Are there different linguistic features between online news stories?

I am studying two online news stories from The Sun and The Guardian websites because these two have such very different stereotypes, such as having different levels of register, which I believe would lead to vocabulary and other linguistic features being different.

Hypothesis

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I believe that The Sun news story will have simple linguistic features than that of The Guardian news story, because The Sun news stories are aimed in general to everyone, whereas, The Guardian news stories are aimed at a more educated audience. I expect that the tabloid news story, The Sun, will have less complicated vocabulary and lexis as well as more sensational fields to interest the readers more. I suspect that the broadsheet news story, The Guardian, will be the opposite and have more complicated vocabulary and have a more focused semantic field, as it is not aimed at a wide audience.

Methodology

To analyse my work, I will systematically use frameworks of the English language to see whether my hypothesis is correct and if there are any linguistic features between online newspapers.

Analysis

Lexis

In The Sun news story, the majority of the sentences are simple, with very few complex sentences, such as “The value of the pieces stolen varies from �5,000 to �30,000.” The simple sentences state one point and make it easier for the audience to understand, whereas, The Guardian mostly has complex sentences and a small number of simple sentences. “Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley, the head of the Metropolitan police’s arts and antiques unit, declined to identify any of the other artworks apart from the Henry Moore.” The complex sentences cannot stand-alone but with their other points, they state points and then back themselves up to reinforce their statement.

The sentence types from both stories are declaratives which would be expected as the purpose of a news story is to inform which is what the sentences achieve.

The article from The Sun website is informal. It is informal because connotations could appear slightly comical even though the article is serious, such as “The Meltdown Mob”, though the tone of the piece is negative, the idea of a person melting down artwork could create a comical image that is almost cartoon-like.

The piece contains a generally low to medium level of vocabulary; also the paragraphs are short and simple. However, there is no slang in this piece so it is not as informal as I thought it would be. The piece from The Times has a medium level of vocabulary, some of the words can be considered complicated, but the newspaper is formal so it could be argued that it is expected. For example, “heightening fears that monumental bronzes” This phrase could be said much simpler but instead uses emotive adjectives that are polysyllabic to state its point.

In The Sun, there isn’t any specific specialist vocabulary apart from “haul”, which is more of an emotive term, with which the writer uses along with connotations to broadcast his opinion. The negative connotations linked with words such as “haul” show that the writer is using pragmatics to show his true feelings towards the thieves, which also sets the tone for the rest of the piece. Whereas, The Guardian’ specialist vocabulary is more about the art itself and shows it is aimed at an audience with a knowledge for art. For example “modernist” or “plinth” are different artistic terms, relating to the semantic field of art, which many people without knowledge for art wouldn’t understand.

The majority of the words in The Sun are monosyllabic. The only time the words aren’t monosyllabic is when a suffix has been added to the end. “Stealing” is an example of an inflectional affix and just gives more information about what is happening.

Semantics and Pragmatics

The words used constantly portray the thieves as dreadful people. For instance, “I don’t think it’s been stolen by ‘Mr Big’ for his private collection.” It makes the people behind the thefts be perceived as a gang leader or connotations of a person related to a mafia business.

The Sun has several semantic fields but the main one is about the thefts of the pieces of art. The thefts are the more focused aspect because it is more sensational than the history of the artefacts. “Newspapers have always aroused strong feelings, whether intentional or not.”(1) Words such as “police, gang, mob, stolen, haul, detectives” is used to give the topic meaning and set the semantic field. “Tabloid prose at its best – excitable, exuberant, always vigorous, sometimes vitriolic – is a lively and valuable asset to the language.”(2)

The Guardian, however, is more about the missing pieces of art, and not so much about the actual thefts. It also gives some information and history about the art and artists. “Missing, disappeared, remaining, taken” and other words are used to give information about the pieces.

The style of The Sun is written in a 3rd person perspective. By doing this, it makes the piece seem more passive as though it is just based on the writer’s opinions. Words that are used are “Their” and “his” which are possessive pronouns, and gives the work a more personal feeling, which is relevant as the writer is talking about and referring to the pieces of art. The style of The Guardian is also written in a 3rd person perspective, but uses personal pronouns instead. An example of this is “He”, which gives a certain distinction or spotlight to the person to give them more attention.

Graphology

The columns used in the stories are made up of paragraphs which are rather short and separate to make it easy to read. Due to this, it spaces the writing out and makes it very simple and easy to read. This shows that it’s aimed at a wider audience as anyone could read the story.

The font for both pieces is standard and constant through the articles. The only thing that changes is that, In The Sun, during speech, the font changes to italics as to indicate easier to readers when speech is occurring. However, The Guardian doesn’t do this and the font remains constantly and unchanging throughout the piece, I believe this is because it is a short piece and it doesn’t have speech like The Sun does apart from small quotations. The length of paragraphs on both pieces are short, this would probably be because it is easier for the reader to read and not to be put off by large amounts of writing. Nevertheless, The Sun has shorter paragraphs in general and I believe this is because it is a less formal news website and aimed at a wider audience.

(1)Michael Jago, Language and Style, 1999, Hodder and Stoughton, Page 79

(2) Keith Waterhouse, AS and A2 English Language, 2003, Revision Express, Page 68

Grammar

The Sun’s story has an informal tone because the police detective’s job titles are shortened down which doesn’t give the proper respect to the jobs. “Det Sgt” and “Chief Insp” are abbreviated versions of the actual job titles, which makes it more informal and because the full job titles are simply too long.

The Guardian has no unusual grammar apart from the acronym CBE, which doesn’t alter the text as the level of register and tone doesn’t change.

The clauses are full in The Sun and most of the sentences contain the five elements. “The value of the pieces stolen varies from �5,000 to �30,000” By containing all five elements, it gives extra information which increases the readers understanding of the writers intentions by including a complement and adverbial.

Ellipses is used in The Sun story to avoid repetition. “Their latest haul was revealed yesterday…” The story doesn’t need to repeat itself by describing what “Their” is because it is explained in the first paragraph what the subject of the article is about. This is also anaphoric reference and wouldn’t make sense if it had not been previously explained. Ellipses are also used in The Guardian story to avoid repetition but are used a lot less frequently “Bronze is an alloy of mainly copper and tin.” Melting metals down was mentioned in a previous paragraph and is just using an anaphoric reference to explain it further.

The sentence length in both pieces differs dramatically. In The Sun, the sentence lengths are mainly fewer than twenty words long, whereas, In The Guardian, the sentence lengths are primarily over twenty words long. This is related to the audience and shows what kind of audience the story is aimed at, as a long story would be too difficult and confuse a younger or less illiterate audience, and a short story wouldn’t be challenging enough to read be a more literate audience.

Phonology

In The Sun, alliteration is used to make certain words stand out and capture reader’s attention. “Sculpture vultures” or “Meltdown Mob” Are used to promote emotions from the readers and show the writers view on the matter, which is obviously negative because of the connotations and semantic field related to the words used in the alliteration. The Guardian has certain words such as “monumental” or “boosted”, which have lots of emphasis on certain syllables and produce very distinct and emotive phonemes.

Which website the story is from

The Sun (Total of 451 words)

The Guardian (Total of 716 words)

Number of polysyllabic words

162

338

Number of monosyllabic words

289

378

The two newspaper stories are online and free so anyone with internet access can view them, which makes them different to actual tabloid and broadsheet newspapers as the layouts and actual stories could be expected to be different. The Sun news story is aimed at a wider audience by not using such difficult vocabulary and using frameworks in such a way that is easier to understand. The Guardian does the opposite and has a more difficult vocabulary including more polysyllabic words in general.

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