‘Breast is Best’ or ‘Fed is Best’?: A Study of Concessive Relations in the Debate on Methods of Infant Feeding


  • Giorgia Riboni Università di Torino




concessive relations, discourse analysis, dialogism, parenthood discourse, newspaper discourse


The ongoing ‘Breast is best’ vs. ‘Fed is best’ dispute represents an interesting object of study: it lies at the crossroads of multiple topical discourses and provides the opportunity to explore the ways in which contrasting constructions of reality interact and compete. Against this backdrop, this paper sets out to identify and investigate central markers of dialogism in the press coverage of the discussion around breastfeeding and bottle feeding. More specifically, the research focuses on concessive relations, a phenomenon typical of “interlocutive dialogism” (“dialogisme interlocutif”) which, while allowing the speaker to offer a multi-voiced perspective, also provides her/him with the possibility to artfully reduce the impact of opposing viewpoints and foreground her/his own.

A corpus composed of news stories, editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor appearing in newspapers within the last thirty years was built specifically for this chapter. More precisely, a dataset consisting of approximately 450 texts published in the last thirty-five years was gathered and examined through the use of automated interrogation routines (Sketch Engine). The approach adopted in the research is therefore corpus-based and enables the identification of recurrent patterns indicative of concessive relations. The quantitative information obtained from the software is interpreted in a discourse-analytical perspective; this last step is instrumental in uncovering tacit beliefs about motherhood and breastfeeding characterizing the ‘Breast is best’ and ‘Fed is best’ approach. 

Author Biography

Giorgia Riboni, Università di Torino

Giorgia Riboni holds a PhD in English Studies from the Università degli Studi di Milano. She teaches English Language and Linguistics at the Università degli Studi in Turin. Her research interests lie mainly in the field of discourse analysis, with particular regard to new media communication. In her studies, the qualitative methods characteristic of discourse analysis are often integrated with the quantitative research typical of corpus linguistics and combined with other theoretical tools. Her latest publications include the journal article “Representation of Knowledge about Opioids between Criminalization and Medicalization” (2019) and the volume “Discourses of Authenticity: From the Personal to the Professional” (2020).


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