Analyzing report an event in a persuasive way

Analyzingreferring terms presents an insightful perspective on ways in which priordiscourse get intertextually evoked and re-voiced. They are an importantdiscursive device by which media can report an event in a persuasive way thatsupports and reinforces certain ideologies. I use ‘referring term’ to indicatethe way newspapers denote people or abstract entities using certain descriptivelexical items, mainly nouns or noun phrases and adjectives.

In this section, Iwill first briefly present some linguistic perspectives on reference fromconversation and discourse analysis points of view, followed by an overview ofreferencing in Modern Standard Arabic, where nouns and adjectives are markedfor number and gender.            Referringterms have been examined from a number of perspectives in linguistics andcommunication studies. Early work by Sacks and Schegloff (20071979) examinedhow referring terms are structured with two main preferences: first, “minimization,”in which reference is preferably presented in a single form (2007:24), andsecond, “recipient design,” in which the speaker would alter and tailor theirreferring terms based on their interlocutors shared prior knowledge and theirability to recognize these referring terms.

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Levinson (2007) added”circumspection,” in which speakers would consider the “local” context,situational and cultural, and the constraints within this context. In myanalysis, the institutional context of media discourse and the government’slaws regarding women driving constrain the referring terms of each newspaperbased on their agenda and political orientation.             Referencein narratives has been explored in a number of discourse analysis studies.

DeFina (2006) examined the implications of referring terms in constructingindividual and group identities. She tracked the use of devices that markmembership categorization (Sacks, 1995) in narratives of Mexican immigrants inthe United States. She found that terms like “Hispanic” and “Latino” in theirnarratives index the narrator’s identity in relation to the social group, andoften involves contrast with others who belong to opposite social groups(2003:153). Schiffrin (2006) analyzed the variation in linguistic reference bytracing them in a narrative of a Holocaust survivor telling her story about howshe and her family were captured by Nazis, and comparing the reference devicesto another narrative about a school prank in the narrator’s childhood.

One ofthe most important findings of the study has to do with the use of thefirst-person plural “we” when it refers to multiple third parties. She foundthat it indexes the narrator’s alignment with the referenced group in thenarrative, as well as revealing the narrator’s worldview and their ideologicalviewpoint within the realm of the narrative.             Suchfindings become relevant in the media stories analyzed in my data, wheresimilar patterns in the use of referring terms surface. These patterns ofreference become even more interesting and insightful in grammatically genderedlanguages, such as Arabic, where nouns and pronouns are marked for gender andnumber. In the following section, I will briefly present some backgroundinformation on Arabic language and its grammatical situation.

 

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