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Book: Analyzing the Media

Chapter: Introduction

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.32945


Beyond their current social hype, the media have long since been of major concern to linguists. Rooted in rhetorical notions of effectiveness and appropriateness, featuring in early models of communication (e.g. Jakobson 1960), surfacing in the principled division of speech and writing and a key idea in text theory (cf. register/mode, Halliday & Hasan 1976) and language variation, the concept of medium has recently been gaining ground in discourse/text linguistics and general linguistic theory. Some would go as far as to claim independent disciplinary status to an ever-growing field of media linguistics. Despite the wealth of notions of medium, there would seem to be linguistic consensus on at least three relevant key elements of the concept.

1. Technological: Media are primarily seen as the technological means and infrastructure enabling and shaping the use of language. Technical frameworks like radio, TV, printing, new and social media leave traces in the linguistic styles and the texture of the discourse constructed. Each medium comes equipped with its own material-situational constraints and affordances.

2. Semiotic: Viewing media as sign systems or semiotic modes opens up a multimodal approach to text and discourse, which seeks to describe the patterns of mode co-operation, combination and integration. In this view, we ask for medium-specific multimodal patterns of texture. But fundamental mode differences, like the question of the autonomy or interdependence of speech and writing, also come to the fore.

3. Socio-cultural/pragmatic: Finally, from a sociolinguistic and pragmatic point of view, media can be recast as socially constituted forms of textual practice. In this view, what is highlighted is the pragmatic routines and design patterns within media institutions, which affect genres and their linguistic/multimodal styles. Here we must also ask how relations between communicators are shaped by the medium used.

Based on these clear and versatile ideas of medium, the present volume seeks to look at a whole number of diverse and currently popular media genres from a systemic-functional linguistics perspective. The book brings together new methodological and corpus-based approaches that have the power to inform future media genre analysis and its methodologies as well as systemic-functional linguistic theory.

Chapter Contributors

  • Martin Kaltenbacher ( - kaltenbacher) 'University of Salzburg'
  • Hartmut Stöckl ( - hstockl) 'Salzburg University'