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

ON THE CONSTANT OF MASS MEDIA TEXTS: PRESENTING ISSUES OF RHETORIC MODALITY

РИТОРИЧЕСКАЯ МОДАЛЬНОСТЬ КАК КОНСТАНТА МЕДИАТЕКСТА 

Риторическая модальность определяется как важнейшая перлокутивная характеристика текстов медиадискурса. Она присуща любым медиатекстам независимо от их жанровой принадлежности. Для медиадискурса характерна единая гипермодальность, которая может быть описана как формирование целостной медийной картины мира в сознании адресата, которая отличается дискретностью и дополняет объективную картину мира.

Rhetorical modality can be defined as the major perlocutionary issue of media discourse texts. It is intrinsic to all mass media texts irrespective of their genre affiliation: genre is a secondary asset in formation of media text rhetorical modality. Media discourse has a single rhetorical hypermodality that can be described as a formation of the only real picture of the world of an addressee, his mass media picture. The media picture is discrete, un-real, and always introduces just a comment to the objective picture of the world.

Ирина Васильевна Анненкова, доктор филологических наук, профессор кафедры стилистики русского языка факультета журналистики МГУ имени М. В. Ломоносова 

E-mail: anneirina@yandex.ru

Irina Vasilievna Annenkova, PhD, Professor of the Russian Stylistics Department, Faculty of Journalism, Moscow State University

E-mail: anneirina@yandex.ru

УДК 81-119 
ББК 72.4 
ГРНТИ 16.01.13 
КОД ВАК 10.02.01

The syntactic notion of modality is a well-known phenomenon that combines objective and subjective, or subjective and evaluating, modalities. Both real and unreal modalities are commonly described as the main predicativity category that is operated only within grammatical studies.

The current approach to modality and its definition is much wider than that of a syntactic, or functional and semantic category of an utterance and a text. “Modality is the category that carries most different features of the imparted; it demonstrates the subjective (emotional, positive, negative, etc.) evaluation of a text along with the objective (logical, intellectual, etc.) one. Textual modality can be expressed through different means. There are texts with a dominating and the only objective evaluation (scientific and commercial texts above all). Other texts have a dominating personal evaluation (mostly literary, advertising and political texts)” [Anisimova 2003: 30].

We suppose that the latter definition is contradictory. Logical as well as intellectual evaluations are not totally void of the subjective component. It can be easily proved with the definitions of intellect and logic provided by the Dictionary of Philosophy. Below we adduce shortened variants of these definitions.

Intellect (from Lat. Intellectus — understanding, mind) is the ability to think, rational knowledge, in contrast to mental abilities, such as feeling, will, intuition, imagination, etc. The term Intellect is a Latin translation of the ancient Greek notion of nus (mind) and is identical in meaning. Scholasticism uses it to refer to higher cognitive manifestation (extrasensory comprehension of spiritual matters) as opposed to reason (ratio) as the lowest human cognitive ability (to elementary abstraction). In the opposite meaning these terms are used by Kant. Intelligence (Ger. Verstand — mind) is the ability to generate concepts and reason (Vernunft) is the ability to generate metaphysical ideas. This usage became widespread in the subsequent German philosophy and finally bloomed in Hegel’s concept of reason (intellect) and mind. Psychology describes Intelligence as a relatively stable structure of individual’s mental abilities. However, numerous studies have not provided any consistent results so far (different authors distinguish from one or two to 120 “intelligence factors”). In a number of concepts intelligence is identified with style and problem-solving strategies, etc. [Philosophy Dictionary 1989: 215–216].

Logic (Gr., from that is built on the reasoning; from “logos” — words, concepts, reasoning, mind) is a formal field of science about universally valid types and means of that are necessary for rational knowledge in any field of knowledge. Under universally valid forms of thought we understand concepts, judgments, reasoning. By means we understand definitions, rules (principles), formation of concepts, judgments and inferences, rules of transition from one judgment or reasoning to others as a consequence of the first (rules of reasoning), the laws of thought that justify such rules, the rules of connecting laws of thought and reasoning in systems, methods of systems formalization, etc. Introducing common ground for the correctness of thought <…> logic is the science of thinking both as a method of analysis of deductive and inductive processes of thinking and as a method of (normal) thinking, comprehending the truth. <…> there are classical, intuitionistic, structural, modal, multi-valued, relevant, paraconsistent and other theories of inference” [Philosophy Dictionary 1989: 315].

The very fact that intelligence is understood differently in different scientific and philosophical schools, and there are more than one or two logical schools, allows us to assert the relative objectivity of logical and intellectual evaluations of the text. Whereas the identification of intelligence with style and problem-solving strategies reduces objectivity to almost zero.

It should be also mentioned that evaluation is one of the most significant features that forms the style of mass media language (Sоlganik). And it was as long ago as the work of Elena Volf “Functional semantics of assessment” that scholars started regarding evaluation “as a type of modalities, which is imposed on the descriptive content of a linguistic expression” [Volf 2002: 11]. Apparently, we should consider the implicitness of a subject evaluation in discourse the specificity of evaluation modality framework. Therefore, an addressee will perceive an open subjective evaluation as a fact of imposing the addresser’s point of view. It is true both about evaluation by an individual and a society. Implicit in the media discourse will also be “the evaluation scale and stereotypes that shape the evaluation of social representations of speakers” [Volf 2002: 12].

In view of the foregoing, we can assume that there is no objective modality on the pragmatic, or rather rhetorical level of mass media discourse. The original attitude (set in mass media) to persuade and influence (i. e. perlocution) excludes (!) any so-called objective modality. Once again, we emphasize that we refer to the rhetorical pragmatic modality rather than grammatical and syntactical one. The intention to persuade, influence, or manipulate is presented in all mass media texts of the media, so the texts carry subjective modality. It is due to semantic justification of strategies of persuasion (influence, impact, manipulation), which we call the rhetorical modality. In view of the above perlocutive strategies in mass media discourse can hardly be regarded as an end in themselves. They are the product of rhetorical modality, i. e. synthesis of ontological, axiological and hermeneutic (interpretive!) components of a journalist’s speech activity.

Rhetorical modality of mass media texts is similar to poetic modality of literary texts. It is not the same as the meaning of the literary work, and represents a semantic vector.  According to Peter Bukharkin, “The literary work content is a process, and its ultimate artistic sense, for all shades, is the modality which determines the direction of this process. Figuratively speaking, modality is a beacon pointing the way to the reader or researcher in his dangerous voyage” [Bukharkin 2001: 109]. The meaning cannot be polyphonic, otherwise “it will be in conflict with the content of the linear sequence of text units. After all the text is distributed in only one direction and not in a different” [Bukharkin 2001: 110].

This opinion is even more applicable to mass media texts as they according to the classification proposed by Aleksander Volkov (he follows the traditional Aristotelian rhetoric) belong to the prose type. “Any prosaic speech is written with a purpose: to tell something [news media genres — I. A.], to prove an opinion [analytical media genres — I. A.], to inspire actions [advertising and PR — I. A.], put a problem or question, to teach knowledge and skills [Volkov 2007: 213]. The text in prose is not an end in itself. It is the product of addresser’s target communicative setting. “An author of prose (i. e. a rhetorician. — I. A.) writes or speaks to a specific audience” [Volkov 2007: 213]. Thus, mass media texts are pronounced prose texts.

Their rhetorical modality determines the direction to develop content of a process text (a discourse), and is all the more unique (in comparison with the prose text), despite all possible shades and interpretative options. Mass media texts lack variety and tints that are inherent in the literary sense of poetic texts. Summing up, rhetorical modality of mass media texts is the finite meaning inherent in it: the meaning a text is generated for. Whereas rhetorical sense is a communicative target (or communicative intentional) component of media speech, and this component is a conviction in most cases, though there is other perlocution possible, but primarily it is a conviction.

Rhetorical modality of mass media texts can be expressed both explicitly and implicitly, as rhetorical sense is reflected in the text itself and beyond it (in the intentions of a journalist, a speaker): it is found in its ideological sphere, and formal organization. Irrespective of the rhetorical content interpretation by the addressee, rhetorical modality of a mass media text is constant.

So, here we have to refer to that text category which poetics calls author’s image [Vinogradov 1950], or implied author [Tomashevsky 1925]. For journalism there was developed the concept of author’s position [Kajda 1992]. However, a mass media text is a more complex phenomenon than a journalistic text. Journalism is an area of direct exposure and open views. As a rule, a rhetorician constructs a journalistic text on his own convictions. He does not hide them behind a mask of corporate policies, for instance. An impact performed through a manipulation would rather remain anonymous than let itself be called a manipulation.

The peculiarity of mass media discourse is that journalists (individuals and members of corporate media community) act as intermediaries between reality itself and a mass audience. They form a picture of the world in the mind of a mass audience. The picture is not objective and holistic: it is fragmentary and mosaic-like. It is just a media picture, i. e. nothing but a reflection (and often in a distorting mirror) of an objective picture of the world [Volodina 2001, Pavlova 2007]. Not all events (events related to the world) become facts (that is, judgments about the world) in mass media. Moreover, these are journalists who reconstruct events into facts of the facts; the linguistic identities that are empowered with cultural and social authority to “filter” events. In this sense, journalists act exactly as rhetoricians, speakers, professionals of art “to use the language <…> to persuade or influence others” [Scott 1980: 246].

The entire media course participates in this discrete world picture formation. So, we can introduce the notion of a general rhetorical hyper modality of mass media discourse; though it is not a mechanical sum of rhetorical modalities of individual media texts. It is above the “fight”; it is the “lighthouse” for mass media discourse that the texts are oriented at. The general rhetorical hyper modality is the media picture of the world.

We believe that all media discourse texts contain rhetorical modality, the texts of argumentative and informative types. For the informative type of speech and the corresponding texts rhetorical modality will appear at the stage of selecting an event worthy of being “remelted” or “reshaped” into facts. Interview as a subtype of informative text is not an exception. Even the choice of an interviewee is predestined by the importance of rhetorical modality importance, the significance or importance of the selected “hero” for the formation of a certain picture of the world in the minds of mass audience (that is, the mass of the addressee). Here “the de re modality”, as “the de dicto modality”, is subject to a broader and more specific modality, the rhetorical modality proper. It is the modality proper that moves the event to the factual category. Therefore, the event becomes an argument of interpretation of the objective world within mass media discourse, i. e. it becomes a fragment media picture of the world.

In this respect, formation of the media image of the Russian Orthodox Church is an interesting example. In 2008, all the media highlighted the serious conflict that arose within the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the activity of the Bishop of Anadyr and Chukotka Diomede. The Bishop, who anathematized the late Patriarch Alexy II, Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Belorussia, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (the current patriarch), was the central character of newspapers and magazines articles and the Internet publications. All key television channels shot their news stories in Chukotka. Meanwhile, the creating activities of other episcopate members of the Russian Orthodox Church did not affect the media picture of the world. No one wrote about Bishop Ignatius of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka, who participated in a three-month expedition on the submarine “St. George” sharing the hardships with the crew, or the Bishop of Vladivostok and Primorye Benjamin, who worked at the University of Vladivostok.

No doubt, the selection of events in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church in order to show them as facts are due to certain rhetorical demand, the namely rhetorical modality of the media, which in our case wants to convince the recipient that the ROC is just another social institution with the same negative phenomena that are inherent in all state institutions, that it lacks unity, and what is more importantly that this unity should not exist. Taking in to consideration that such attitude is inherent in almost all modern Russian mass media, it can be stated that this attitude is also the hyper modality of all modern media discourse on the issues of the Russian Orthodox Church.

To define rhetorical modality as a separate non-rhetorical category the vital importance is attributed to the fact that axiological component is essential and is rooted in the rhetorical doctrine from the ancient times. Paideia was impossible without the moral and ethical framework of a rhetorician’s verbal behavior, without stereotypes and evaluation scale, as mentioned above in connection with the modal part of evaluation. Axiological modality [Volf 2002] is directly related to the modality of the rhetorical and it is a logical and verbal epitome of the latter.

In argumentative type of speech, i. e. in analytical genres, the share of which is now greatly decreasing, rhetorical modality determines the choice of argumentation techniques or tactics that can help the addresser achieve the targeted perlocutionary effect — natural proofs, ethos, pathos, arguments for the authority (for trust and distrust), quasi arguments methods of linguistic demagogy, argumentum comoediarum (not a true, but a plausible picture of the past), and others [Mikhalskaya 1996, Panchenko 2008, Khazagerov 2002].

To sum up, genre characterization of mass media discourse texts does not affect the presence or absence of rhetorical modality. Genre can be considered a “non-core asset” in its generation and formation. Rhetorical modality is an objective category of perlocutionary media discourse, generating substantive and structural components of this discourse.

© Annenkova I. V., 2015

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