Peculiarities of Newspaper Discourse in Canadian Periodicals
In the last years of the 20th century textual linguistics, with which the notion of “discourse” is closely connected, has started developing rapidly. As a result, discourse has become one of the most significant fields of scientific research. Despite the increase of its significance, some kinds of discourse remained relatively unattended. Among them newspaper discourse, the careful investigation of which made the major focus of our research. In addition, few attempts have been made to investigate the peculiarities of Canadian periodicals.
We have made an attempt to study the articles that appear in such newspapers as Vegreville Observer and News Advertiser that focus on local news of the town of Vegreville (Alberta, Canada). This was done with the purpose to characterize lexical and structural features of newspaper articles as well as to trace the usage of stylistic devices by journalists.
Concerning the study of discourse, it was originally used in the times of ancient Greek and Roman empires and meant “a talk” or “an argument”. It was introduced in the sphere of linguistics by Zelig Harris only in 1950-s, it helped to indicate to a speaker’s position in an utterance. Nowadays, there exist a numerous interpretations of the term made by reputable scholars from around the globe.
The study of the newspaper variety of discourse that has received most recognition during last 20 years. It can be explained by the fact that newspaper language remains of great interest to general reading public and specialists alike. The reason for this popularity is a combination of various styles that is widely used in printed press in order to evoke the readers’ interest.
In the process of our research we have used a complex approach to the analysis of the articles, the subject of which is local news. The publications have appeared in weekly editions of the town of Vegreville in the period of August-November, 2007. In order to receive a balanced and unprecedented opinion about local press we have focused on different aspects of its interpretation. These included a questionnaire of Vegreville residents to find out their attitude towards local press, an interview with a local reporter, to get professional thought, and the analysis of several publications in order to trace the characteristic features of newspaper discourse.
The questionnaire helped to discover the sincere attitude of the dwellers of Vegreville to local press. We interviewed 40 people that form the middle age group with representatives being 30-40 years old. It involved inquires on the frequency of reading newspapers, quality of information, favourite columns, emotional state while reading as well as some other important aspects. The findings were useful for the further study, as they revealed the positive and negative features of local newspaper.
The interview with the local reporter presented the same issue from a totally different point of view, not a consumer, but a provider. Duncan Corpan-Wood has been working for “Vegreville Observer” for six months at the time of the interview. The conversation with him contributed to a better understanding of numerous aspects of newspaper industry. It also helped us formulate the so called rules that he personally and some other workers of the newspaper follow while creating an article. They are:
– to engage audience into the process of reading and evoke emotions adequate to the situation;
– to be informative or persuasive depending on the topic;
– to bring interest to the public and make them think;
– to make the material clear, not complicated, but at the same time not too simplistic;
– to use mostly short sentences for the message to be dynamic;
– not to overload texts with terms ;
– to use a lot of citations and clichés, because this makes you a good writer;
– not to be too personal, but try to present an opinion from aside.
Now I would like to give special prominence to the findings of the research.
First of all, it was revealed that in the majority of cases journalists resort to graphic means of evoking audience’s interest. To be more specific, they place pictures at the beginning of an article. Often there is a neglect of the requirement to write every meaningful word in the title with a capital letter. Instead, only the first letter the first word is capitalized. Most probably, this is done with the aim to simplify the title and make it closer to casual or sometimes even colloquial style.
Secondly, we dealt with a deep analysis of headlines, for it is a unique element of any piece of writing, in this case newspaper publication, that has its characteristic features and is of major importance for the success of an article. As a matter of fact, headlines or in other words titles of the articles have a bigger reading audience than the rest of it, because one does not necessarily need to buy a newspaper to read the title. As a consequence, all titles have to be brief, catchy, and informative at the same time. Following these requirements, there is a freedom of choice to the structure that the headline uses in terms of grammar organization and sentence variety. We have managed to observe that among the wide range of possibilities, the most frequently used pattern of headline in articles on local news is a complete affirmative sentence. Elliptic constructions with omitted main members of the sentence or articles are used less frequently. Interrogative sentences or questions in the form of affirmative sentences are hardly ever used in order to avoid ambiguity.
In our opinion, this approach is very logical, and therefore can be easily explained. The articles on local news are aimed at average readers, who are mostly likely to read newspapers in order to find out something interesting and relax. Also, readers do not have enough time to read the entire newspaper and try to choose the articles that sound interesting and clear to them. As a result, they mostly go for the publications that make a clear claim at the beginning, which is achieved with the help of a declarative sentence. The usage of elliptical constructions is very similar to assertions; however, sometimes it may require additional brain tension and logical reasoning, as ideas only are presented clearly, unlike the links between them. Interrogatives prove to be of less appeal to an average reader because people get puzzled when instead of being told something they are asked. It strikes many so much that they refuse to read further.
Thirdly, it was proved that lexical features of the analyzed articles meet the requirements for newspaper discourse. However, depending on the subject of the article it is possible to notice considerable differences in its composition. In other words, authors try to use numerous terms and special vocabulary, typical of this or that field. This is an effective means of creating the feeling of author’s awareness in the sphere. Clichés are widely used for greater expressiveness of the message. Acronyms and other proper names make up a considerable part of vocabulary of the articles on local news. In such a way it is possible to create the feeling of territorial proximity to the reader. The names of some organizations and enterprises are sometimes given in the form of abbreviations, although their complete form is usually given alongside. The use of neologisms is reduced to none, which is most probably made as a result of orientation on an ordinary reader, whose knowledge in specific spheres of life can be limited.
Next important result of the research was the observation that the majority of newspaper word stock is mainly neutral which makes it easier for understanding. Insertions of other styles are often used too with the purpose to give emotional coloring to the text. This is mostly achieved by means of the various tropes, among which metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, comparison and epithets are most frequent. Rarer are the appearances of litotes, synecdoche, gradation, meiosis, euphemisms, and others.
Another feature of „small town news” is their composition or the placement of articles on local news on the pages of newspapers. We noticed a tendency to their position at the beginning of the paper. As a result, their importance is increased and greater readability achieved.
Keeping all these features in mind, we would like to present you an example of the overall article analysis. The title of the article under consideration is First Poppy Presentation. It is represented by an extended noun phrase, in which every word is capitalized, which is characteristic of newspaper articles. The title indicates that the article is going to speak about Remembrance Day, for red poppy is the symbol of remembrance and sorrow that is connected with this date. The importance of it is underlined by the means of being placed on the front page and being accompanied by a picture.
The overall mood of the article is elevated and patriotic, the tone is persuasive. The text of the article is mainly represented by compound sentences. They contain a lot of useful factual information.
Concerning lexical means, we can observe the usage of such elements:
– Terms: proclamation, military conflict, veteran, mayor, Minister of Veteran Affairs.
– Clichés: fully understand, to make a difference, to take an active role, future generations, in closing, preserve legacy.
– Abbreviations: PC(Personal Computer), MP(Member of Parliament).
– Expressive emotionally coloured language with the examples of epithets: colourful tulips, ruined battlefield, innovative learning materials, gallant service, metaphors of tulips burst into bloom, friendship blossoms between people, the torch of remembrance and hyperbolae of the only spot of colour, millions of tulips, those who risked everything.
In general, the research shows that there is a great potential in the study of newspaper language and discourse. This is due to the reason that newspapers have an intricate system of phonetic, morphological, lexical, syntactic, and compositional features. The study of newspaper discourse started only in 1990s and this sphere has not been investigated to its full capacity. Consequently, new traits can be revealed as a result of the research into certain types of it or their comparison.
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