By Sari Pietikäinen, FinlandAlexandra Jaffe, Long BeachHelen Kelly-Holmes, and Nikolas Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users."
AUTHORS: Durant, Alan and Lambrou, Marina TITLE: Language and Media SUBTITLE: A Resource Book for Students SERIES TITLE: Routledge English Language Introductions PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2009
Mekki Elbadri, Vienna, Austria
The book is divided into 4 sections, each consisting of 9 units. It starts with a preface, entitled ''How to use the book'', that introduces the series ''Routledge English Language Introductions'', in which the book appears. The series is described as ''flexi-texts'' that can be used to suit the reader's style of study. The preface outlines the common structure of the books in the series, which consist typically of four sections, i.e.: an 'Introduction', section A, that presents the key concepts in the area of study, a 'Development', section B, that adds information and builds on the key concepts offered in section A, an 'Exploration', section C, that provides examples and guidance for individual investigation of the field, and an 'Extension', section D, that offers further readings in the area of study.
Readers are advised that they could read the book either 'vertically', following a traditional order of reading from beginning to end, or 'horizontally'. In the latter case, the reader could start by a unit in section A, followed by the corresponding unit of section B, then the corresponding one in section C and finally the corresponding unit of section D.
The preface outlines as well the contents of the four sections of this particular book. The book's introductory material contains a list of figures, a list of tables, a list of transcriptions and acknowledgements. The horizontal reading referred to above is made easy by the cross-referenced table of contents, following the traditional, 'vertical' table of contents.
Following the series structure mentioned above, the book contains 4 main sections, A, B, C, and D. Section A, pp. 1-53, ''Introduction: Key concepts in language and media'', defines the key concepts, introducing basic terms and ideas, and offers an overview of the whole field. Section B, pp. 55-122, ''Development: studies in media language'', builds on the key ideas discussed in section A, drawing together several areas of interest, and is intended to prepare the learner to undertake their own exploration of language and media. Section C, pp. 121-186, ''Exploration: analyzing media language'', provides examples of language and data that guides learners through their own investigation of the field. This section is described as open-ended and exploratory, encouraging learners to use their own ideas and think for themselves using the newly acquired knowledge. Section D, pp. 187-237, ''Extension: language and media readings'', offers key readings in the area, together with guidance and questions for further thought.
Unit A.1, ''Media as Language Use'', acknowledges that there is no separate discipline called 'language and media'. It outlines, however, some commonly accepted notions of language and media, arguing that 'media language' is a subset of uses of language. The unit discusses as well the different ways of looking at language, defining the different ways of understanding the term 'media'. Reasons for investigating media discourse are provided, with an attempt to prove that it is an interesting endeavor.
These basic concepts are extended in unit B.1., ''Speech, Writing and Media''. This unit discusses how different technologies extend human language capabilities, based on the concept of writing as a 'technology of the intellect'. Discussing the question of media and the sorts of people we are, the authors emphasize the fact that the '''language and media' tool brings about social change, and with a record of change come further possibilities for social 'progress''' (p. 59; emphasis in the original).
The second theme of the book, presented in unit A.2, ''Register and Style'', discusses language varieties, such as dialect, register and appropriate style, accents and the use of Received Pronunciation in broadcasting. It outlines also the differences between speech and writing, as modes of language use, their view as a continuum and instances of their convergence. The unit touches also briefly on the role played by design elements other than language in audio-visual and multimodal texts as semiotic register. The theme is further explored in unit B.2., ''Different Styles of Media Language'', that analyses register at the three levels of field, mode and tenor; looks further at the font and text design and presents examples of stylistic significance of font choice in political campaigns.
Unit A.3., ''Mediated Communication'', discusses the different types of 'communicative events', how they relate to what is traditionally called the 'canonical speech situation', and explores the 'departure' form 'co-presence', or 'spatial temporal distanciation', of media discourse. This unit follows as well the move from Ferdinand de Saussure's (1983) talking heads to Roman Jakobson's (1960) extension of linguistic functions, and looks at the development of the same model in different ways, and different fields such as marketing and political science. The authors explore as well how ''new mixed forms are changing our media discourse environment, which is presently one in which face-to-face interaction coexists with many other modalities of more or less mediated and more or less interactive discourse'' (p. 19).
The discussion of these models is extended in unit B.3., ''Mediated Participation'', which outlines the difference between media discourse and conversation, presenting Goffman's (1981) participation framework, and touching upon the pseudo-intimacy in media culture.
Unit A.4., ''Media Discourse Genres'', outlines specialized media discourse genres, how the idea of genre as text type is used in communication and media studies and different types of genre. As an example, the role of film genre, expectation and verisimilitude are discussed. It is argued that genre in film studies is not used only as a classification criterion, but it also helps the audience to make sense of characters and plot. The unit discusses further what happens ''when genres become blurred or where conventions associated with a genre are disrupted inappropriately'' (p. 20). Unit B.4., ''Schema and Genre Theory'', extends the discussion of media genre, by looking at the impact on the concept of genre of schema theory and genre theory, and analyses genres using Dell Hymes's SPEAKING grid (1977).
Unit A.5., ''Media Rhetorics'', outlines the differences between 'information' and 'persuasion', use of rhetoric (ethos, pathos and logos), devices used in persuasive discourse (lexical choices, tropes of figurative language and sound patterning), as well as metaphor and framing. The unit discusses how some media discourse makes truth-claims, by reporting facts or giving information and inviting the receiver to believe what is presented, while other kinds of media discourse invite the receiver to see them as persuasion rather than as an account of how things are. Unit B.5., ''Persuasion and Power'', with a focus on news and adverts, discusses how news is selected, organized and presented, what constitutes news, and newsworthiness, i.e. news values (Bell 1991). The unit analyzes adverts as well, as a typically persuasive discourse, focusing on the register of advertising, the suggestiveness of its language, and its specific claims about products and services.
Unit A.6., ''Media Story Telling'', analyses storytelling as a form, or cluster of genres, explains the differences between narrative and plot, illustrates features that distinguish narrative as a particular way of presenting news and information, showing how story structure fits into the types of media in general. The unit also discusses narrative and its relatives; i.e. types of texts that overlap to a varying degree with narrative, such as reports, diaries, essays and other forms of similar nature. Unit B.6., ''Telling Stories'', considers conventional story patterns and how their characteristic features influence perceptions of what makes a typical narrative. It presents a brief overview of the historical development of models of storytelling, examines two models of narrative (Labov, 1972; Labov and Waletzky, 1967), and discusses personal narratives as storytelling modes.
Unit A.7., ''Words and Images'', outlines the interaction that takes place between language (as words, phrases and sentences) and 'media language' (as a compound form in which words, images and sounds co-exist), containing an analysis of pictures and captions. Unit B.7., ''Anchoring Visual Meanings'', extends the discussion of the meaning-making impact of verbal captions and voice-over on the images they accompany. Based on the concepts of 'relay' and 'anchorage', the authors relate these terms to other ways of understanding how words and images combine with each other, taking account of captions as kinds of un-attributed utterance or speech event.
Unit A.8., ''Boundaries of Media Discourse'', discusses the kinds of media language that are subject to restriction and exclusion. It outlines types of regulated verbal content in media communication, considering some of the grounds on which topics and forms of expression are judged to be unacceptable or taboo, as opposed to legitimate or accepted kinds of media communication. This theme is further extended in unit B.8., ''Coarseness and Incivility in Broadcast Talk''. This unit considers historical changes in styles of broadcast talk, especially in the representation of different accents, dialect and speech registers, explores the relationship between increased access to and participation in media and claims of 'coarseness' or 'incivility' in media discourse.
Unit A.9., ''The Future of Media Language'', discusses the topic of language futurology, taking as examples works such as Orwell's (1949) 1984 and Bradbury's (1953) ''Fahrenheit 451''. It also considers media technologies and language capabilities, enumerating some recent and ongoing developments in media and language. Unit B.9., ''Looking into the Future'', further examines alternative visions of the media language future, and how it can be evaluated, introducing the idea of utopian and dystopian predictions about language and media, and considering the idea of in-built progress associated with the impact of technological innovations on verbal communication.
The section entitled ''Key dates in the history of media'', pp. 238-248, contains a long list of what the authors consider landmarks in the evolution of media. It starts with cave paintings and carvings, at different locations and in different periods, from 45000 to 5000 BCE, passes through some milestones such as the invention of writing, Alexandria library, the Chinese 'Taiping Zulan' encyclopedia, Alhazen's camera obscura, Guttenberg's printing shop, and radio and television broadcast. The list is left open-ended as it concludes with the inventions and developments that continue across digital media, including especially internet delivery systems and increased wi-fi communication.
In this review, I followed a horizontal approach so as to offer an overview of the treatment of the main topics in the book's main sections, A and B, i.e. Introduction and Development. The book offers a wealth of information that could not be treated comprehensively in a short review. Such richness is further extended and explored with numerous practical examples and individual activities in the two final sections, C and D, i.e. Exploration and Extension. Although this type of treatment touches briefly on complex and controversial issues and inevitably leaves out many important details, it is convenient to the book's purpose as an introductory publication addressing a non-specialized audience or beginner students. It offers very general directions that could be further expanded based on the readings offered in section D, Exploration, as well as the 'Further Readings' section of the book.
The book is also characterized by managing to present well-established and traditional theories in linguistics and communication studies, while applying them to modern media, such as blogs, e-mails, SMS and pop lyrics. It also draws on current instances of linguistic resources, such as Obama and Blair speeches and Oprah's show talk.
An important part of the book is the list of milestones in the history of media and language. This list, albeit not exhaustive, offers an extensive overview of the fields covered. It includes innovative examples from all over the world, including Chinese and Arabic works, with concentration, however, on Western tradition and inventions. Additionally, given the rapidly changing and evolving field of language and media studies, the authors devote a supporting website to accompany the book.
Bell, A. (1991) The Language of News Media. Oxford: Blackwell.
Bradbury, R. (1953) Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantyne Books.
Goffman, E. (1981) Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hymes, D. (1977) Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Jakobson, R. (1960) 'Concluding statement: linguistics and poetics', in T. Sebeok (ed.), Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 350-377.
Labov, W. (1972) Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Labov, W. and Waletzky, J. (1967) 'Narrative analysis: oral versions of personal experience', in J. Holms (ed.), Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts. Seattle: University of Washington Press: pp. 12-44.
Orwell, G. (1949) 1984. London: Penguin.
Saussure, F. de (1983 ) Course in General Linguistics, edited by Roy Harris. London: Duckworth.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher based in Vienna, Austria. In
2010, he earned a PhD in Linguistics (Discourse Analysis) at the University
of Vienna. His areas of interest include translation, terminology, CAT
tools and critical discourse analysis.