Четверг, Июль 19Институт «Высшая школа журналистики и массовых коммуникаций» СПбГУ

MEDIA LINGUISTICS. AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF LANGUAGE AND MEDIA

MЕДИАЛИНГВИСТИКА. 
ИНТЕРДИСЦИПЛИНАРНЫЙ ПОДХОД К ИССЛЕДОВАНИЮ ЯЗЫКА И МЕДИА 

В статье медиалингвистика рассматривается как субдисциплина языкознания, имманентно связанная с медиаведением и культурологией. Таким образом, это проект междисциплинарный, полиметодологический, открытый для множества исследовательских путей. Автор рассматривает язык не только как знаковую систему (лексикон вместе с грамматикой), но прежде всего как элемент когнитивных структур, функционирование которых зависит от внешних контекстов, в особенности культуры, а в современных условиях информационного общества — прежде всего культуры медийной. Медиалингвистика определяется как критическая лингвистика, то есть лингвистика, пользующаяся исследовательскими процедурами, свойственными «критическому анализу медийного дискурса».

The article is dedicated to media linguistics as a linguistic subdiscipline immanently connected with media studies and cultural studies. Media linguistics is therefore a definitely interdisciplinary project, polymethodological, visibly open for the variety of research pathways. I see a language not only as a system of signs (lexicon and grammar) but also as an element of cognitive structures whose functioning depends on external contexts, especially culture — today predominantly media culture. I define media linguistics as critical linguistics, i.e. using tools typical for “critical analysis of media discourse”.

Богуслав Сковронек, профессор филологического факультета Педагогического Университета в Кракове 

E-mail: bosko@up.krakow.pl

Bogusław Skowronek, PhD, professor of the Pedagogical University of Cracow, Faculty of Philology

E-mail: bosko@up.krakow.pl

УДК 81’42 
ББК 81.2 
ГРНТИ 16.21.55 
КОД ВАК 10.02.19 

Mutual and often very complicated relations between culture, media and language can be looked at from various angles. One can mention an anthropological approach or sociological one, but also psychological, ideological, technological, and last but not least, connected with media studies and linguistics. The approaches mentioned are only a sample from a bigger group. It cannot be denied that contemporary media, often treated as a kind of “manual” of reality for many users and taking part in the process of creating new meaning, provide specific linguistic examples and co-create the linguistic image of the world. The situation  of contemporary culture, the status of media studies and linguistics have developed enough to answer fundamental questions: is it possible to create a common field of study that would act as a theoretical and methodological background for various analyses or linguistic phenomena, often formally different and characteristic for specific media technology?  The context used is a relation between specific media technology and linguistic and typical linguistic communication phenomena characterising them. One thing is certain. The influence of the media on a language and communication (the use of language) is systemic (they embrace all its aspects and elements), productive (they are the reason of measurable changes in the language itself and in models of communication) and it becomes consolidated (the changes repeat themselves in subsequent linguistic variations). I am sure that linguistics and media studies, studying the influence of media on a language and its later use in society and culture, should have a strong theoretical background, i.e. an isolated and well-defined sub- discipline of linguistics. It is called media linguistics [Skowronek 2013]. The term has not been used in Polish linguistics yet.  I would also like to stress that the article is exclusively theoretical and methodological. 

The main aim of media linguistics is, broadly speaking, to study of the structure and the use of language in the media context; to describe and analyse its subsystems, the mechanisms of creating particular texts (in their genological dimension as well), their pragmatic aims, contextual environment and finally, their means of influence. I am interested in how and to what extent media (understood in terms of technological dimension and ideological boundaries) influence a language (system), its use (texts) and the rules of communication — how they create mental and verbal models. In other words, the main focus of all analyses in media linguistics are all linguistic facts dependent (or motivated by) on  media factors, that is, all linguistic occurrences which shape and character are described by particular media, along with all contexts, both technological and ideological ones. Media linguistics looks for explanation of linguistic phenomena in extra — linguistic reality, i. e. media reality (with its numerous social and cultural contexts). 

I see media linguistics as a linguistic subdiscipline immanently connected with media studies and cultural studies. It is therefore a definitely interdisciplinary project, polymethodological, visibly open for the variety of research pathways. Interdisciplinarity of media linguistics should be a typical practice of interpretation, a systematic and functionalised activity. The reason for interdisciplinarity of media linguistics is also semantic “excess” of media texts and their verbal shape often impossible to describe in traditional ways that may be the reason of using various —sometimes narrowly specialised — study approaches. Thus, in media linguistics, one should always assume variety of methodologies and multitude of variants of approach. It means that many methodologies, as study procedures typical for media linguistics, are equal. However, they should always be functionalised and relevant. When examining the linguistic layer of media broadcast, one should always analyse it in the context of characteristics typical for a certain medium (technological and broadcasting) and in relation with other semiotic systems, also creating meanings of a given text. Each medium presents linguistic issues in its own or rather ideology’s characteristic way. 

In my project of media linguistics, unlike in previous Polish approaches in research of language in the media (mostly formal and structuralist), I choose cognitive semantics and cultural linguistics for the main theoretical background. I treat media linguistics as a media-dependent part of cultural linguistics. I would like to remind that cultural linguistics is a part of broadly understood linguistics, open for external influences and, by definition, crossing the boundaries of purely linguistic analyses. The most important here is studying the relations between language and culture, people and their way of thinking. The basis of study programme of cultural linguistics (as a part of external linguistics) is a search for explanations of linguistic phenomena in the reality of culture and subjective-objective reconstruction of culture included in a language and its texts.

In turn, taking a cognitive semantics approach allows us to study meaning included in linguistic forms and the role played by media mechanisms in its creation. Cognitive linguistics offers us precise tools of holistic description of a language in its cognitive and communicative aspects. One of the main assumptions of cognitivism is that one cannot describe a language in isolation from individual, subjective perception and thinking  processes (they can be derived from one another) which are hea-vily dependent on various and multiaspectual external contexts (here: mostly media). Subsequently, I see a language not only as a system of signs (lexicon and grammar) but also as an element of cognitive structures whose functioning depends on external contexts, especially culture — today predominantly media culture. I consider the language in the media to be a linguistic emanation of media images of the world, i. e. discursively attached conceptualisations of phenomena of the reality functioning in broadcasts of respective transmitters. I treat media as — this is one of main assumptions of my theory — “sense- creating” machines, important in human life, which create the images of the world — the media images of the world in a particular way. I treat them as epistemological formations, concreating individual cultural capital. Media, when providing appropriately mediated and verbalised conceptualisations of the phenomena of reality, allow individual recipients to conceptualise the reality individually and to clothe it in variously verbalised individual narrations. It is known perfectly well that the media alone — as appropriately and deliberately prepared semiotic concepts, appropriate representations — neither mirror the reality, nor are they its reflection, but they are surely capable of modifying its shape cognitively, through the variety of meanings that is offered. In such cases we deal with imaging — basic cognitive mechanism: the same phenomenon, situation, event is, due to variety of  perspectives and points of view, “portrayed” in various ways with aid of available but alternative means of expression (in official media broadcasts ideologies of individual senders are responsible for that). Media, using verbal expressions suitable for their technology and discursive placement, not only reflect but also — in agreement with cognitive and cultural linguistics — interpret the reality.  Media linguistics is therefore characterised by the strong indication of semantic aspect, i.e. the aspect of meaning — an attempt of answering a fundamental question, how media with aid of images of the world they created themselves conceptualise the phenomena of the reality and though which linguistic forms they verbalise these conceptualisations and what the recipients do with these verbalised conceptualisations. 

Alongside broadly understood knowledge of culture, media studies and the main fields of linguistics — cultural and cognitive linguistics, analytical tools of other linguistic disciplines, especially sociolinguistics and linguistic pragmatics can be used successfully. In the pragmatic context, the description of multifunctionality and polyintentionality of individual utterances appearing in media and complex combinations of various speech acts would be the most important. In the context of pragmatic functions, one can mention the existence of several macrointentions (a more general idea) connected with each other and motivating the linguistic shape of a certain message (joining several microacts) in media transmissions. Today, the most visible intention (often the most important) is the creation of phaticity: “being listened to, watched and read”. It is realised through the appropriate creation of communication situation, e.g. diminishing the communication distance by imitating an interpersonal contact (appropriate forms of address), simulating an interaction and equality between the sender and the recipient or by colloquiality of the utterance. In the analysis of media images of the world the speech act theory by John L. Austin and his idea of performatives may come helpful. As it is commonly known, media messages can be neither true nor false. They can be however classified according to their felicity (productivity) or unfelicity (unproductivity). A particular text (an image of the world) — conceived in the act of media and linguistic representation — is felicitous only when it is  mentally clarified, interpreted, treated as semantically relevant, meaningful and important in the context of its own existence by a recipient and subsequently “composed” into their cognitive resources (of a particular field of knowledge). The creative power of media is exercised e. g. through linguistic utterances which creative power is all about creating appropriate images of reality. 

However, in the sociolinguistic perspective analysis of specific varieties of language which I call medialects, seems especially important. Such varieties are used by specialised communities of media (or certain media messages) users connected by strong social bonds and unique language, e. g. computer game players or fandoms of individual media messages. Certainly, pluralistic and polycentric character of contemporary media culture allows various “microideologies” — discourse communities with numerous alternative ways of communication typical for a given group — to appear. Moral code (a set of judgements of the world shared by all members of the group) accepted by media culture users, clear group identity, specific type of interpersonal relations and, last but not least, preferred types, modes and ways of linguistic communication tell us about the existence of such communities. Thanks to that fact, there exist various differently motivated linguistic practices (dependent on media factors) which — each separately — at the same time perform the communication and integration function well. In sociolinguistic approach medialects would be a type of environmental language varieties. The environment would be created by the users of certain media, functioning in stable communities with the strong feeling of difference. A given medialect would join individual members of the group, it would be used to differentiate communities from each other, to yield prestige to them and finally to give them tools to function in the space of a given medium actively and to interpret the reality according to values and opinions shared by the group. 

The last methodological assumption of my theory is that I define media linguistics as critical linguistics, i. e. using tools typical for “critical analysis of media discourse”. That activity is supposed to bond linguistic and media analyses in media linguistics investigations and to place them in discursive and ideological practices characteristic for a given medium, respective media institutions and appropriate culture. It is very important to describe formal elements of a certain medially motivated linguistic text properly, but it is even more important to reveal its broader references to structures and processes of society, communication, politics, ideology, culture, and, of course, technology and media. The language in media is always placed discursively, it is “encumbered” ideologically as well as it unveils (in the critical procedure of analysis) multiaspectual media and worldview profile which stands behind a given message being a part of media image of the world. Critical analysis is all about reconstructing certain media and communication conventions used in creation of media text and fostering specific social discourses and propagating particular visions of the world. Recognition and analysis of particular linguistic strategies — techniques of text organisation — enables us to find the key to the specific “discourse order” (term coined by Michel Foucault). It is important to remember that discursive structures, by establishing given images of the world, marginalise other views. One can tell for short that the critical analysis of the media discourse is based on three premises: discourse is a social practice, it creates the reality through social activities (in media) and it uses language to do so. 

It is important to highlight the most important stages of critical analysis of media discourse here. My own model of study procedure and subsequent activities that should be the basis of the analysis procedure are presented below:

1. Differentiation of the linguistic text from the broadcast structure of a given medium, polysemiotic analysis of mutual relations and determinants; definition of the logic of a given media technology and its “worldview” (main assumptions behind its functioning) and their influence on the text analysed: the stage of media “denaturalisation” of the text. 

2. Study of pragmatic aims of the linguistic text analysed and of its purpose along with establishing its topical fields deciding on its function: the field of politics, entertainment, social activity, information etc.; the stage of pragmatic and functional “denaturalisation” of the text

3. Analysis of formal characteristics of the text, description of particular categories, such as grammar and systemic, stylistic, compositional and genological ones, and presentation how,  from the linguistic point of view, they build the media image of the world; the stage of linguistic “denaturalisation” of the text

4. Detection of practices and ideological (social, political and  cultural) patterns, both from the sides of the media sender and the recipient, determining the text and their influence on the created image of reality; the stage of discursive “denaturalisation” of the text.

5. Attempt to examine the effects of the influence of the text, presentation of its social circulation and its possible influence on individual users and establishing of patterns of cultural practice. Analysis of preferred ways of reading (created by the author of the text) and possible opposite interpretations; the stage of receptive “denaturalisation” of the text. The stage is difficult to conduct without additional survey of audience.

In my project of media linguistics, I emphasise the cognitive values of media and their “sense- creating” character and the fact that they might become one of sources of definition of reality strongly. The language used influences (not deterministically) our view of the world and functioning in culture and so do the media — they influence (not deterministically) conceptualisations of phenomena of reality, their understanding, evaluation and verbal description (through linguistic constructions typical for their transmissions). The fundamental problem arises — what are the mechanisms of creation of such media images of the world with their linguistic concretisations? I assume that media predominantly modify the culturally consolidated visions of reality (with their linguistic shape), already existing in recipients’ minds. I agree with Teun van Dijk that in a given community there exists a common general cultural knowledge, which can be called “common cultural ground”. It can be treated as “the basis of all intra — and intergroup knowledge”, hence various ideologies are based on it. It means that in a given culture the common basis is not discussed, commonsensical and, as a result, unideological. General norms and values shared by all members of a given culture are a part of the common cultural ground [Van Dijk 2003: 9].

I am also sure that media assume the culturally consolidated cognitive structures creating the common rationality, that is, referring to the knowledge and experience familiar to an average user of the cultural space, as the common cultural ground and the starting point for their transmissions. I would like to stress that both van Dijk’s “common cultural ground” and common rationality with common style are unquestionable within a given culture. Relying on the common ground of common rationality, the media senders create however, their own visions of reality — media images of the world and their linguistic realisations, suitable for their aims and oriented on certain goals. Owing to the fact that contemporary communication space is filled by numerous media senders, we have to deal with different media discourses with different ideological affiliations and linguistic specificity. Therefore, the main “engine” of media — as sense-creating machines — is based on cognitive and linguistic activities of a creative character; these activities are mostly about ideological modification / reinterpretation / shaping of the linguistically consolidated images of the world existing in common rationality and about deliberate creation of the visions of reality (media images of the world) on their bases. 

In media linguistic studies, it should be taken into consideration that it is impossible to speak in general terms about linguistic realisations  of various media transmissions like film, press, radio, television or the Internet. Contemporary media offer various linguistic forms as a part of their message. One can find almost all possible variations of language, regardless of their aspect (be it systemic, stylistic, functional or specialist), in the media. There are many criteria of division of media discourses: genre, style, different sources of funding (public vs. privately owned media), definition of the target audience (e.g. gender-based media), political factors (e. g. Catholic media, liberal media). However, the basic criterion is the media technology itself. It is the dominant criterion and it is very effective as it enables us to differentiate between linguistic varieties. It is a comfortable and operational determinant because in reality, when taking all possible linguistic realisations in the media into account, it is the only one that enables us to describe various realisations precisely. For example, in the Internet we can encounter a multitude of various verbal (textual and genological) performances differing from one another considerably (pragmatically, textually, stylistically, formally, in terms of communication etc. ). Nevertheless, they are all bound by an important platform- the platform of the Internet. The thing looks similarly in relation with other media. 

Therefore, I suggest that the following basic linguistic varieties in the media [Żydek-Bednarczuk 2004; Skowronek 2013: 163] be introduced; they can be called media discourses [Żydek-Bednarczuk 2013]:
1) Media discourse of press,
2) Media discourse of film,
3) Media discourse of radio,
4) Media discourse of television,
5) Media discourse of the Internet.

Media discourse must be seen as a communication event, which is accompanied by cultural, social and political circumstances. At the same time, it is also a tool of practices of society, culture and of exercising one’s power. So, not only does it contain knowledge (“wrapped” in a given transmission), but also ideology appropriate for the medium and its senders. Media discourses are open sets of utterances, relating to each other and connected with each other by themes, genres and functions [Żydek- Bednarczuk 2013: 188]. It is also important to remember that boundaries of particular varieties are fuzzy (they often “intersect” and interpenetrate). Cognitive assumptions similar to each other and using the continuum of linguistic means and prototypical relations should always be applied.

Unlike previous analyses concentrating only on press, radio, television and the Internet, my analysis also includes film discourse in the set of media discourses [Skowronek 2011]. In my opinion film is a very important medium in the study of medially — motivated language. What interests me most in the media variety of film is verbal language and forms of linguistic communication in a film as elements of represented world thanks to which a viewer, when watching a film, builds coherent conceptualisations of phenomena presented on screen. I do not treat the verbal side of a film only as an effect of authorial creation, language in film is in my opinion a kind of linguistic-cultural “seismograph”, sensitive to social moods and emotions that registers rational and irrational thinking, reveals cultural and ideological codes of a given community. Authorial texts (by screenwriters, authors of dialogues), functioning as a part of soundtrack, reveal extra-individual, common consciousness of a community preserved in a language — social and moral values, norms and opinions and appropriate ways of naming reality perfectly. Such approach is especially important in the context of critical analysis of a media work. Thanks to such analysis, it is possible to recreate the social worldview signed by a screenwriter or a director, to expose their involvement in discursive (social, cultural and political) mechanisms of creating meanings and to reveal not only their individual opinions and value systems but also wider ones — found in general culture, e. g. national stereotypes functioning in a given community and visible in films [Skowronek 2011a].

Is it possible to indicate any dominant platforms that would bind all linguistic media discourses mentioned above: of press, film, radio, television and the Internet? I am willing to take the risk and try to highlight those (the list is probably not exhaustive) common determinants. Those components are cultural and linguistic in nature, i. e. being a part of the external context (cultural and medial) they unequivocally influence (but in different ways) the linguistic stratum of a transmission. The dominants come in my opinion as follows:

1. “Internetisation” which means that the Web, dominant communication space in today’s world, becomes a point of reference for all existing media and linguistic and communication forms characterising the media. The Internet has and still is defining particular technologies and verbal and communication forms again, placing them in new contexts of their functioning and use.

2. “Ideologisation” which means that all media (thanks to their technology and assumptions of their senders) produce certain ideological images of reality — media images of the world — with their verbalised version; it is often the case of planned ideological explicitness, even the bias of the approach, deliberate selectiveness of features helpful in constructing the image of  phenomena.

3. “Institutional differentiation” which means that there exist various media institutions which due to their formal and institutional specificity (private / commercial / public / non-commercial media) model appropriate transmissions accordingly (they create media images of the world and their linguistic realisations appropriate for their assumptions). It is strongly connected with “ideologisation”. 

4. “Receptive differentiation” which means that media space is divided and we encounter many various (both ideologically and in terms of communication) discourse communities (often different from one another). Each of those interpretative communities (receptive groups) has “their” media and transmissions, types of communication, linguistic images of the world and appropriate ways of using them. Formatting of media (radio formats, TV channels) is an example of creation and functioning of such communities.

5. “Axiologisation” (strongly connected with ideologisation) which means that media “govern” individual and extra-individual emotions by appropriate evaluation of the elements of the world. Regulating social phobias, by referring to feelings of pleasure, fear and hope for overcoming them, often becomes the main mechanism of normativisation in the media, that is, pointing out what is socially accepted, embraced, proper, desirable etc. 

6. “Tabloidisation” which means that all media transmissions regardless of their primary functions, e. g. informative, provide entertainment and their main aim is to draw the attention of a receiver, which, in turn, is connected with building a space for potential advertisers (a strong connection between tabloidisation and narration of consumerism). Thus, they highlight phaticity, simplify the image of the world, their view of the world is unequivocal, their thesis is explicit and they use the aesthetics of shock, excess, ostentation and drama (often accompanied by fragmentarisation of events, their isolation from more general processes and contexts). 

7. “Formal and genological hybridisation” which means that media transmissions with their respective linguistic varieties are characterised by thematical, formal and generic excess and revaluation of stylistics. Communication hybrids appear, they comprise features of various genres in one text or programme. Pragmatical multifunctionality has the effect of interpenetration and joining of intentions of various speech acts. The devaluation of correctness norms is also worth mentioning. 

To sum up, only linguistics placed firmly on cultural and cognitive foundation and on media studies knowledge,  revealing the mechanisms of media images of  the world and combined with critical approach to examined texts and linguistic forms is able to go beyond the level of systemic, formalistic  diagnose and to show different and various determinants of the medially motivated language. Those are the characteristics of the authorial subdiscipline of media linguistics, which I present on the Polish ground. 

© Skowronek B., 2014

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