News in the context of regional and functional variation : a corpus-based analysis of newspaper domains across varieties of English

  • Nachrichten im Kontext regionaler und funktionaler Variation : eine korpus-gestützte Analyse verschiedener Zeitungsressorts in Varietäten des Englischen

Fest, Jennifer; Neumann, Stella (Thesis advisor); Niehr, Thomas (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2016)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch‐Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2016


English is spoken in numerous regions around the world and is influenced by many different kinds of speakers and learners as well as different cultures and approaches to language policy. Although the official status of English, for instance as legal or national language, is usually defined is the constitution of the respective regions, this only allows very limited insight into the actual spread and use of the language. The linguistic status of a variety is much more complex and harder to define and has to take into account not only the variety itself, but also its potential dependency on native varieties as reference points.In the literature dealing with variational linguistics, several models (e.g. McArthur 1987; Kachru 1988; Schneider 2007) have been suggested to depict the global spread of English, yet all of these are based on categorisations of the varieties which neglect the different backgrounds and contexts of the individual Englishes. In contrast to these approaches, the current study aims at analysing the developmental status of varieties by looking at their functional diversity. Drawing on a systemic-functional framework, it is assumed that language forms different registers for every use it is put to, which thereby in turn reflect the context of the interaction. The number of registers a variety has formed as well as their degree of differentiation thus allows conclusions about the concrete usage of a language in a society. In order to capture this functional variation with regard to both the topic and the speakers, this work focuses on newspaper language as a discourse which is created by numerous authors and reflects different thematic areas and target groups in its domains. In total, the study analyses five varieties of English, the two "New Englishes" from Kenya and Hong Kong and the three native varieties from Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as five newspaper domains - economy, sports, hard news, politics and lifestyle - and is based on a corpus containing 4.000 newspaper articles.This goal of this study on the one hand is to describe the "New Englishes" and their functional variation in more detail, on the other hand it aims at a comparative analysis of the newspaper domains. Furthermore, the approach, which is based on an operationalisation of the context variables defined in systemic-functional linguistics, is evaluated and optimised.The results show very clearly that there is more variation between the newspaper domains than between the regional varieties. The most striking differences can be found with regard to the style of the writing, the addressed topic and the social distance constructed between the discourse participants. The latter also differs between the varieties; news items from the "New Englishes" create a much higher distance between authors and readers than the native varieties. Furthermore, the articles from Kenya and Hong Kong display a tendency to construct objectivity, which correlates with their comparatively low degrees of press freedom and can thus be seen to indicate and originate from (self-)censorship. In this context, the two varieties differ in the use of several linguistic markers, and Kenyan English produces a higher degree of functional variation than Hong Kong English. Although the two are usually categorised alike in models depicting the spread of English, the study therefore shows that they have to be assumed to differ in their developmental status. Works cited Halliday, Michael A. K. 1974. Language and Social Man. London: Longman.Kachru, Braj. 1988. "The Sacred Cows of English." English Today 4 (4): 3-8. McArthur, Tom. 1987. "The English Languages?" English Today 3 (3): 9-13. Schneider, Edgar. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties Around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.