Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Unfold the Veil Covering News - A Case Study of English Language and Ideology in Both American and Chinese Press

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Unfold the Veil Covering News - A Case Study of English Language and Ideology in Both American and Chinese Press

Article excerpt

Abstract

By taking Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) as research approach, this study analyzes and discusses two news reports related to the event that a Uyghur man was sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang, a western province of China. Both news reports on that event are taken respectively from two newspapers published in English language but with clearly opposed ideology, CNN and China Daily. We have found that, however, these two news reports are quite different and even completely opposite in making use of three saliently patterned linguistic features, that is, transitivity, naming of news actor and quotation patterns. We argue that the different even opposite selection in the three aspects in the two news reports are not arbitrary, but rather are ideologically motivated. Finally, we suggest that teachers are supposed to teach and help students read news reports with critical eyes.

Keywords: SFG, news report, English language, ideology

1. Introduction

In the era of information, news reports play an important role in providing us with rich resources about what's happening around the world. However, it is agreed that news reports can never be really objective and neutral but serve the ideologies held by the press (e.g. Kuo & Nakamura, 2005). And their biased stances might influence readers' interpretation of the reality and hinder them from knowing the "truth". Sometimes, deliberate choices would be made to "manage public's opinion" (Lukin, Butt & Matthiessen, 2004, p.61). Therefore, we as readers are suggested to be critical when processing all those information rather than get used to it (e.g. Lukin, 2003). And as teachers, we are reminded of the responsibility of helping our students to "manage and evaluate the virtual bombardment of reports from news media" (Lukin, 2003, p. 18).

But the question is how to be critical. In this essay, by comparing two news reports, we will explore how the choices of language would reflect the underlying stances and construct "different 'takes' on reality" (Lukin, 2003, p. 20), from the dimensions of Field and Tenor, in the hope of informing the public of some specific ways to be critical and the teachers of some tangible tools to help students become critical in news reading.

To be more specific, we will take the approach of systemic functional grammar (SFG) to analyze three language features-transitivity, naming and quotation patterns. Firstly, SFG is considered as the powerful tool to explore the ideological effects of different linguistic choices in constructing different "reality" (e.g. Lukin, 2003; Lukin, et al., 2004). Secondly, these three features are the typical ones to be analyzed for revealing ideological impact of news and have been proved to be quite effective (e.g. Lukin, 2003; Kuo & Nakamura, 2005). Thirdly, they are found saliently patterned in the news selected.

The two pieces of news we have chosen are from the same day, March 28, 2012, and reported on the same event that a Uyghur man was sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court in Xinjiang, a western province of China. One is from China Daily (News A, see Appendix A), a state-owned press by China, and the other from CNN, (News B, see Appendix A), a famous American press. Since issues related with China have gradually become the center of discussion, our study is supposed to be of great interest.

In the following parts, our analysis will focus on the dominant aspects within each of the three language features. 2. Analysis of Linguistic Features

2. Analysis of Linguistic Features

2.1 Transitivity

The notion of transitivity is closely related with three elements-processes, participants, and circumstances (Delin, 2000). Analyzing transitivity means analyzing "different choices in type (and number) of processes, participants, and circumstances" (Coffin, Donohue & North, 2009, p. 292), or more simply, "analyzing the components of language that function to represent 'who does what, to whom, where, when, and how'" (Coffin, et al. …

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