Четверг, Сентябрь 20Институт «Высшая школа журналистики и массовых коммуникаций» СПбГУ

MEDIA LINGUISTICS: THEORY AND METHODS OF STUDYING LANGUAGE IN THE MEDIA

МЕДИАЛИНГВИСТИКА: ТЕОРИЯ И МЕТОДЫ ИЗУЧЕНИЯ ЯЗЫКА СМИ 

В статье представлены основные принципы медиалингвистики, её теория, методы, ключевые направления исследований. Предметом медиалингвистики является функционирование языка в средствах массовой информации, в качестве базовой категории выступает медиатекст, который рассматривается как неразрывное единство знаковых единиц вербального и медийного уровней, объединённых в том или ином устойчивом медиаформате. К основным типам медиатекстов относятся новости, информационная аналитика, публицистика, реклама. 

The article explains the basic principles of media linguistics: its theory, methods and content structure. It introduces main categories and parameters for the description of media texts, gives typological classification of textual products in the media and outlines major methods used for media texts analysis. The basic types of media texts are represented by the news, comment and analysis, features and advertising. 

Добросклонская Татьяна Георгиевна, доктор филологических наук, профессор кафедры лингвистики, перевода и межкультурной коммуникации факультета иностранных языков и регионоведения Московского государственного университета имени М. В. Ломоносова

E-mail: tatdobro@mail.ru

Dobrosklonskaya Tatiana, Doctor of Philology, Professor at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies of the Moscow State Lomonosov University 

E-mail: tatdobro@mail.ru

УДК 659.4:81’42 
ББК Ш 100.3 
ГСНТИ 16.21.33 
КОД ВАК 10.02.19

Rapid development of mass media and new communication technologies for the past thirty years has had a great impact on language functioning. Intensive growth of traditional media — press, radio and especially television, emergence and avalanche-like spread of the Internet resulted in significant changes in contemporary language situation. A huge part of everyday language functioning — speech and text production is now taking place in the media. Twenty four hours news channels, numerous TV programmes and online editions, unceasing verbal interaction in social networks — all this has presented a new challenge for language scholars, setting new goals, the achievement of which requires innovative research formats. 

No wonder that dramatic growth of speech and text production in the sphere of mass communication in the second half of the XX and the beginning of the XXI centuries was accompanied by an ever increasing amount of academic research dealing with various aspects of language functioning in the media — from special characteristics of the news texts to particulars of language usage in Internet blogs and social networks. This new dynamically developing research area attracted representatives of practically all branches of linguistics: social linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, specialists in discourse analysis etc. However around the year 2000 the overall situation in media language studies created all necessary preconditions for the emergence of a new full-fledged branch of linguistics, i. e. media linguistics, which incorporated all previous achievements in the field. 

The term “media linguistics” has been formed by analogy with the whole set of similar terms, used to denote new academic disciplines formed at the junction of several fields of research, such as sociolinguistics, ethnolinguistics, media psychology, media economics etc. In the Russian academic discourse the term “media linguistics” was introduced relatively recently in the year 2000, when it was used for the first time in doctoral thesis of Tatiana Dobrosklonskaya “Theory and Methods of Media Linguistics” [Dobrosklonskaya 2000] Two years earlier the English variant of the term media linguistics could be found in the works of some British scholars, for example, in the article by John Corner “The Scope of Media Linguistics”, presented as a talk at British Association of Applied Linguistics Conference in 1998 [Corner 1998]. 

As it proceeds from the term itself, based on the combination of two key components “media” and “linguistics”, the subject of this new discipline is the study of language functioning in the sphere of mass communication. In other words, media linguistics deals with overall complex research of a particular social field of language usage — the production of speech in mass media. The emergence of media linguistics as a new branch of language studies is fully justified, taking into consideration a crucial role that mass media have been playing in society for the past 30 years. Rapid development of the print and the electronic media, quick growth of virtual communications and the Internet have enormously changed people’s lives, giving stimuli for the development of the whole range of information society theories. Nowadays the biggest part of everyday speech practices is implemented in the sphere of mass communication — in newspapers, radio, television and Internet. Continuous development of information communication technologies (ICT) results in rapid growth of the total volume of texts transmitted by media channels in different national languages in the world information space. It should also be noted that media linguistics is not the only discipline that was singled out as the study of a particular area of language usage, the same principle was used to form one more new direction of linguistic research — political linguistics, focusing on the study of speech production in political communications [Чудинов 2006]. 

Objective preconditions for the emerging of media linguistics have shaped since 1970-s, when in Russia and Europe various publications specifically dealing with language functioning in mass communication began to appear on a regular basis. The authors of those papers analyzed media texts within the framework of various academic traditions, including sociolinguistics, functional stylistics and pragmatics, discourse theory, content analysis, cognitive linguistics and rhetorical criticism. The attention was focused on a wide range of issues: from defining the status of media language in terms of functional stylistics and methods of describing different types of media texts to the impact of socio-cultural factors and language techniques of media influence on mass and individual consciousness. 

A considerable contribution to forming the basis of media linguistics was made by the following Russian scholars: S. Bernstein, D. Shmelyev, V. Kostomarov, Y. Rozhdestvenskiy, G. Solganik, S. Treskova, I. Lysakova, B. Krivenko, A. Vasilyeva. The English language tradition is represented by T. van Dijk, M. Montgomery, A. Bell, N. Fairclaugh, R Fowler and others1. The study of these scholars’ works allows to conclude that by the end of the XXth century all necessary preconditions for transforming the existing knowledge and experience into a full-fledged separate academic discipline “media linguistics” have been formed. Otherwise speaking, the total volume of research in media language functioning had reached its “critical mass”, that made it possible to transfer the studies of the given sphere on a new level of separate discipline “media linguistics”, offering a systematic overall approach to the analysis of mass media language practices. 

Nowadays almost two decades later there are all reasons to believe that media linguistics has been firmly established and widely recognized as a new quickly growing discipline attracting an ever increasing scholarly attention. As every full-fledged academic area, it conforms to certain conditions and requirements, such as: 1) existence of a thoroughly developed theory, that would serve as a solid basis for further research in the given field; 2) more or less stable inner thematic structure; 3) methodology or a set of techniques and methods of analysis; 4) terminology.

Undoubtedly the most important theoretical component of media linguistics is comprised by the concept of media text, which is mentioned actually in all studies devoted to speech production in mass communication. The essence of this concept could be summed up as follows: traditional for linguistics definition of a text as “coherent and integral stretch of language either spoken or written” [Carter 1998], when taken to the sphere of mass communication, considerably expands its meaning. In mass media the concept of a text goes beyond the formal boundaries of verbal sign system, and approaches its semiotic interpretation, when a “text” refers to a stretch of any type of signs, not necessarily verbal. Most of the researchers agree that mass communication level adds to the text concept new aspects of meaning, determined by media qualities and characteristics of this or that mass communication channel. Thus, media texts on television are not restricted to verbal manifestation only, they incorporate several functional levels: verbal text proper, visual (in journalistic terms “footing”) and audio, which includes all possible effects perceived by ear from voice qualities to music. Texts on the radio and in the print media are also characterized by a certain combination of a verbal level with a set of special media qualities, determined by technological peculiarities of this or that media channel, like sound effects on radio or newspaper layout and colorful illustrations in press. So we may assume that media texts can be regarded as multilevel and poly-dimensional phenomena. 

This salient feature of media texts is stressed, in particular, by many British scholars, who describe media texts as an integral combination of the verbal and media characteristics. Thus, a well-known researcher of the media language Alan Bell writes in his book “Approaches to Media Discourse”: “Definitions of media texts have moved far away from the traditional view of text as words printed in ink on pieces of paper to take on a far broader definition to include speech, music and sound effects, image and so on… Media texts, then, reflect the technology that is available for producing them…” [Bell 1996: 3].

A significant component of media linguistics’ theory is comprised by a set of parameters specially designed for a thorough and coherent description of all possible types of media texts. So the central concept of a media text is supported by a stable system of parameters, which allow to describe and classify all texts functioning in mass media in terms of their production, distribution, verbal and media characteristics. This system includes the following parameters.

1) Authorship (the text could be produced either by an individual or a collective).

2) Type of production (oral — written).

3) Type of presentation (oral — written). 

4) Media channel used for transmitting: the print and the electronic media, Internet.

5) Functional type or text genre: news, comment and analysis, features, advertising.

6) Topical affiliation (politics, business, culture, education, sport, and other universal media topics, forming the content structure of everyday information flow).

Let’s dwell on each of the parameters in some detail. The first parameter “authorship” allows to describe any media text in terms of its authorship as either individual or collective, depending on whether it was created by an individual or by a group. In media language practices the category of authorship acquires a particular importance: the use of by-lines, identifying the journalist who has produced the text, often becomes the trademark of style and quality of this or that publication. Some editions, like for example, “The Economist” has made the absence of by-lines their editorial policy, promoting the unique analytical style of the publication which distinguishes “The Economist” from any other political and business magazines. Collective authorship is mainly associated with news texts and materials prepared by information and news agencies operating worldwide, such as Reuters, BBC, ITAR-TASS, etc. Such short news texts can be easily found in “News in brief” section practically in every newspaper or magazine and comprise the skeleton of the world information flow. 

As it transpires from the adduced list of parameters the second and the third ones “type of production” and “type of presentation” are based on the same dichotomy: text oral versus text written. This reflects salience of speech production in mass media as the sphere of human activity, characterized by increasingly blurred boundaries between oral and written forms of a language. The matter is that in mass communication many texts, which are initially produced in the oral form, reach their audience in the print version, and the other way round, the texts first produced in writing then are presented orally. Take, for example, interviews, which emerge as a result of a conversation between a journalist and the interviewee and then are published in newspapers and magazines, thus acquiring a written form. A similar transformation takes place when a news anchor reads texts with news items addressing mass audience or a TV commentator reads the text from the screen, imitating unprepared spontaneous speech. The use of parameters “type of production” and “type of representation” allows to take into account this subtle correlation of oral and written factors, and draw a distinct line between originally oral texts meant for publishing and initially written texts meant for oral presentation. Thus, an interview published in the print media can be described as text oral by production and written by representation, while the speech of the newsreader the other way round — written by production and oral by presentation. 

No less significant is the next parameter — the media cannel that carries the text to mass audience. Since the famous statement by Marshall McLuhan “the medium is the message” the huge impact of technological or media component proper on the information distributed through means of mass communication has been recognized by all media scholars. Each media cannel — the press, radio, television and the Internet, is characterized by a certain set of media qualities, determined by the technology used and the nature of this or that media itself. These media qualities play crucial role in shaping concrete media texts, which by definition, are based on integral unity of verbal and media components. And the perception of media texts depends to a great extent on how the verbal and the media parts are integrated. Thus, in newspapers and magazines a verbal text is often supported by graphic design and illustrations, which could add to it special meaning and expressiveness. Texts on the radio extensively use voice qualities and qualifications, such as timbre, intonation, pace, different accents and the whole range of sound effects and music. Television gives a greater extension to a verbal content, adding visual dimension with bright colours, moving image and video footage. Technical characteristics of the Internet has made it possible to enjoy multimedia texts, combining media qualities of all traditional means of mass communication: world wide web provides access to online versions of practically all the print and the electronic media, and also offers unlimited opportunities for downloading required content. 

The fifth parameter — functional type and genre of the media text, comprises a significant element of typological description of unceasing flow of media messages. Typological description, based on stylistic and genre classification, has always presented a challenge for the study of language functioning in mass communication. This is determined by the following two factors: content of the genre concept itself and the increasingly dynamic language usage in the given sphere. Both Russian and European scholars note, that the traditional definition of genre as “the recognized paradigmatic set into which the total output of the given medium (film, television, writing) is classified”. [O’Sullivan, Montgomery 1994] does not allow to adequately classify constantly growing media flow. Indeed, “it is hard to isolate the precise characteristics of a given genre, and arrive at a finite list of all the different genres (whether of one particular medium or across them all). Further, you can’t isolate what kind of characteristics indicate distinctions between genres — it’s not just subject matter, nor just style, nor is it simply the establishment of distinct conventions appropriate to each genre. It is all of these” [O’Sullivan, Montgomery 1994]. Besides, high level of stylistic diversity of the media speech makes the application of genre system extremely problematic. 

Theoretical framework of media linguistics helps to solve this problem offering a universal typological classification, encompassing the whole variety of media texts and overcoming the challenge of constant speech flexibility factor. This classification is based on the functional stylistic classification formulated by an outstanding Russian linguist Viktor Vinogradov and allows to single out the following four types of media texts: (1) news, (2) comment and analysis, (3) features and (4) advertising. 

The advantages of this classification proceed from the fact that it allows to adequately reflect the actual combination of two language functions — the function of information and the function of impact. If we try to describe the four above types in terms of these functions’ implementation, then news texts realize the information function to the highest degree, the materials that belong to the category “comment and analysis” combine information function with impact due to the increasing use of evaluative components. 

The definition of a feature as “a special article in a newspaper or magazine about a particular subject; or a part of a television or radio broadcast that deals with a particular subject”[Cambridge International Dictionary of English 2008] makes it possible to include into this category a wide spectrum of media texts, devoted to diverse topics regularly covered by the media: from technology and education to culture and sport. Feature texts are always marked in terms of authorship, which makes the implementation of the impact function more important as compared with news and information analysis category. It should also be noted that in feature realization of impact function becomes increasingly linked to its esthetic manifestation, similar to fiction writing. And finally, the fourth category “advertising” combines the implementation of the impact function on language level, with extensive use of different means of stylistic expression (metaphors, tropes, similes, etc), and its realization on mass media level involving the whole arsenal of concrete media effects and technologies. 

So it may be concluded that the descriptive potential of “the four text types” classification, offered by media linguistics, is optimal, hence it allows to analyze the whole diversity of media texts both in terms of its format characteristics, and in terms of implementation of language and media functions. 

One more significant parameter for the analysis of media texts — “dominant topic” uses as the main criteria the content factor, or text belonging to a certain theme regularly covered in mass media. The study of everyday media speech flow demonstrates that seemingly chaotic media content is a well structured continuum, naturally organized around stable thematic structures. It may be assumed that mass media structure permanently changing information picture of the world, organizing incessant flux of media messages with the help of fixed regularly reproduced themes, or media topics, which include politics, business, education, sport, culture, technology weather etc. Such lists of traditional media topics can be found in any printed newspaper with its thematic division of pages, or in the newspaper Internet version, providing an even more specified list of subjects covered. 

Analyzing media texts in terms of their topical structure presupposes taking into consideration the so called “linguocultural factor”. The matter is that in mass media the information picture of the world is processed through the filters of national language and culture, which is naturally manifested in the choice of culture-specific media topics regularly covered by the media of this or that country. For instance, one of such topics of regular coverage in the British media is undoubtedly the life of the Royal family, scandals connected with top level politicians and immigration, while in the Russian media landscape one can always find texts dealing with criminality and corruption cases among civil servants. Culture-specific topics, regularly covered by the media, can be called, by analogy with buzz-word, “buzz-topics”2, because they invite keen interest of the wide public and reflect cultural salience of the national media landscape.

A great significance for media linguistics’ theory represents a statement concerning mechanisms of texts perception, that runs as follows: “correctness of text perception is determined not only by the choice of language units and their cohesion, but also relies on the shared background knowledge, or communicative context3. When applied to mass communication the concept of communicative context is primarily understood as the whole set of conditions and prerequisites involved in media text production, transmission and perception, in other words, the sum total of all extralinguistic factors4 standing behind the verbal part of a media text. Hence the concept of communicative context includes a wide range of phenomena: from socially and culturally determined reconstruction of events and politically biased interpretations to the category of ideological modality, the notion of meta-message and the whole spectrum of factors that influence the perception of media consumers. Thus, the concept of communicative context becomes closely linked with the general concept of discourse, integrating all components of a text as a final product of human communication: verbal part proper and nonverbal, including the whole variety of social, cultural, situational and contextual factors. Defining discourse as a complex phenomenon emerging as the result of human communication, reflecting specific qualities of all basic components of a communication model — sender/receiver, media channel, message, encoding/decoding, an outstanding Dutch linguist Teun van Dijk attaches special importance to extended interpretation of the contextual discourse perspective, which becomes particularly significant in the analysis of media texts. “Obviously, the extended notion of discourse, when referring to a whole communicative event, may well also feature other (visual, gestural) dimensions of communication and interaction, sometimes closely intertwined with the verbal aspect, as is the case in spoken movies and advertising.” [Teun van Dijk 1998: 197] 

The next factor that allows to regard media linguistics as a separate academic discipline, is the emergence of a relatively stable content structure. Though the list of issues shaping the content of media linguistics remains open, yet it is possible to single out some more or less fixed topics that form the skeleton of this new branch of knowledge. It may be said that nowadays all media linguistics research is organized around the following six topics.

1) Defining the status of media language within the framework of contemporary linguistic studies, and its description in terms of a basic paradigm: language-speech, text — discourse.

2) Functional stylistic differentiation of media discourse, classification of media texts on the basis of different sets of criteria: implementation of language functions, media channel (the print media, radio, television and Internet).

3) Media speech typology, the spectrum of the media texts’ types and genres, description of the main types of media texts: news, comment and analysis, features and advertising.

4) Lexical, syntactic and stylistic analysis of the language of media texts. 

5) Discourse analysis of the media texts, including their production, transmission, perception, social and cultural context, ideological and political factors, interpretative potential of the media speech practices and culture-specific traits. 

6) Manipulative potential of the media language, verbal and media techniques used for persuasion in advertising, propaganda, public relations and information management, various means of the implementation of ideological component.

7) Comparative studies of media language in different cultural and political contexts, or comparative media linguistics. 

As far as such obligatory for every academic discipline components as methodology and terminology are concerned, media linguistics, being an interdisciplinary field of study, has successfully integrated some basic terms and methods used in humanities. The methodology applied for the study of media texts incorporates the whole range of techniques used in textual analysis: from traditional systematic and content analysis to stylistic, discursive, linguocultural, pragmatic, ideological and sociolinguistic. It may be assumed that practically every academic school of language and medial studies has made its contribution to the development of media linguistics’ methodology. Today media texts are studied and described with the help of techniques developed by cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis, critical linguistics, functional stylistics, pragmatics, rhetorical criticism and linguoculturology. This multidisciplinary methodological apparatus determines the novelty of media linguistics’ approach to the analysis of mass communication speech practices, because on the basis of integration of the existing methods it provides a systematic multidimensional framework for the study of media texts. 

Terminological system of media linguistics also reflects its multidisciplinary nature and includes terms borrowed from other fields of humanities: linguistics, sociology, psychology, media and cultural studies. In spite of the fact that terminological apparatus of media linguistics is still emerging, it is possible to identify several generally accepted terms, widely used for the description of language functioning in mass communication. These are mainly words and word combinations, formed on the basis of the lexical unit “media”, for instance: media text, media speech, media landscape, language and media qualities and characteristics, linguo-media persuasion techniques etc. 

So it may be concluded that media linguistics today has been firmly established as a separate academic discipline and demonstrates huge potential for future studies of language in the media.

1 See, in particular, the following publications: Шмелёв Д. Н. Русский язык в его функциональных разновидностях». М., 1977, Бернштейн С. И. Язык радио. М., Наука, 1977, Костомаров В. Г. Русский язык на газетной полосе. М., МГУ, 1971, Костомаров В. Г. Языковой вкус эпохи. М., 1994, Васильева А. Н. Газетно-публицистический стиль речи. М., Русский язык, 1982, Рождественский Ю. В. Теория риторики. М., Добросвет, 1997, Солганик Г. Я. Лексика газеты: функциональный аспект. М., Высшая школа, 1981, Трескова С. И. Социолингвистические проблемы массовой коммуникации. М., Наука, 1989, Лысакова И. П. Тип газеты и стиль публикации. СПб., СПУ, 1989, Кривенко Б. В. Язык массовой коммуникации: лексико-семиотический аспект Воронеж, ВГУ,1993. Fowler R. Language in the News: Discourse and Ideology in the Press London, Routledge, 1991, Fairclough N. Language and Power, London, Longman, 1989, Bell A. The Language of News Media Oxford, Blackwell, 1991, Ван Дейк Т. Язык. Познание. Коммуникация. М., Прогресс, 1989, Montgomery M. Introduction to Language and Society. Oxford University Press,1992. 

2 The term “buzz-topic” as applied to the analysis of the media content was first introduced in the book by Tatiаna Dobrosklonskaya Вопросы изучения медиатекстов (Some aspects of media texts’ analysis) — Moscow, MSU, 2000.

3 Translated from Лингвистический энциклопедический словарь. Moscow, 1990.

4 In the Russian academic discourse “extralinguistic” means “not pertaining to a language”.

© Dobrosklonskaya T. G., 2014

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