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Яндекс цитирования
 

DISCOURSIVE ANALYSIS OF MASS MEDIA TEXTS

Shevchenko Anna
(Samara, Russia)

Published: Collected research articles, Bulletin of Russian Communication Association "THEORY OF COMMUNICATION AND APPLIED COMMUNICATION", Issue 1 / Edited by I.N. Rozina, Rostov-on-Don: Institute of Management, Business and Law Publishing, 2002. - 168 p. P. 153-160

    Brief Review
    The article represents the attempt to generalize results of investigations on the methodology problems of the discoursive analysis of media-texts. In this connection the author makes reference to the works of George Orwell, Toin Van Dake, Umberto Eko and others. The article cites variants of solving the cardinal problem of the discoursive analysis methodology, - the problem of analysis unit selection. The author proposes the idea of George Orwell as the most effective one. As a unit of the discoursive analysis Orwell sees a certain intension, which is inherent in every text, a general aim, a text's directedness to realization of a definite result. Van Dijke's works are given special attention to in the article. It is the author's opinion that Van Dijke states the most consistent scheme of the discoursive analysis. The author describes Van Dijke's preferential lines of the discoursive analysis of mass media materials: macro-analysis, i.e. study of each component of the media-text hierarchical structure (Header, Brief Review, Primary event, Event history); micro-analysis, - as a matter of fact, analysis of media-text semantics, which major task is to analyze meanings of words and sentences, sentence interrelation, as well as stylistic and rhetorical creation of meanings.

Without doubt, one of the topical methodological tasks at present is the search for alternatives to the dominating for today content-analytical methods of mass media research. Widespread quantitative investigations have severely limited possibilities when determining the meaning of specific media-messages , they do not consider their contextual parameters and they are not adequate for studying the media-text structure, as well as methods of its forming .

One of the alternatives or additions of quantitative methodology of mass media research today is the discoursive analysis of media-texts. This quantitative methodology appeared as a new transdisciplinary research tendency between the middle of the 1960s and the middle of the 1970s in such scientific branches as anthropology, ethnography, microsociology, cognitive and social psychology, theory of poetry, rhetoric, stylistics, linguistics, semiotics and other humanities. It was bound up with the interest of scientists in the systematic study of structures, functions and processes of conversation and text. Nevertheless, the majority of works in this line have only linguistic orientation. Stylistic investigations of Lich (1966), Crystal, Davey, later, critical linguistic approach of Fuller (1991), Kress (1985) and Chilton (1985) are among the first works on the discoursive analysis. Many of the works of these authors experienced influence of Holiday's systematic grammar (1978). In Germany the discoursive research was under influence of discoursive approaches in textual linguistics (Luger, 1983, Strassner, 1975) . Most of the work in the direction of the discoursive analysis and linguistics was done in Britain and Australia. In the USA and in France there were few linguistic or media discoursive-analytical investigations, and even those did not have serious scientific nature. (Dijke, 1999). The fact, that the application of the given methodology is not widespread yet, obviously results from the insufficient developmental work on appropriate procedures, as well as from the poor acquaintance of the domestic learned society with the discoursive analysis experience. The present review is thus devoted to the generalized representation of the results of the most perspective tendencies of the discoursive analysis.

Among the scientists, who significantly contributed to the development of the discoursive-analytical research of mass media and to the elaboration of its methodology, we should name, first of all, Toin Van Dijke, who studied media-discourse of racism and "elite-discourse" on the basis of the British media. It is also necessary to mention George Orwell, who occupied himself with the criticism of the ruling political elite language in media materials. Umberto Eko analyzed the narrative structure of movies by the example of the serial about Bond.

D. Meinard studied the perception by the people of the media-messages language. Among the domestic researchers in the area of media material discoursive analysis, we should mention A.G. Altunyan, who studied stylistic methods of political media-texts creation, means of persuasion of the audience by the text author; then I.G. Yasaveev, who investigated the peculiarities of social problems discourse in mass media. It is also necessary to name E.R. Smirnova-Yarskaya, who studied the disablement discourse in media; I. Tartakovskaya, who investigated the image of man and woman, designed in modern newspapers; N. Smirnova, who analyzed discourse problems of drug addiction in the local media and many others. Thus, in the sphere of mass media the discoursive analysis is applied mostly in connection with the research of the social reality, designed by communication processes .

The term "discourse" has a broad synonymy. At the same time, in spite of the variety of definitions, two approaches to the defining of this notion are clearly traced. In accordance with the first one, the discourse is regarded as a form of statement and it is characterized as a division, differentiation (presentation in the form of expression). The discourse is regarded here as a form of statement, into which any necessary content can be put . It is regarded as a metalanguage and special grammar, which a certain mental world corresponds to; a method of describing the discussion object or equivalent of the concept "speech" according to Sossur. The given approach is especially appropriate when studying the discourse as a tool of word manipulation, a power intermediary or a means to reach agreement and understanding.

The second approach lays its emphasis on the internal organization of text elements. The discourse appears as a coherent text; dialogue; group of statements, implicitly connected between each other; unit, which is bigger in size than a phrase, statement in the global sense, i.e., the discourse appears as a subject of investigation of "text grammar", which studies the sequence of separate statements. This approach is effective when describing the methodology of the discoursive analysis, when discovering units of such analysis and "identifying" the discourse itself.

The concepts of the first group are important in the course of the discoursive-analytical identification in the light of the answer to the following question. How can a form of expression be used - as a tool of word manipulation, as an intermediary of power language or as a method to reach agreement and understanding?

The second approach to the determination of the discourse is of no less importance for the methodology description and for carrying out of the discoursive analysis, and first of all, for "identification" of the discourse itself.

The search for the discourse analysis unit is one of the most complicated problems, arising when developing the methodology of the discourse analysis. It is required to find such a statement, which could be characterized as polysemantic, i.e. adequate for interpretation in different semantic systems and having high comprehension. In the classical communication theory a message is a complex of mark mediums on the basis of one or more codes for the purpose of reproducing definite meanings, and interpretable and interpretive codes. According to U. Eko's definition, code is "a system of communicative conventions, which paradigmatically connect elements, series of marks together with series of semiotic blocks (senses) and determine the structure of the both systems: each of them is determined by the rules of the theory of combinations; these rules fix the order, in which elements (signs) are syntagmatically expressed".

In order to describe messages, capable to create the process of mass communication, it is necessary to explain the configuration of "an intrigue", contained in them, i.e., to recognize message borders and characteristics. The intrigue, represented by the message, is a total of ordered "facts", expressed in words, phrases, sentences, the consequence of which creates effect of openness, reticence, necessity of further work on generation of meanings, resolution of the problems put by. Therefore, the unit of the discoursive analysis can be only such a statement, which possesses intrigue in itself, be it expressed by the sequence of words or sentences.

Considering the problem of the search for the unit of the discoursive analysis, we should mention Crystal's viewpoint. Defining the discourse as a continuos lengthy "part" of the language of a larger size than a sentence, Crystal regards texts as the discourse unit. It is obvious, that in this approach the principal task for the discourse analysis is the investigation of the language in its actual use in contrast to the language as a structure [See Crystal 1985].

Finally, according to G. Orwell, in the discourse research, from the point of view of methodology, it is necessary to pay attention not to the whole of a specific text, but to a separate method, used in the text . So, the main goal when analyzing texts is to understand "the basic idea of the text", that set of ideas and notions with the help of which an author (journalist) explains and forms (using media) the reality. In this connection we include into the discourse, which is subject to analysis, not only those ideas, which the author presents openly, but also those ideas and notions, from which the author proceeds in his judgements. Some intension, which is peculiar to every text and which represents a general aim, directivity of the text to the realization of a specific result (for instance, legitimation of a definite social problem), can also be a unit of analysis. We think, that developing the ideas of Orwell, Toin van Dake makes the most successful attempt to elaborate the sequence and the content of the stages of mass media material discoursive analysis.

The methodology of the discoursive analysis of media-texts, set forth by van Dijke, influenced many structural-semantic investigations of media material. Therefore, detailed consideration of van Dijke's sequential scheme of the discoursive analysis of newspaper publications (news), suggested by van Dijke in his monograph "Elite discourse and racism", seems to us quite useful.

Van Dijke proposes to begin the discoursive analysis with the study of the text structure. The author believes that media-text subjects (themes) are usually organized by means of an abstract scheme, composed of concordant categories and called a macrostructure. This hierarchical scheme consists of such concordant categories as Heading, Brief Review, Main Event, Context and History of Event. News semantic content is opened in the course of the text: the most important information is expressed in the first place, then a strategy is used, it forms the so-called relevant structure of text presentation. The presentation sequence of the named components of a publication can be changed depending on the specific character of articles and a journalist's interests, which are in this connection subject to a special research.

Van Dijke notes that every component needs to be analyzed, "the discourse can be found in every part of a publication structure" . Thus, van Dijke cites the title of the article from the British newspaper Mail: "Mendis's deportation gave rise to violent protest". In this title van Dake singles out two subjects (which form discourses): fact of Mendis's deportation and at the same time existence of confrontation with people, who showed their anger and protest against Mendis's arrest and deportation. These positions generalize the key information of the text and let us understand that both subjects are important. This fact points out the place that is given by Mail to the social and political background of the events.

Van Dijke's concept of the text macrostructure is closely related to Orwell's concept of intension: it is that episode of a media-text, which is the principal part of the news frame. After the identification of a media-text macrostructure and after the analysis of all the components of his hierarchical scheme, van Dijke starts researching the text semantics.

Van Dijke identifies semantic text elements as microstructures of a media-text. On this level it is necessary to analyze meanings of words and sentences, interrelations between sentences, as well as stylistic and rhetorical formations of meanings. Van Dijke is sure that formation of mental models of readers (i.e., formation of their personal interpretations of events and situations, construction of events and modification of their common social ideas) is influenced not only by general subjects, stated in media-texts, but also by the wording, used by journalists. In case of van Dijke's example it is important to find out, in which terms ethnic minorities are represented.

The local semantic analysis is focused on the strategy of forming meanings and relationship between statements, expressed in the discourse.

One of the important focuses of the text semantics research is the local text interrelation: how are single parts of the text connected with each other? One of the main conditions of the local interrelationship of texts is the following: it is necessary that their statements should refer to the facts that are related to them, foe example, by means of coordination of time, conditions, reasons, circumstances. Besides, van Dijke analyzes such text concepts, understanding of which implies that readers have certain social knowledge about some situations, these "lost links" between concepts and statements represent a semantic iceberg - not all the information is expressed, and it is assumed that the rest is known to the reader. This dependence on beliefs and knowledge about the world can also establish personal and ideological relations, which are visible for journalists and which are not topical for readers.

In addition to this type of a local linkage, statements can also be connected functionally: for example, by means of function of Specification, Paraphrase, Contrast, Example. Van Dijke notes that, statements in news publications are often connected by relation of Specification: more specific statements follow more general statements for the purpose of further detailing.

It is van Dijke's opinion that aside from the relationship between sentences, the text also has a semantic uniformity, integrity. This interrelation is described by what we intuitively know as a subject. Subjects conceptually summarize the text and its key information. Using terms of the theory, it can be described as semantic macro-statements, macro-rules. Such their forms as a selection, abstraction and operationalization lead to the simplification of the information complexity. Hierarchical subjects or macro-statements form a thematic text structure. Native speakers use such macro-structures for complete understanding and generalization of the text. In the news discourse the top of this macro-structure is contained in the title and brief review of a publication. Thus, a media-message can be presented as a sequence of statements, which simplify the text of macro-statements or main topics.

One of the most influential semantic notions in the news review is the notion of the inside information (implied information). As it was stated above, the greater part of the text information is expressed incompletely, with the expectation that readers have basic ideas and notions about the world. So, the analysis of "indescribable" is sometimes more important than studying of what is really printed. Media-text is a kind of ideological iceberg, and we can see only its top.

Van Dijke cites an example from Daily Mail, the British newspaper:

That is why we should be more persistent in our refusal and point to the door to those, who are not citizens of Britain and who abuse our hospitality and tolerance. To do it means to stop the attempts to provoke us to injustice.

The given short fragment contains a lot of ideological inside information. For instance, the fact that the British are hospitable and tolerant, that immigrants abuse it and that, even if the British are able to be unjust, but only as a result of provocation from the direction of immigrants and so on. The fragment also showed semantic and rhetoric forms of expression: "persistent" instead of "steadfast and firm" (refuse hospitality), "point to the door" instead of "evict"/turn out and so on. It suggests underestimation, use of softer expressions in the process of cultivation of hard policy.

A media-message can also contain too much information, a description can be excessive. It happens, when we have information in excess of the required content for the subject development. As an example van Dijke quotes a story about a black immigrant, who is a priori considered unemployed, and van Dijke accounts for the distribution of stereotype that black men, as a rule, do not work.

It is van Dijke's opinion that a special attention should be paid to citations used in publications. Citations display, whose position is the most significant, according to the article author, and therefore is worthy of quoting. We illustrate it by means of van Dijke's example: if analyze citations on ethnic conflicts more frequently used in the news, we will notice that citations of ethnic minorities representatives occur far more rarely, than those of white people who take part in the described events. Moreover, there only two cases, when ethnic minorities representatives are cited: if their opinion coincides with the opinion of the "white elite" and if the matter concerns the so-called "safe" subjects, namely: culture, emigration, ethnic policy. It suggests, that the position of the "white" elite is more important and reliable and that they have better access to media.

Van Dijke believes that a special subject of the discoursive analysis is a style. The style is a result of the selection between alternative variants of style, use of this or that syntactical structure.

Such a stylistic choice includes social and ideological implied information, as this choice demonstrates a reporter's opinion about personages in the news events, as well as about peculiarities of a social and communicative situation. In addition to expressing negative ideas, usage of definite words (for instance, expressing fury, anger, hate) displays the cultural dimension of the everyday language of news in specific forms of media and a style which is popular in their sphere.

So, the discoursive analysis is suitable not only for studying of a media-text structure. First of all, the discoursive analysis studies "implicit" meanings, opinions and ideology expressed by these structures. In order to show how these implicit meanings relate to the text, van Dijke proposes to analyze cognitive, social, politic and cultural context of media-messages. The cognitive approach is based on the fact, that texts have no significance, but sense is generated in the consciousness of native speakers. In other words, we need to "take to pieces" cognitive ideas of journalists in the process of preparing news and those of readers during perception, understanding and memorizing the text of publications. Van Dijke names two mental structures: 1) the text understanding, realization of the text itself, which is present in memory as a text-idea and 2) native speakers and journalists themselves, who have a unique personal notion about an event or a piece of news, presented in the text.

Van Dijke calls this knowledge-idea in the memory of the reader as a situational/eventual model. "Comprehending" the event, described in the text, we build a mental model of this event . The model expresses not only the information, represented in the text, but also a lot of other data about this event. It is remarkable that this information is not expressed in the text, because it seems improper to the journalist or it is presumed that readers already have corresponding knowledge. Part of this information originates from the so-called cultural scenarios, conventional knowledge and ideas about well-known episodes from social life.

Besides, according to van Dijke, people have a specific mental model of the real communicative context, the so-called contextual model, which includes the information about purposes of the discourse, its communicative acts and peculiarities of the audience. We see that event models in the memory characterize not only knowledge, but also opinions, beliefs about the event and participants. A lot of evaluative inside information of the text can now be explained by means of a careful analysis in the description of a journalist's mental models. If a news publication is "with inclination", it is usually accounted for a journalist's mental model, for his point of view and for a specific ideological aim at the event.

In conclusion we would like to repeat after van Dijke: the characteristic property of the discourse analysis consists in the fact that it describes a text in terms of theories, developed for several discourse levels. Thus, classical linguistic semiotics separates a notion of the form and a notion of the meaning as sign components, while discourse analysis regards the text as a complicated formation and requires a separate investigation of phonetic, graphic, morphological, syntactical, micro- and macro-semantic, stylistic, hyperstructural, rhetoric, pragmatic, interactional and other structures and strategies. Each of these levels possesses its own typical features, which can be interpreted on other levels both in traditional linguistics and beyond its range.

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Text it word Text in Word

About author:

    Anna SHEVCHENKO
    Assistant Professor,
    Department of Theory and Technology of Social Work,
    Samara State University, Samara, Russia
    e-mail: anshev-78@yandex.ru



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