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Review of  Language and Media

Reviewer: Mekki B. Elbadri
Book Title: Language and Media
Book Author: Alan Durant Marina Lambrou
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 22.30

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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 [1915]) Course in General Linguistics, edited by Roy
Harris. London: Duckworth.

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.

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