LINGUIST List 19.3805|
Fri Dec 12 2008
Review: Discourse Analysis: Thomson & White (2008)
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Message 1: Communicating Conflict
From: Laura Filardo-Llamas <lfilardofyl.uva.es>
Subject: Communicating Conflict
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/19/19-857.html
EDITORS: Thomson, Elizabeth; White, Peter R.R.
TITLE: Communicating Conflict
SUBTITLE: Multilingual Case Studies of the News Media
Laura Filardo Llamas, Department of English, Universidad de Valladolid, Spain
This book consists of eleven chapters, in all of which two aspects are covered,
namely the portrayal by the media - particularly journalism - of some kind of
conflict - either physical or political -, and the use of the appraisal
framework as the point of departure for the analysis (Martin 2000, White 2002,
Martin & White 2005). These similarities are closely connected to the objective
of the book, which can be summarized as an analysis of 'objectivity' in hard
news stories across cultures.
Given that all the chapters collected in the book depart from the same
theoretical framework, the key aspects of appraisal theory are explained in
White & Thomson's chapter, ''the News Story as Rhetoric'', which opens the
collection. The notion of objectivity and the hard news report genre are defined
by relying on previous studies about the structure of news items in English
(Iedema 1997; White 2000). This covers two main aspects of news stories, namely
evaluation and means through which this can be transmitted, and textual
structure and its connection to evaluation.
Half of the chapters in the book are not only methodologically but also
thematically connected. That is the case of chapters 2, 3,4, 5 and 7, which deal
with different representations of the Iraq conflict. In particular, in almost
all of them - except chapter 3 - we have an analysis of evaluation about the
handover of power by the Americans to the provisional Iraqi government in June
2004. In chapter 3, the analysis of evaluation is also related to the Iraq war,
but it is focused on the scandal about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Cafferel and Rechniewski's chapter is the first one dealing with the Iraq war,
and it covers the analysis of three articles from the French press. The main
objective is to see how the government handover was ''presented in very different
ways in the world's media, according to the legitimacy assigned to the war and
the subsequent American occupation'' (25). In order to do so, they rely on three
features of the text: appraisal, attribution and transitivity. Their results
show the importance of doing this type of analysis as a means of uncovering
ideological position, which, as the authors show, can be uncovered in hard news
even if one of their features is their claimed ''impartiality''.
The notion of 'objectivity' reappears in Hong Van and Thomson's chapter, where
they investigate how opinion can be conveyed by indirectly invoking the 'voices'
of other authoritative sources. For this reason they analyze a Vietnamese online
article published in the _Nhan Dan Daily_. Context proves to be important once
again, as Vietnamese anti-Americanism seems to underlie the hard news story,
something which can be explained by relying on Van Dijk's description of 'group
knowledge' (2005: 78). One interesting aspect brought up by this article is the,
at least apparent, different patterns of evaluation used by 'reporter voice'
(Martin & White 2005) in Vietnamese and English.
In chapter 4, Thomson, Fukui and White do not only rely on the appraisal
framework to analyze evaluation of the handover of power in Iraq in two Japanese
newspapers, but they combine it with Generic Structure Potential analysis (Hasan
1996). The importance of structure is justified by the textual organization of
editorials in Japanese. This is motivated by the 'three readings' practice,
which allows readers to choose between three reading options ranging from
skimming the headlines to reading the whole of the article. These authors show
that even if there is a similar structure and the 'reporter voice' is employed
in each of the analyzed articles, there is a difference in how evaluation is
transmitted, mainly because of the employment of a different 'engagement
strategy' in each of them.
The same context - portrayal of the handover of Iraqi sovereignty by the
Japanese press - appears in Sano's chapter, whose objective is to examine the
commonalities in the persuasive strategies that are used in four Japanese
editorials. In order to do so, three main aspects are looked at: textual
organization, semantics, and evaluative expressions. The results show that the
four writers advocate their ideological positions by following the same textual
structure, which includes three obligatory elements: inducement, empathetic
construction, and position. These are consistent with the three readings that
can be made of any Japanese editorial, and they are characterized by a prosodic
shift among them. This study completes the previous one by incorporating the
idea of 'homologization' which the author uses to explain how the authors deal
with conflict, and how they try to maintain the co-existence of different
members of a culture within one single textual practice.
There is a contextual shift in chapter 6, where McDonald analyzes the use of
scare quotes to see how the issue of Taiwan is treated in the _China Daily_.
According to this author, scare quotes are one of the rhetorical weapons used by
Mainland Chinese media to delegitimize Taiwan's existence as an independent
entity. Thus, through the reiteration of certain verbal formulae - particularly
the use of a highly evaluative headline, the appearance of a historical mode,
and the use of morality to support China's legitimate claims and Taiwan's
illegitimate ones - symbolic control is reiterated, and a self- contained
rhetorical universe characterized by the triumph of the good is obtained.
The handover of power in Iraq reappears in chapter 7, where Lukin analyzes how
this event is treated in a Spanish newspaper and an Argentinean one. To do this,
she departs from the Systemic Functional Grammar notion of 'tenor' (Halliday &
Hasan 1985)., and, accordingly, similarities and differences between the two
news pieces are explained by relying on the kind of situation in which they are
produced and the kind of reporting which they instantiate. Thus, the author
argues that variation between the two texts is explained if three contextual
parameters - tenor, field and mode - are taken into account. Besides, she
considers that the analysis of journalistic voices can be improved by taking
into account registral variation and its connection to social contexts.
Knox and Patpong's objective in chapter 8 is to analyze how the same event is
constructed in different languages and from different ideological positions.
They focus on a conflict between Thai protesters and Thai armed forces in
southern Thailand, and they compare two online articles - one in Thai and one in
English - by looking at their rhetorical structure and the means that are used
to spread evaluation. The results show that different rhetorical structures are
used and that they can be used as different means for evaluating events.
Besides, those different ideological structures are combined with diverse uses
of the same appraisal resources; something which can be connected to the
transmission of the ideological position of the publishing institution. It shall
be noted that one of the key aspects argued in this article is that using
certain linguistic tools allow us to ''systematically describe the means by which
institutional authors can reconstrue events'' (198) as part of a subjective and
social process. In chapter 9, Kitley looks at the construction of the
kidnapping of journalist Ersa Siregar in Indonesia, and he departs from the
hypothesis that ''much of what we see or read in the mass media about military
conflict is a highly managed version of events'' (204). For that reason, he looks
at the language used in headlines published between July and December 2003, and
he finds that frequently a 'middle voice' - i.e. one which distances the
national Indonesian forces from any negative action - is employed to portray
things as a state of affairs. Besides, he analyzes how this middle voice can be
combined with the typical structure of hard news stories as a strategy for
journalists to survive under circumstances which ''are stacked against their
professional practice'' (223).
In chapter 10, Hoglund analyzes how evaluation can be transmitted through
language choices in news reporting, and he focuses on the political conflict
created after the appointment of a new chief executive officer in the only
Swedish-language newspaper in Finland. He studies attitudinal evaluation through
monoglossic (with only the reporter voice) and heteroglossic (with more than one
voice) utterances in three articles. It shows that evaluation is transmitted
through the combination of the reporter voices - intravocalized manifestation -
and the interviewees' voices - extravocalized explicit quotes. In that way, the
reporter may subscribe to a given opinion, which is emphasized with the help of
headlines and structural organization.
The focus of the final chapter is not so much on the language used, but on the
transmission of evaluation through naturalistic photos. Economou looks at how
the photos that accompany daily hard news stories are 're-instantiated' (Martin
2006) in new review feature stories. All the photos are about the issue of
asylum-seekers, and the author compares how this topic is treated in Australian
and Greek broadsheets. To fulfill the objective, she adapts the appraisal
framework to the analysis of photos and identifies two types of visual voices
(or visual keys) (257): Visual record key - for photos with a strong ideational
profile -, and visual interpretation key - for those with a higher evaluative
profile. The author finds differences in the uses of photos in both contexts. In
Australian texts, photos recall the commercial film genre and they interact with
the headline, which results in a distancing effect from the reality that is
represented. On the contrary, in Greek texts, the photos try to tell a story and
create some kind of empathy and emotional involvement between the reader and the
local reality represented.
This book is a good resource for researchers dealing with newspaper journalism,
and the existing differences and similarities between reporting in different
cultures and languages. That is closely connected to one of the main of
objectives of this collection of essays, which mainly focus on the analysis of
reporter-voice - and hard news textual organization - as a means of advancing a
particular value position while at the same time backgrounding the writer's
attitudinal role. It is for this reason that one of the key positive aspects of
this book is that it can be considered an introductory research to the area of
comparative analysis of news reporting across cultures. Nevertheless, the
organization of the book - and therefore that comparative aspect - would have
probably improved if the editors had included a final summary chapter reviewing
the different kinds of variation among the attitudinal arrangements at work in
journalistic cultures, and how that could lead onto further research.
In terms of thematic and content organization, there are some positive aspects
that need to be mentioned. All the articles in the book follow the same
theoretical framework - appraisal framework in combination with Systemic
Functional Grammar. This allows the reader to follow all the analyses without
having to consider - and shift between - different theoretical approaches to the
analysis of discourse, and at the same time it increases the book cohesion.
Additionally, the book also follows one thematic line, as all the chapters
included in it deal with some kind of 'conflict'; something which increases its
value as a resource for the study of evaluation in news items.
As we can infer from reading this book, one of the main advantages of the
appraisal framework is that it provides a tool for the analysis of evaluation in
a situation in which finding the linguistic tools through which it can be
transmitted is essential, given that most journalists and / or reporters claim
to be 'objective' (Iedema et al., 1994). However, it could be argued that one of
the drawbacks of this type of analysis is connected to the notion of context, as
explained in Van Dijk (2005). Most, if not all, of the articles included in this
book contextualize the analysis that are carried in them, in relation to the
place in which they are produced (France, Vietnam, Japan, etc), and/or in
relation to the situation that is being portrayed (Iraq, Taiwan, Finland, etc).
Nevertheless, in some of the articles the contextual information is not
considered at the time of trying to explain how the reporter voice is used
within each given situation, even if it could be inferred from the
contextualization sections. It is for this reason that when reading this book,
one could slightly miss the connection between the findings about the use of the
reporter voice in each given situation and the complex set of beliefs and
portrayal of the social worlds that are held not only within the actual location
in which the text is produced, but also within the newspaper in which it is
published. This is a necessary aspect when looking at discourse across cultures
which could be more comprehensively explained by incorporating within the
appraisal framework some of the notions of Critical Discourse Analysis
(Fairclough,1989), including the connection between discourse, the evaluation
transmitted by it, and its possible effects in given social practices. This is
even more necessary if we consider that all the analyzed discourses are related
to some notion of 'conflict', and that conflict can be, at least partly,
considered the outcome of (the representation of) different world views.
Cloran, Carmel, David Butt & Geoff Williams (1996) _Ways of Saying, Ways of
Meaning_. London: Cassell.
Fairclough, Norman (1989) _Language and Power_. London: Longman
Halliday, M.A.K. & Ruqaiya Hasan (1985) _Language, Context and Text: Aspects of
Language in a Social-Semiotic Perspective_. Victoria: Deakin University.
Hasan, Ruqaiya (1996) The Nursery Tale as Genre. In Cloran, Butt & Williams
Hunston, S. & G. Thompson, eds (2000). _Evaluation in text. Authorial Stance and
the Construction of Discourse_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Iedema, Rick (1997) The History of the Ancient News Story, Australian Review of
Applied Linguistics 20.2: 95-119.
Iedema, Rick, S. Feez & P.R.R. White (1994). _Media Literacy_. Sydney:
Disadvantaged Schools Program, NSW Department of School Education
Martin, J. R. (2000). Beyond Exchange: Appraisal Systems in English. In Hunston
& Thompson (2000), 142-175.
Martin, J.R (2006). Genre, Ideology and Intertextuality: A Systemic Functional
Perspective. _Linguistics and the Human Sciences Journal_ 2.2, 275-298.
Martin, J.R. & P.R.R. White (2005). _The Language of Evaluation: Appraisal in
English_. London & New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.
Van Dijk, Teun A. (2005) Contextual Knowledge Management in Discourse
Production: A CDA Perspective. In Wodak & Chilton (2005), 71-100.
Ventola, Elija, ed. (2000) _Discourse and Community: Doing Functional
Linguistics_. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Verschueren, J., J. Östman, J. Blommaert, & C. Bulcaen, eds. (2002). _The
Handbook of Pragmatics_. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
White, P.R.R. (2000) Media Objectivity and the Rhetoric of News Story Structure.
In Ventola (2000), 379-397.
White, P.R.R. (2002). Appraisal: The Language of Evaluation and Stance. In
Verschueren et al. (2002), 1-23.
Wodak, Ruth & Paul Chilton (2005). _A New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse
Analysis_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Laura Filardo-Llamas is a lecturer of English at the University of Valladolid,
Spain. Her main area of research is political discourse analysis, in particular
from a linguistic perspective. She applied both topics in her PhD thesis,
entitled _Language and Legitimisation. Political Discourse Analysis in Northern
Ireland after the Agreement. 1998-2004._ About these topics, she has published
in Ethnopolitics and Peace and Conflict Studies.
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