A Corpus Approach to Discourse Analysis of Newspaper Restaurant Reviews: A Preliminary Analysis

By Hou, Hsiao-I | Studies in Literature and Language, November 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

A Corpus Approach to Discourse Analysis of Newspaper Restaurant Reviews: A Preliminary Analysis


Hou, Hsiao-I, Studies in Literature and Language


Abstract

This study is a corpus-based discourse analysis that explores specific discourse communities of restaurant reviews in newspapers. The design of this study is largely influenced by the works of Swales (1990), Bhatia (1993), and Biber et al. (2007), and is guided by understanding how a professional text in a particular discipline achieves its disciplinary objectives. A specialized corpus was constructed and the data were randomly selected from restaurant reviews from five leading newspapers in US in 2010. The analyses focused on the distributions and functions of surface linguistic features including move analyses, analyses of communicative purposes in the texts, and investigations of the vocabulary and typical lexico-grammatical realizations of these moves. The results have shown that the establishment of the dining experience (Move 3) (46.3%) occurred most frequently, followed by a description of the entering (Move 2) (22.0%), and then a detailed description of the chosen restaurant (Move 1) (14.7%). Most reviews were structured chronologically and were similarly arranged in the following order: experience of choice, entering, dining, paying, and consideration of another visit. In addition, some rhetorical signals were noticed. The implications of the findings are presented with possible suggestions for future teaching and research issues.

Key words: Corpus; Discourse analysis; Restaurant review

INTRODUCTION

Food related topics have become important aspect in our daily lives. The discourse that surrounds food and cooking pervades everyday communication among friends, family, and co-workers. Another social-media trend for the new food culture is a shiftto restaurant-going from an occasional leisure-time activity to the center-stage feature of our daily lives. According to a digital survey that was conducted in US in 2012 regarding how restaurant-goers choose restaurants showed that 52% of the respondents reported dining out between 2 and 4 times per week (Angelsmith News Blog, 2012). For many young people, especially for those living in metropolitan areas, dining out has become a trend that relies on restaurant reviews to tell them about the latest hot spots. As the US National Restaurant Association's (NRA) data (2012) presented, 92% of adults indicate that they enjoy going to restaurants and 41% of adults indicate restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle.

Restaurant reviews are instrumental in providing information on unfamiliar or overlooked cuisines. They help determine dining decisions and restaurateurs believe in the power of restaurant reviews to affect their sales positively or negatively (Moir, 2007). According to the 2005 Editor & Publisher International Year Book in the US, 58.4% of the nation's approximately 1,450 daily newspapers published a stand-alone food section, typically once a week, and more than 50 million adults were regular readers of food sections (Lallande, 2005). According to a survey of 2,000 customers (Druce, 2010), more than half (58%) of those surveyed said that if they saw a bad review for a restaurant, then they would likely to avoid it with just 20% indicating they would ignore the reviewer and trust their own judgment based on the restaurant's website and menu. Dornenburg and Page (1998) mentioned the influence of restaurant reviews, "they help to determine what we as a nation value in dining out" and for readers the reviews are an important source of restaurant information (p. xvii). In addition, unlike the effects of other critical practices such as film or theatre reviews, the effect of restaurant reviews can last for years, even though there may have been changes in the restaurant's kitchen, menu, or ownership (Grindy, 1998). As Dornenburg and Page (1998) stated, "stories of negative review closing down restaurants are legendary in every city" (p. 125). As a result, restaurant reviews exert powerful influences for restaurant owners and for customers in different but dramatic ways. …

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