LINGUIST List 32.1426

Thu Apr 22 2021

Review: Discourse Analysis; Syntax: Hoffmann, Kirner-Ludwig (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <jecoburnlinguistlist.org>



Date: 04-Oct-2020
From: Neda Chepinchikj <neda.cepincicgmail.com>
Subject: Telecinematic Stylistics
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Book announced at https://linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-1860.html

EDITOR: Christian Hoffmann
EDITOR: Monika Kirner-Ludwig
TITLE: Telecinematic Stylistics
SERIES TITLE: Advances in Stylistics
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Neda Chepinchikj, University of New South Wales

“Telecinematic Stylistics” is an edited volume that consists of thirteen different papers on the topic of telecinematic discourse. The chapters are unified through an introduction that defines key terms in the area of telecinematic discourse and details the various approaches to analysing telecinematic discourse, as well as the common pitfalls of both theoretical and methodological concerns in this interdisciplinary field of research. The introductory chapter also briefly summarises research to date and presents an overview of the volume and its organisation.

SUMMARY

The papers in this edited volume are informally organised into two parts, according to their particular focus of interest. The first part of the book consists of studies that examine language patterns and their meanings in televisual talk, whereas the second part presents broader multimodal foci of analysing telecinematic discourse, which also investigate resources other than language, such as cinematography, film soundtrack and production. All the chapters in this volume are contextualised within the wider area of telecinematic discourse and they each highlight different aspects of its stylistics.

Pavesi’s paper, which is the first one in the volume, discusses the use of demonstratives in film dialogues. Through a corpus linguistics approach to twelve film dialogues from British and American films, the author investigates the frequency and functions of proximal demonstratives and arrives at a conclusion that they are very frequent in film speech and have specific exophoric functions, such as foregrounding objects and narrative moments. These are also used more frequently to show rather than tell, and they appear to be more prevalent in televisual speech as opposed to spontaneous conversations.

In a similar corpus linguistic vein, Bednarek presents and discusses the benefits of using the newly created Sydney Corpus of Television Dialogue (SydTV) for linguistic analysis of American TV dialogue. Through a few examples from the author’s own research, she indicates the usefulness of this resource as not only a reference corpus to serve as a baseline for comparison of data, but also as a resource for analysing any type of linguistic feature, both in the area of stylistics and also in other sub-disciplines, such as sociolinguistics and historical and cultural comparative studies.

Jautz and Minow focus on investigating the formulaic expression [name], we need to talk in soap opera dialogue using a corpus linguistic method of analysis. Their findings indicate that this expression is typical of this televisual genre and its use refers to introducing problem-based talk. The choices of what follows this utterance are also limited but the utterance plays a major role in driving the narrative and dramatising the plot in soap operas.

Messerli focuses on humour in sitcoms and how it is created using repetition. He combines a mixed approach, using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, to examine the multimodal construction of humorous turns in a single episode of an American sitcom. In his study, the author considers both the diegetic and extradiegetic planes of telecinematic discourse. In other words, Messerli points out the impact of the humourous turns for both the characters in the sitcom and for the benefit of the viewers. In a much layered manner, he looks at a few levels of repetition: lexical, structural parallelism, prosodic repetition, repetition of facial expressions and telecinematic repetition. He further categorises the repetition as either intraturn or inter-turn, with respect to distance and location of the repetitions. The findings point to frequent instances of repetition for all three modes: linguistic, paralinguistic and non-linguistic, as well as the major salience of lexical inter-turn repetition for text cohesion.

In the second part of the book, Piazza’s study on the ideology in TV documentaries about the minority community of travellers and gypsies in the UK investigates the topic from a multimodal aspect, using critical discourse analysis (CDA). She is interested in the portrayal of these minority communities in three British/Irish documentaries, particularly in terms of the authority voices (the narrators) and their role. Piazza examines the lexical choices made by the narrators, the questions the interviewers ask and the visuals in the opening images to arrive at the crux of the ideological discourse, whose voice are the narrators. Not surprisingly, the stance identified indicates various degrees of reinforcement of stereotypes and positioning of the narrators as authorities, rather than balancing the views with those of the depicted communities.

In a similar study, Chovanec looks at the interplay between two types of narration in TV documentaries: voice-over and presenter, or off-screen and on-screen narrators. He uses a combination of pragmatic analysis and conversation analysis (CA) to examine the various techniques of diegetic and extradiegetic narration in a single episode of a British TV documentary series. Chovanec identifies three points in his study: (1) the role of the narrator; (2) the interplay of the various narrators’ voices; and (3) the relationship between the soundtrack and the visual track. All this is accomplished by a combination of styles of delivery (diegetic and extradiegetic), but the relationship is complex and there is a perceived lack of balance between the two voices, owing to their different roles in the narration.

Reichelt, in her study of representation of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in fictional TV, focuses on the portrayal of this kind of characters in TV series. Using a mixed-method approach (scene analysis of pragmatic competence and cinematography and pragmatic marker variation) applied to the first four seasons of the American TV show Parenthood (2010-2015), the author identifies different modes of co-creating representations of ASD, which, although limited in number, show a variety of ways of achieving characterisation, using different multimodal resources (e.g. language patterns, mise en scène, posture and gaze). Even though these characters are both explicitly and implicitly depicted as different from the other characters in the show, the author suggests that there is still a lot of stereotyping involved.

Unlike the previous studies in this volume, where verbal language (spoken or written) is either central or salient mode of investigation, Schubert’s paper focuses entirely on cinematography as a mode of meaning-making and communication in telecinematic discourse. By applying the cooperative principle (Grice, 1975) to horror film cinematography, he borrows a pragmatic concept and analyses film shots, cuts and use of lighting in a set of eight horror films. The author’s assumption is that visual storytelling in films is carried out through shots and cuts, which act as the syntax and punctuation in cinematic discourse. He also posits the salience of producer-recipient implicature in film discourse and pragmatic similarity between verbal language and visual cinematic discourse. Schubert exemplifies the visual expressions of all four maxims of the cooperative principle and demonstrates that these can be adapted and applied visually in films.

In addition to films or TV shows as data, the study by Krebs looks at film trailers as multimodal advertising texts. This study adopts a new approach to analysing film trailers, which is based on the relevance theory (RT) by Sperber and Wilson (1986, 1995). The focus here is the interplay between descriptive and interpretative use of various modes in film trailers and the way they contribute to the persuasiveness of the product among audiences. The data consist of only one film trailer for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The author finds the application of RT helpful in the process of explaining how the two exemplary audiences are targeted (those familiar with the books on which the trilogy is based and those who are not). Another finding of this study is the “double usage structure of trailers” (p. 216), which presupposes different uses of speech and writing (descriptively and interpretatively).

Kirner-Ludwig’s contribution to this volume examines how linguistic choices are made in period films set in the Middle Ages. Through a cognitive-pragmatic approach, the author focuses on identifying pseudo-medieval linguistic features that are used in medieval-themed films, examining only the fan transcripts made on the basis of the selected films (twelve feature films). Applying a corpus-based analysis, the author focuses on spoken and written language in the selected films and identifies a number of linguistic features, such as pseudo-archaisms, various lexico-semantic choices and code-switching between English and Latin, which are specific to this sub-genre. What the findings show, however, is that these linguistic features are inaccurate and inauthentic as to the exact period portrayed. Other findings of the study indicate that there is no consistency in the use of the identified language features as language does not appear to play a crucial role in the period authenticity of the films, but it is rather subordinate to the visual component thereof.

There are two chapters in this volume that discuss adaptation and translation of content between two different media. The first one is Sanchez-Stockhammer’s study of the film adaptation of comics and the other one is Dahne and Piazza’s paper on closed captions for the deaf in TV shows. The former study focuses on the translatability of comic books onto screen, using the example of Hergé’s Tintin comic books and Spielberg’s film adaptation of these comics (The Adventures of Tintin, 2011). It is a qualitative study that focuses on the use of speech and writing in both media. The findings show a number of modifications that take place in the process of film adaptation, which can be found in the dialogues, representations of sound, voice, accent, thoughts and the use of written language on screen. The adaptations and modifications made in the translation process are seen as necessary in spite of the fact that both media are predominantly visual.

The latter study offers an investigation into the closed captions (CC) for the deaf and hard of hearing and the reasons behind the choices made in creating these. The authors are also interested in the impact of these choices on the interpretation of the narrative and characters by the deaf audiences. The study analyses one particular American TV show, Breaking Bad (2008-2013), and also uses two interviews as part of the data, one with a deaf person, representing the voice of the audience, and another with a professional captioner. Using a translation studies framework and a cognitive approach with a Closed Caption Relevance Model (CCRM), following Gutt’s (2000) translation model, the study analyses and compares the CC text with the corresponding audio-visual text from the TV show. The study reveals that the decisions regarding what is captured in the CC text are based on the importance of sound in context. Due to spatio-temporal constraints, not all audio is captured in the CC text and the selectivity relies on the editorial decisions related to conveying relevant information to the audience. In this case, the matters of function generally prevail over authenticity and faithfulness to the source text (i.e. the audio-visual track of the TV show).

The last chapter in the volume discusses the concept of metapragmatic awareness in cinematic discourse. Gordejuela applies this concept to the analysis of cinematic devices that create self-reflexivity and construct meaning. The case study is Hitchock’s film Notorious (1946), but the author also refers to some other films by Hitchcock to illustrate the concept as it underlies the cinematic discourse of this particular film author. The premise Gordejuela makes is that cinematic discourse functions pragmatically as any other discourse and that metapragmatic awareness involves both the filmmaker and the viewers, but it is essential that the viewers recognise the author’s intention in using specific cinematic devices. Such devices in Hitchcock’s films are tunnel shots, stairs and suspicious drinks, which all serve as cohesive and meaning-making techniques in his cinematic discourse.

EVALUATION

The present volume is a valuable addition to the area of telecinematic stylistics and it is a very useful read for both novice and seasoned scholars and researchers in this area. The volume’s introductory chapter skilfully contextualises the specific field of study and summarises the most relevant concepts, approaches and debates and offers an overview of the latest knowledge in the field. Furthermore, all the thirteen studies have been coherently collocated within the context of telecinematic stylistics. These studies present a wide variety of topics, data, theoretical frameworks, approaches and methods, which all pertain to various extents to the burgeoning field of telecinematic stylistics. Thus, the relevance of the various studies included in this volume is significant, while their diversity attests to the wealth and potential of research in this domain.

It is especially welcoming to read about the various degrees of innovation undertaken by some of the contributing scholars to this edited volume. Most of them are related to finding out new ways to approach the analysis of telecinematic material, such as Schubert’s application of the cooperative principle to film cinematography and Kreb’s adaptation of relevance theory to analysing film trailers. Others, on the other hand, show innovation and creativity in the type of data they select for analysis, particularly in those cases where the choice of data pertains to minority, or even marginalised, communities in the wider society. Examples of these are the studies by Piazza on the ideological framing in TV documentaries of the travellers’ and gypsies’ communities in the UK, Dahne and Piazza’s study on the use of closed captions for the purpose of the deaf and hard of hearing audiences, and Reichelt’s paper on autism spectrum disorder representation in fictional television.

Another strength of the volume is that the variety of the studies also relates to the various foci of investigation, i.e. some studies either explore one mode of communication (usually language in its written or spoken form), whereas others combine a few modes and thus adopt a broader, multimodal perspective on telecinematic discourse. This is also reflected in the aforementioned organisation of the volume into two parts. The variety of studies included also extends to the perspectives taken: some chapters are more theoretically laden, while others are more focused on methodology and analytical tools for investigating telecinematic discourse. An example of the former is Messerli’s study of humour repetition in sitcoms, while an example of the latter is Bednarek’s chapter on the Sydney’s Corpus of Television Dialogue.

Even though most of the studies included in this volume take a deep and systematic approach to the analysis of their chosen data, at times there may appear certain discrepancies between the proposed scope and the actual data used, as well as the reported findings. Messerli, for example, offers a highly in-depth analysis of humour repetition which is limited to a single sitcom episode. Thus, it is a little difficult to know if the findings of this analysis do actually apply to the entire sitcom from which this episode is sourced, let alone other sitcoms. Similarly, Krebs’ analysis of a single film trailer is very systematic and thorough but it is at the same time very limited in terms of the classification of the two kinds of audiences and their reception of the trailer as an advertising product. The question remains if this hold true for other similar film trailers that advertise book-to-screen adaptations. Furthermore, how does this novel approach work for film trailers that are not based on book adaptations? Another similar example comes from Reichelt’s study. As compelling as her analysis of televisual representations of ASD people is, the data set is limited to only one TV show. Thus, readers would be left with questions about the extent of stereotypical representations of ASD people in fictional television more broadly.

To conclude, Telecinematic Stylistics offers a diverse and fresh look at this growing area of research and brings together a number of valuable contributions from both well-known and emerging scholars in this field. It is reassuring to see that this area of research is growing and producing innovative and creative ways of knowledge generation.

REFERENCES

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and
semantics (pp. 41-58). Vol. 3. Speech acts. New York: Academic Press.

Gutt, E.-A. (2000). Translation and relevance: Cognition and context. Abingdon: Taylor and
Francis.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance theory: Communication and cognition. Oxford:
Blackwell.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance theory: Communication and cognition. (2nd ed).
Oxford: Blackwell.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Dr Neda Chepinchikj is a linguist and an educator. Her teaching background is in English as an Additional Language and Intercultural Communication. She has taught at a number of universities in Australia and overseas. Her research interests include telecinematic discourse, multimodal conversation analysis, language and gender and sociolinguistics. She has published papers in renowned journals and is writing her first book at the moment. She currently works at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.



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