “objectives”, etc.) at different levels, which is aimed at identifying the dominant model components. The study was carried out by means of content analysis and critical discourse analysis. Two levels at which the research was conducted are the macro- and the micro-level. They were singled out depending on the journalist’s pragmatic goals, which may be the focused on a match and a team as a whole or characterize the action happening directly on the pitch. The findings demonstrate that the dominant components of the model may differ according to the level they represent and the value of the given component for understanding the essence of the event; nevertheless, such constituents as “participants” and “results” turned out to be of equal importance on both levels.

Keywords: Cognitive modelsports Internet discourseevent


Nowadays sporting events represent an integral part of social life. Sport used to be seen as mere entertainment, however, it is no longer so. It is studied by a variety of academic disciplines and a vivid example of one is sociology of sport which comprises “sociological studies of different types of sports and their internal relations” and still develops its theoretical and methodological footing (Hovden, 2015, pp. 480-481). Sport now influences both culture and society on multiple levels and intersects with other powerful cultural discourses. Given that power and power relations are organised and institutionalised (van Dijk, 1993), exploring sports discourse is important in its own right. Thus, we believe it is necessary to analyse discursive processes in the sporting world as well as peculiarities of interaction and meaning making in sport, of sport and about sport.

Sport today has become mediated and new technologies influenced the development of cultural configuration comprised by sport and media. Sport organizations have developed a global consciousness, and commonly utilized improved technology to reach fans, broadcast events, become active participants in the sports discourse, and sell merchandise, tickets, life experiences, and spectacle (Smith & Stewart, 2015). Scholars have started to talk about “mediatization in sport” which has become especially prominent in the last decade (Caldwell, 2020). Hepp et al. (2015) states that the subject of mediatization is “the interrelation between the change of media and communication, on the one hand, and the change of (fields of) culture and society, on the other hand” (p. 319). It also makes possible to analyze sports discourse from the perspective of inter-language comparison of news articles by considering not only linguistic and cognitive-communicative aspects but also a linguocultural one (Gavryushina, 2016).

Media, especially the social one, is integrated into our life and interaction with sport. Media itself influences the language of sports discourse by giving it, for instance, huge expressive potential able to intensify the impact of a media item (Prom et al., 2017). Major sporting events always get their coverage through various means and it provides a great terrain for social linguistic research. The communicative processes connected to them are realized in sports discourse which is widely represented on the Internet. We are going to analyze the actual instances of sports discourse which may be interpreted as language-in-use in the context of sport.

The present study deals with a notion of a cognitive model. Teun van Dijk and Walter Kintsch (1983) represent a cognitive model as a specific kind of structural organization of knowledge in our memory. During comprehension, readers pull out from their general store of knowledge some particular packet of knowledge and use it to provide a framework for the text they are reading. That is, they use information from semantic memory to organize the text they read in order to form a new episodic memory trace (van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). The scholars prove that for an adequate discourse understanding a person should possess special structures of knowledge organization – situation models. A situation model is a cognitive representation of the events, actions, and, more generally, the circumstances of the problem (van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). According to the theory, situation models are formed during observation and perception of various situations (events, episodes), the following cognitive processing and construction of their mental representations. It should be noted that situations themselves and their representations are not the same because real situations are a specific sequence of events or actions of participants and have certain space and time characteristics. At the same time their representations are fragmentary and generalized to some extent. Situation models reflect the most significant interpretation of events. However, one situation may be interpreted differently depending on the perspective which proves the fact that cognitive models are subjective. Moreover, they are also of social character, otherwise people would not understand each other during communication process. Thus, the principle of situation model construction – schematization – is common for all language users.

In the given paper we turn to match reports which, first of all, are represented as text structures. Nevertheless, we tend to think of them as discourse fragments due to the fact that sports discourse as any discourse has a specific style: we can speak differently about the same facts and, consequently, stylistic features will receive semantic, pragmatic, and interactional interpretations. Description is presented from various points of view and people have access to these different perspectival descriptions. We must note that text situation model should be separated from text representation as they do not always coincide. One may remember the text itself as well as the situation presented in it; their structural features may and often do differ greatly.

In our research we focused on a socially significant event in the sphere of sport, which is a sport event (match, competition, etc.). It is represented as a referent situation, which is a constituent part of a communicative situation. A referent situation is a designation of a subject of thought that is reflected in the speaker’s mind and which gets further language interpretation that involves variability (Aleksandrova, 2011). The image of a communicative situation refers to the mode of carrying out the conversation; at the same time the image of a referent situation is focused on what is being discussed (Makarov, 2003). Besides, Rubert singles out a component that corresponds to a generalized model of referent situation in discourse structure, in which discourse is understood as a cognitive entity (Rubert, 2001). The generalized concepts devoted to the referent situation components are kept in language user’s memory in the form of models. Shevchenko and Shevchenko also investigated the problem of situation models; they paid particular attention to the coincidence of some situation models belonging to different discourses (Shevchenko & Shevchenko, 2019).

Problem Statement

The present paper refers to the problem of organizing and representing the cognitive models of various sports events in the media discourse. Specific representation of these models results in foregrounding of some of the model’s components. This foregrounding is determined by the peculiarities of the type of sport being represented and the journalist’s pragmatic goals.

Research Questions

The present research addresses such questions as cognitive modeling, “FOOTBALL MATCH” cognitive model, components of the cognitive model, dominant components and media discourse analysis.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate the peculiarities of the “FOOTBALL MATCH” cognitive model representation in the media discourse, which are determined by the journalist’s particular pragmatic goal.

Research Methods

The idea of discourse has received significant academic attention and we find it necessary to give the definition of discourse. It was Foucault who greatly influenced discourse research. Diamond and Quinby (1988) state that Foucault defines discourse “as a form of power that circulates in the social field and can attach to strategies of domination as well as those of resistance” (p. 185). Fairclough expands the definition, maintaining that Foucault’s concept of discourse refers to the “different ways of structuring areas of knowledge and social practice” (Fairclough, 1992, p. 3). We are going to use the definition given by Gee:

A Discourse is a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, feeling, believing, valuing, and of acting that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or “social network,” or to signal (that one is playing) a socially meaningful role. (Gee, 1990, p. 143)

Hence, sports discourse has a wider meaning than “linguistics of sport” or “language of/in sport”. The plurality in speaking about “ways” of using language allows us to deal with the range of language varieties, genres, registers, lexes, grammars and phonology/graphology that constitute the discourse of sports (Caldwell et al., 2017, p. 19).

This research employed a critical mixed method discourse analysis in order to analyze the realization of a cognitive model within sports discourse. The mixed method refers to both quantitative and qualitative methods in the framework of content analysis and critical discourse analysis.

Krippendorf (2013) stated that content analysis involves “a systematic reading of texts, images, and symbolic matter, not necessary from an author’s or user’s perspective” (p. 10). He defines this kind of methodology as: a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from text (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use. As a research technique, content analysis provides new insights, increases a researcher’s understanding of particular phenomena, or informs practical actions. Content analysis is a scientific tool (Krippendorf, 2013).

This type of analysis was used to address the research questions and determine whether the contents of a media text reflect the journalist’s pragmatic goal aimed at specific representation of a sports event in the media discourse.

Critical discourse analysis was utilized to read “above the level of a sentence, of ways to create meaning, coherence, and accomplish purpose” (Gee & Handford, 2012, p. 1). In discourse analysis it is impossible to divorce discourse from its broader context (Fairclough, 2005). It was considered appropriate to investigate the research questions and used to assess how the broader context of sport is connected and traced in sports discourse.

We also took into account a multimodal discourse analysis, which still remains in the process of developing as a field (Silveira & Quinn, 2018). While the critical discourse analysis school provides research in which discourses are conceived as the organization of meaning about the world from an institutional position (Kress, 2010), multimodal discourse analysis is informed by the broader view of discourse and is based on the analysis of convergent multimedia texts. The object of analysis here can be defined as “the ways in which we make meaning” (Callan et al., 2013, p. 68) in order to reflect a cohesive communicative event.

Data Collection

Match reports covering the current football season were collected from the official web-sites of three prominent British football teams: Chelsea (CH), Aston Villa (AV) and Arsenal (AR). The articles are dated 2020 and are found in the News section of the web-pages mentioned above. They belong to a genre of report as their main function is an informative one; moreover, analytical aspect does not in any way prevail over the narration.


In order to analyze a cognitive model of a “Football Match” in sports discourse we used a traditional model of a news item: Event – Who, What, Where, When, Why, How. Having singled out the constituents of the discursive model (participants, their actions, location, etc.) we came to the conclusion that in the given discourse the cognitive model could be represented on two levels: macro-level and micro-level. The textual representation of an event within macro-level is given in the table 01 .

Table 1 -
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According to the data presented, it is worth noticing that such constituent element as participants stands out as a dominant one. First of all, this conclusion is possible due to the frequency of mentioning of the sides taking part in the competition. Secondly, the ways used to nominate the parties are varied greatly, which proves that the author of the football match reports that were analyzed paid special attention to it. Among the nominating techniques we may name the following ones: distinguishing between the home side or hosts and the visitors or opponents, using toponyms to refer to the teams (the Londoners) as well as using coaches’ names (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Mark Delaney’s side) and team titles or nicknames (Chelsea, Aston Villa, the Cherries, the Blues). We believe that this variety in the means of referring to the teams is determined by different aims the reporter takes into account. These may be emphasizing the connection between the team and the city they represent as the desire to win is common for both players and residents (using toponyms) or drawing our attention to the merits of a coach that brought success to the team. Names and nicknames of the team highlight the aspect of unity within it and, finally, the “home side-outsiders” division once again indicates the aim of an event itself which is a victory of one side and defeat of the other.

As for the other constituent elements, we may note the mentioning of the type of event itself (match, home tie, Cup Final, derby), the location (stadium or city), the time of the event (date and day of the week), the team objectives (to win, to reach the next stage, to qualify for smth). However, the frequency of such references makes it justified to conclude that these aspects are not dominant; they fulfill an informative function and are not aimed at grabbing the reader`s attention. On the contrary, the results of the match are widely mentioned throughout the analyzed discourse fragments. These are represented either as a final score of the game (beating Portsmouth 3-0, a cruel last-gasp 3-2 defeat) or the meaning of the outcome for the team (The result leaves us fourth in the Premier League table, Villa stretched their winless run). We believe it was done to accomplish the purpose of informing the readers, the visitors of a web-page, about the way the match finished, but, in comparison to the previous constituents, this one carries much more significance as without it the primary goal of fully describing an event in a report would not be accomplished.

Thus, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that some fragments of the model become more “activated” than the others. The content of these constituents might be more relevant, important or interesting. Such elements as “participants” and “results” become dominant in the macro-level representation of a “Football Match” cognitive model due to the frequency of their mentioning and the variety of linguistic means used for their definition in the sports discourse.

Table 2 -
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The micro-level representation has been illustrated in the table 02 . Here we may observe certain differences from the macro-level dominant constituents. The first element “Who” matches the macro-level one in frequency, nevertheless, the ways of nomination differ greatly. First of all, in majority of cases the name and surname are represented, however, they are often accompanied by various additional characteristics of a player which may be his position in the team ( forward, winger, scorer ), his age ( the 16-year-old ) or his background in the team ( the recent acquisition ). We believe it is done in order to emphasize the role of an individual in the course of the game and the significance of one`s action for the success of a whole team. The next constituent “Actions” also turns out to be of great importance which is quite understandable considering the specific features of the sports discourse. We come across a great number of verbs describing the in-game actions and sequence of the events such as to converse, to keep the ball, to move the ball, to save, to block, to score, to hit, to lead, to deliver a ball, to head , etc.

The vocabulary used is basically neutral, however, it acquires specific narrowed meaning while being utilized in the framework of sports discourse. This allows the reader, who also becomes a participant in the sports discourse, to feel the atmosphere of the game and retrace the match from start to finish.

The objectives of a subject do not occupy such a significant position in constructing the cognitive event model; though, we believe it is due to the fact that this constituent element overlaps with the next one which is “The circumstances and the result of an action”. The objective is realized in the outcome and the outcome is what we find extensively mentioned in the given discourse fragments. It may refer to goals scored and attacks blocked as well as certain failures on the pitch ( to miss a good chance, to see the red ). The attention paid to this aspect helps to maintain the correlation between cause and effect during the match; moreover, it serves to provide coherence in the narration within the report.

What turned out to be quite unexpected is the number of time references within the articles. While location pointers are scarce, timing seems to be of crucial importance for this type of discourse. In football the right time is equally important to the right move, that’s why numerous time references are pointed out to help the fans in assessing the chances the team has for turning the game in the necessary direction. Some of the references are quite general ( before half-time, just before the half-hour mark ), yet most are precise ( after 23 minutes, in the 56 th minute, with eight minutes remaining, ten minutes in the game, etc.) which also ensures accuracy of narration and coherence of events.

Thereby, at the micro-level of a football match cognitive model three constituents occupy a dominant position: these are the subjects, the results of their actions and the time. They play an essential role in establishing a cognitive model of an event in sports discourse.


Thus, the paper focused on the cognitive model of a football match and the identification of its dominant components, the representation of which depends on the journalist’s pragmatic goals. The given model has been analyzed at the macro-level and micro-level; it has been found out that such dominant components as “participants”, “results” and “time” appear to be the dominant ones which is due to the peculiarities of the sports discourse where the focus is on informing the fans about the sports event itself as well as its outcome and conveying its atmosphere using linguistic means.


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20 November 2020

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Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

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Shevchenko, V. D., & Pisareva, A. G. (2020). Realization Of The “Football Match” Cognitive Model In The Sports Internet Discourse. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1134-1144). European Publisher.