The Critical Discourse Analysis of Political News
Abstract: Modern society has walked into the information age. The mass media, especially those in English, are penetrating into all parts of life. Political news reports are the focus of people’s attention and play such a significant role in both dominating the worldwide opinion and manipulating people’s ideologies. Political news reports
may seem objective and just on page, but convey diverse ideological implications. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) aims to unveil the implicit relationship between language, power and ideology by analyzing the linguistics features. This paper firstly discussed what CDA is, and then use it to analyze five reports about the same event in the American media---The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, The New York Posts, in 2011. At last, the author draws a conclusion that political news reports convey diverse ideological implications through different linguistic devices, such as choose of subject, the ellipsis of background information, and prominence and absence of agent or instrument.
Key words: critical discourse analysis; political news; implications;
1. Introduction of Critical discourse analysis
Critical discourse analysis (CDA), which aims to unveil the ideology and power relations hidden in public discourses and to expose the counteraction of public discourses on the formation of people’s ideology, since its emergence in the late 1970s, has developed rapidly in the past three decades or so and is gaining popularity and has become a hot topic. In the previous study, CDA mainly adopts Halliday’s systemic
functional grammar as its analytical tool which focuses on the metafunctions of language.
As an interdisciplinary discipline, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) pays great attention to the study of relationship of language, ideology and power. Its primary pursuit is to investigate and examine social inequality and power relations by applying
relevant theories and researching language in social context. CDA has been a heated research within the field of discourse analysis, and over the past decades, CDA has taken a growing importance in the realm of discourse analysis at home and abroad. Since the day it was initiated, CDA has experienced several periods: the sprouting period (1979), the stagnation period (1979-1985), the self-reflection period (1985-1987) and the new development period (1988 up to the present).
It is widely approved that Critical Discourse Analysis was firstly raised as a serious branch discipline of linguistics in late 1970s. The term “critical linguistics” which was later replaced by critical discourse analysis in the writings of some scholars but still coexist with it today, first appeared in 1979, in the book Language and Control by Fowler, Hodge, Kress and Trew, a group of colleagues at the time working at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. Ten years later in 1989, Fairclough raised the concept of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in his book Language and Power. Both of the books apply traditional stylistic theories and approaches to analyze public discourses, typically news reports, advertisement and so on. Ideologies in these discourses are a major study objective (Xin, 2005). As a major methodological resource, M.A.K. Halliday’s systemic-functional linguistics provided
quintessence of its theory to CDA. Systemic-functional linguistics has been well known for its special attention to the study of social and ideological factors. It considers discourse as a social practice, and it aims to analyze ideological assumptions behind discourse and bring those assumptions to the surface. (Halliday, 1985). Later, CDA gets its rapid development. These scholars analyze languages in various situations such as news reporting, interviews, rules and regulations and so on. It regards the world as a social structure carrying ideology, so it tries its best to study how language can reflect the ideology when it is used.
2. Analyses of five news reports using CDA
This part is to carry out the practical analysis of the political news. The detailed analysis will be based on the theories. The different ideologies between various news media will be revealed with the following analysis: the choice of the subject, the ellipsis of background information, as well as instrument or agent absence.
The materials are taken from five prestigious American media, which are about the clash between police and protesters in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The five news media are: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, The New York Post.
2.1The Choice of the Subject
2.1.1The Distribution of Syntactic Subjects
As is shown above, the subject of a sentence is more prominent. This section is to make a comparison between the five newspapers on their choices of syntactic subjects and descriptions of subjects to discover their implicit standpoints on the event. The following table is a display of the choice of syntactic subjects in the news reports. The analysis will be based on the number of times and frequency of occurrences. The abbreviated forms of the five media are as follows: AP: Associated Press; NYT: The New York Times; WP: The Washington Post; CT: Chicago Tribune; NYP: The New York Post.
From the table, it can be seen that the distribution of syntactic subjects are different. There exist different frequencies on the choices of syntactic subjects. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Time, The New York Post make protesters more prominent than the police. Accordingly, readers will be informed more of protesters. Since this is a clash, it is easier to give readers the impression that protesters have done too much. On the contrary, Chicago Tribune seems to care about police less than the protesters. However, the implicit attitudes can not be judged only from the number and frequency of the choices of syntactic subjects without further analysis.
2.1.2 The Detailed Description of Police and Protesters