Среда, Май 23Институт «Высшая школа журналистики и массовых коммуникаций» СПбГУ

RESEARCH OF LANGUAGE IN FILM. MEDIA LINGUISTIC APPROACH

ИССЛЕДОВАНИЯ ЯЗЫКА В КИНО: МЕДИАЛИНГВИСТИЧЕСКИЙ ПОДХОД 

В статье автор рассматривает такую проблему языка в кино. Анализ вербальной стороны фильмового произведения до сих пор редко становился темой польских языковедческих исследований.

Главной теоретической базой предлагаемого рассуждения становятся основы медиалингвистики, современного научного направления, изучающего язык массмедиа. Автор обосновывает точку зрения, в соответствии с которой дискурс языка фильмов (кинодискурс) можно считать частью языковых дискурсов медиа (наряду с прессой, радио, телевидением и Интернетом), а кроме того, делает предположение о том, в каких конкретных направлениях могут вестись исследования относительно языка в кино. Статья имеет теоретический характер и может быть осмыслена как руководство к действию исследователей богатого и разнообразного языка кино.

In his paper the author discusses the issue of language in film. Analysis of the verbal dimension of a film has not been often conducted by Polish linguists so far. The main theoretical basis of his paper are media linguistics and its assumptions. The author provides arguments why the linguistic discourse of film is an element of linguistic discourses of media (alongside with the press, radio, television and the Internet) and provides the ideas of specific studies concerning the language in film. It is a theoretical article. It could be used as a theoretical basis to further scientific searches of other scientists who interested in language of film.

Богуслав Сковронек, доктор филологических наук, профессор Педагогического университета в Кракове

E-mail: bosko@up.krakow.pl

Bogusław Skowronek, Professor, Pedagogical University of Kraków

E-mail: bosko@up.krakow.pl

УДК 659.4:81›42 
ББК Ш 100.3 
ГРНТИ 16.21.33 
КОД ВАК 10.02.19

Problem statement. Unlike in my previous papers, I am not going to discuss the relationship between linguistics and film studies in terms of similarity of elements and subsystems of natural language and artistic ways of expression used in film, i.e. the language of cinema. Due to development of cinema and impossibility of codification of ways of expression used in cinema, such kind of structuralist thinking belongs to the past. I treat verbal language, one of aspects of a film, as something completely different. My point of view is a mediolinguistic one [Skowronek 2015]. I would like to remind that in my opinion mediolinguistics is a sub-discipline of linguistics and is based on the tenets of cultural linguistics, cognitive linguistics and cognitive discourse analysis, in which the language of media is not looked at merely as a system of signs (lexicon and grammar), but rather as an element of cognitive structures which functioning is dependent on external contexts and traits appropriate for the given medium.

Analysis. The linguistic dimension of a film, i.e. film discourse of media is the verbal element of an audiovisual communicational occurrence which fulfils the criteria of film-ness and functions in appropriate technological, historical, social, cultural, ideological contexts as well as those connected with the reception of the audience. Not only is film discourse of media about the linguistic dimension of particular films but also about all verbal phenomena around films, e. g. para-texts “surrounding” them. It could be, for instance, the discourse of advertising, various forms of film journalism, film criticism, promotional materials, scripts published in book form, description and commentaries in DVD and Blu-ray editions, and also commentaries of the audience, functioning in other media, for example in the Internet [Fiske 1987].

In Polish linguistics analyses of film discourse of media are virtually non-existent. I am trying to fill the void with my papers [Skowronek 2015]. The aim of this paper is also to present characteristic traits of linguistic discourse of film, its research perspectives and reasons why it has been so far neglected in Polish linguistic studies.

The first reason of absence of mediolinguistic analyses of linguistic discourse of film are radical changes in the current understanding of film as a medium. In the wake of digitalisation of new media and internetisation of contemporary audiovisual culture, film has lost its autonomy and the status of an “independent” medium, motion picture has somehow “molten” in other media messages. It has become a kind of “collective medium”, integrating different ways of imaging. New media forms of existence of film-ness make us define “film” as an operational term, semantically unstable, defined in various ways in each case of its technical and receptive functioning. Film, or rather film-ness, understood as technically-mediated illusion of motion created by means of a visual sign function mostly “in-between”, becoming a “visual occurrence”, an intermedial, multimedial and transmedial form. Taking this into consideration, we must agree that what is most important in defining film is the cultural-cognitive approach referring to deeply rooted universal mental schemas. The basis of prototypical understanding of film as “presenting a story by means of motion picture” [Skowronek 2007] is the anthropocentric vision of all presenting (narrative) forms and it does not depend on the way we describe the textual, classic dimension of a film — as a cinematographic work or as a visual occurrence functioning in a different medium and using motion picture as its tool. If we want to describe any audiovisual transmission of any kind as “a film” in the substantial dimension, it has to fulfil four criteria: a) impression of a moving image received when watching, b) the previousness rule — the time of producing the image cannot be identical to the time of its reception, c) the component of technical preservation (recording of motion pictures and the possibility of playing them later on) and d) the necessity of inscribing the given visual occurrence into social and communicational relations (its “textualisation”, the existence of exchange-based sender-recipient relationships) [Klejsa 2010].

The second reason for the film discourse being neglected by linguists discussing the language of media is the conceptualisation of mass media — the press, radio and television — exclusively as forms of transmitting information in a direct and “objective” model of communication. Defined in such way, media are expected to “report” the reality, and are defined as non-fictional [Bauer 2008]. It is obviously assumed that they are capable of manipulating the facts, hiding them or fighting them, but they always use the objective, real reality as their starting point in their narration building process. At the same time film is treated as the perfect example of an act of creation (instead of an act of information) — a fictional message, an artistic product which dominant function is the aesthetic one. The main role of this message would be stimulation of imagination, emotions and (possibly) making the viewers experience the beauty. Thus the artistic order, the autotelic function and the category of fiction are the reasons why the majority of linguists do not include film in the group of linguistic discourses of the media. That is why — according to the aforementioned linguists — analyses of the verbal dimension of films should be conducted as part of poetics research, analyses pertaining stricte to film studies, or to the theory of literature (the category of fiction) and refer to the characteristics of protagonists or — more broadly — the construction of the presented world in the given film. Hence the film discourse and its linguistic realisations would be placed not in the realm of media discourses but of artistic and creational discourses inside the discourse of the arts — outside the mediolinguistic point of view. I cannot agree with such approach, but at the same time I am perfectly aware that due to its aesthetic (fictional) dimension, film cannot be seen as a prototypical non-fictional mass medium with a dominant informative-cognitive aspect. But at the same time, regardless of the artistic order, film is still a media discourse, i.e. a communicational occurrence with social, cultural and political circumstances surrounding it. It also possesses an incredible ideological power, so it can function effectively as a mass medium [Żydek-Bednarczuk 2013]. Each film reflects a certain social order, it is always an expression of values dominant in a given culture in a given period of time.

I am going to present arguments why the film discourse of media — along the discourses of the press, radio, television and the Internet — is a part of broadly defined linguistic discourse of media and why it can be a great object of mediolinguistic research.

The most important reason for similarity of the film discourse of media to the other forms of media discourse is in fact the ontology of media themselves. Nobody dares question the statement that all media offer only variants of images of reality which always interpret it — never do they offer a full and neutral, “objective” reflection (same goes for the linguistic image of the world). Whilst creating their images of the world, media become “reality” in itself, they locate themselves beyond the truth and the falsity, and the only guarantee of sensibility or value of their messages — from film to TV — is the very fact of “presentability”: performative creation of media images of the world with their linguistic realisation. So immense is the sense-creating power of all mass media (film, press, radio, TV) because it stems from the basic mental schema that if something exists in media, it means that it exists in reality. It is the realisation of the basic cognitive schema: to see = to know. However, these always are “rhetorical products” — acts of creation. The falsity of a given media image can be decided upon only by its recipients in a situation when it would be in a clear opposition against their ideology. The juxtaposition of creative, fictional media (film) and the non-creative, non-fictional ones (press, radio and television) is also hard to maintain due to epistemological reasons. All mass media are “cultural sense-creating machines”, creating images of the world in their own distinctive ways. They are all “fiction” because they are all “constructed”, “shaped” — this is what the original meaning of the word fictiō is [Geertz 2005: 30–31]. Every medium, film included, presents the linguistic content in its own way. The main “life force” of all media is based on cognitive and linguistic actions of creative character. They mean ideological modification/reinterpretation/ profiling of linguistically solidified images of the world pre-existing in colloquial rationality and deliberate creation of appropriate visions of reality, the images of the world, on their basis [Kępa-Figura, Nowak 2006]. What is more important, the influence of film sometimes is far stronger than of other media in that matter. The press, radio and television “do not hide” their ideologically-profiled content. On the other hand, film, while using the basic category of “impression of reality” and seemingly ruling “only” the recipients’ emotions and the category of pleasure, in fact transmits a given ideological message without any traces [Przylipiak 1994]. No medium is capable of building (or destroying) the social perception of particular nations or phenomena as effectively as film is. It is film with its fictional narratives that is the closest to anthropologically primal need of perception of ordered stories referring to basic archetypes and universal emotions.

Mediolinguistics enables us to assume various perspectives when studying the film discourse. The main assumption is that the verbal dimension of a film cannot be treated only as a result of authorial creation — language in film is always a kind of linguistic and cultural “seismograph” which is sensitive to social moods and emotions and records supra-individual patterns of speech and thought, unveils cultural codes and ideological matrices of a given group. The linguistic and communicative dimension, functioning within the boundaries of the soundtrack, is a perfect means of discovering conventionalised and general cognitive models appropriate for the given language, the common mind fossilised in language — stereotypes, opinions, social values, moral norms and different forms of naming reality (patterns of conceptualisation of the world). Such approach to the language of film is especially important in the context of “critical analysis of a media text” [Wilk 2007:63]. Thanks to critical approach not only are we able to retrace the social worldview supported by the screenwriter, director or the producer or to discover their involvement in discursive mechanisms of creating meaning and present their individual points of view and moral codes, but also to show broader, more general cultural determinants — political, economic, social, aesthetic or commercial ones.

The verbal dimension of a film obviously cannot be isolated from other ones and be analysed separately. Film should always be looked at as a transsemiotic narration: multimodal combination of different codes [Szczęsna 2007]. Semiotic systems of a film, each of its message layers (moving image, sound, spoken and/or written language) interact with other in various ways and when combined on a plane of meaning, they form a semantic unit — always conditioned by external contexts. The analysis of film discourse (and other media discourses as well) has to be trans- and interdisciplinary.

The verbal dimension of a film, exemplified particularly by characters’ utterances, is one of the basic elements of its presented world. The words uttered by protagonists — “story transmitters” — make the created worlds alive, they justify the logic of the presented world and their aim is to convince the viewer that they are well informed. It is often the case that the verbal dimension of a film, inscribed in the construct of the presented world is subject to it (“hiding in it”), that is why it seems to be hardly visible, almost “transparent”. Yet it is necessary to remember that erasing the impression of linguistic originality, e.g. by approximating the style of an utterance to colloquial speech is always deliberate and it transmits the given ideology of the film. The range of the verbal dimension of a film is between the pole of subjection to conventional norms of film presentation and the pole of high level of independence of the picture and originality [Hendrykowski 1982]. However, all linguistic forms functioning in a film, even the most conventional ones or the ones most subject to genre rules, should be researched. Mediolinguistic analyses of film discourse of media, depending on the research aim, can encompass all linguistic and communicational levels: from multimodal analyses of particular sub-codes (especially the spoken language, but also the written one and their relations to other meaning fields), through the level of stylistic and pragmatic load, to the realisations of particular genres of utterances and texts, functioning in the verbal dimension of the given film (regardless of its type). It enables us to characterise two levels of analysis. The macro level would look for more general phenomena (stylistic, genological, systemic) which can indicate the characteristics of a given culture in a particular period of time (according to the diachronic approach) in particular linguistic facts. The micro level would comprise analyses of one selected film with a distinctive linguistic layer or a selected linguistic problem chosen from a given work. Obviously, it is always necessary to include the genological and formal specificity of the film in question. Linguistic phenomena work in a different way and their formal shape is different in a feature film, a TV series, or in documentaries, educational films, nature films, animated films etc.

The field for potential mediolinguistic analyses of film discourse is broad. To narrow it down, I am going to indicate a few chosen issues which I have already verified scientifically.

Conclusions. Analysis of film titles is a good example of analyse of film discourse and mediаlinguistic thinking about a textual fact as a kind of “gate” to cultural reality. With the basic linguistic analysis (i.e. grammar, semantics and poetics of those proper names) accepted as the point of departure, one can show their usefulness not only in the film universe but also in the cultural one. A particular title can present the main issues of the film and its symbolic meaning in an attractive way, it can express a particular ideological message, be an element of linguistic and extra-linguistic game with the viewers; contain a hidden punchline, an element of pastiche, of parody; be a symbol of polemics or rebellion against tradition. Apart from title analysis, another interesting problem is functioning of film protagonists’ utterances, which due to particular linguistic and cultural reasons have become remembered and then — thanks to frequent repetitions — solidified socially and linguistically. I call such common film quotes media-based phrasemes. Not only do such quotes, solidified and realised in various social groups, accurately portray the viewers themselves and their taste in film but also they mimic their way of understanding and naming the world, including accepted axiological systems. A film quote, functioning in the sphere of active lexis and being a part of cultural competence, opens a wide field of communication — not only between interlocutors but also between them and the particular film, similar works, the whole tradition of cinema and culture which they are aware of [Chlebda 2005]. Films reflect social thinking, supra-individual conceptualisation patterns, especially in cultural stereotypes which are unveiled and “transmitted” by a film in a more or less conscious way. Cinematographic works, very frequently using stereotypes, can eradicate them or solidify them. The last situation is particularly visible in the case of linguistic image of the Russians in the Polish cinema after 1989. It shows how simplified the image of Russia and the Russians in Polish heads is — not only among common people but also in the media [Ostrowska, Wyżyński 2006]. Another kind of stereotype, often exploited in the Polish cinema and having strong linguistic exemplification, are gender stereotypes, meaning strengthening highly conventionalised representations of men and women and their mutual relations (especially erotic ones). Stereotypes — the realisation of the linguistic image of the world (in micro analyses: a particular social phenomenon, a character or a category) are visible in almost every film. That is why the linguistic and cultural research methodology seems to be very useful in mediolinguistic analyses of the film discourse. The issue of translation (of dialogue track) is also crucial in the analyses of the film discourses [Tomaszkiewicz 2008]. We deal then with negotiation of meaning, stemming from cultural scripts characteristic for particular nations and languages. Another translation phenomenon worth mentioning is also audio description. In case of translation studies, it would be important not only to analyse and compare the cultural and social background (e. g. when translating slang or idioms) but also to consider formal needs, e. g. the necessity of adjusting syntax and lexis to the source language and making it communicative and consistent with the function of the original [Garcarz 2007]. When it comes to the field of para-texts, which are one of characteristics of the film discourse, it would be useful to mention semiotic activisation of viewers and their participation in creating new rules and forms of film criticism.

The linguistic and communicative phenomena presented here — rather superficially — forming film discourse of media and proposed directions of empirical research do not exhaust this multidimensional and complicated issue. However, I am sure that they have proved the value of mediolinguistic analyses of the verbal dimension of a film.

© Skowronek B., 2016

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