The article deals with the analysis of representation of a political event – the 2017 G20 summit in American, British, and Australian media. It is argued that the political event described in the texts of mass communication represents a discourse world, or a dynamic system of meanings that is created by journalists and interpreted by readers under the influence of a wide range of extra-linguistic factors. World-modelling potential of the political event is studied in close connection with the notion of discourse world as a conceptual representational structure of discourse, emerging around one of the major political and economic events of the past year in the totality of texts, united by the theme of summit. Discourse world of the discussed political event serves as background, against which the concept LEADER is foregrounded. The discourse-acquired characteristics of the concept are systematized. The world-modelling potential of the political event is realized as representation of the relationship between leaders-participants of the summit. It draws on relevant fragments of the context that specify frames, organized around the concept LEADER in American, British and Australian media communication. It is proved that the creation of a unique focus of the frame depends on the ideological vision of the political event by the agents of discourse.
Keywords: World-modelling potentialmedia discourserepresentational structure of discourseframepolitical eventsummit
The role of the media in the world
In the era of digitalization the role of the media as "the fourth power" is enhanced. Not only do mass media control information flows, but they also direct the construal of reality in the minds of people. They affect deep layers of human understanding of the world exerting influence on mental structures. They govern the perception of political and social events of global importance and manage the opinions and attitudes of the public. Scholars worldwide find it necessary to analyze media discourse and linguistic mechanisms of representation of political events that have strong impact on the global community (Budaev & Chudinov, 2017; Koshkarova & Ruzhentseva, 2016; Voroshilova & Solopova, 2017). Some of them point out that linguistic representations of different conceptual complexity determine the way people think about situations or events (Matczak, 2013; Gavins & Lahey, 2016), and we share this point of view.
G20 Summit as political event of global importance
The summit of "The group of twenty" (G20) was one of the central political events in the past year. The Leaders of the G20 met in Hamburg (Germany) on 7–8 July 2017 to address global economic challenges and contribute to prosperity and well-being of the world. They discussed major financial and economic problems in the face of great challenges of our time – terrorism, migration, poverty, hunger, health threats, climate change, energy security, gender inequality. The primary concern of the participants was to master the challenges and work out suitable solutions to the problems raised.
Discourse world of a political event is biased
Covering the 2017 G20 summit differs greatly in the media of the USA, the UK and Australia. To unravel the mechanisms of it, we treat the political event described in mass communication as a representational structure of discourse, that we call
Discourse world of a political event possesses world-modelling potential
Discourse-world of a political event is a context-dependent informational model of the discussed fragment of reality, created in an integrative set of media texts united by the theme of the G20 summit. In other words, media texts, organized around the political event in their totality, serve as bases of mental representations of different conceptual complexity, constituting a discourse world that conforms with political and economic ideology. Discourse world of a political event possesses
Summit is defined as “a meeting at which the leaders of two or more countries discuss important matters” (Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary, 2008). Consequently, the focus of this type of the political event is on the interaction between the world-leaders that are supposed to collaborate to arrive at concrete decisions. The discourse world of the summit is seen as the background against which concept LEADER is foregrounded. Verbal semiotic resources are used in media texts to represent relevant fragments of the political context and demonstrate the relations between the leaders of the participant countries. Is there anything specific about it in different national media discourses? How is concept LEADER framed and modified in discourse world as presented in American, British, and Australian media communication?
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to reveal the world-modelling potential of the summit in English-language mass media: we specifically try to single out the most conspicuous frames that constitute the structure of concept LEADER in order to find out, what discourse-acquired characteristics the concept has as a result of functioning in the media of three countries. The materials for the study are contexts taken from American, British and Australian newspapers in one day (the second day of the summit). The total number of contexts is 1,720 units. Under a context we mean a word, a word group, a sentence, or even several sentences forming a coherent syntactic unit.
The methodological framework of the paper forms
The named theory initially draws on Text-World Theory (Canning, 2017; Gavins, 2007; Hidalgo Downing, 2000; Ho et al., 2017; Matczak, 2013; Tincheva, 2013; Trimarco, 2015; Werth, 1999) as well as on theories emphasizing the importance of studying socio-ideological influence of discourse in terms of mental representations (Chilton, 2004; Van Dijk, 2006; World Interpretation in Language, 2017).
We argue that ideological ‘pictures of reality’ are constructed by ‘powerful’ agents (journalists, politicians, scholars, educators, etc.) who have access to discourse and model perspectives that structure and govern people’s perception of the described situations and events. Finding these perspectives as evidence of world-modelling is supposed to give insight into the discursive construction of political reality.
Discourse world and concept as mental structures
World-Modelling Theory is an autonomous field of studying discourse in terms of representational structures, reflecting the dynamic processes and the results of mental and linguistic representation of information about the world in discourse, and their role in constructing social reality and knowledge system. The philosophical underpinning of World-Modelling Theory establishes that reality is not given us directly, but through mental representations, the totality of which constitute the reality in our minds. Under
It was Paul Werth who introduced the notions of ‘discourse-world’ and ‘text-world’ to denote complex, rich, discourse-level mental representations. The idea was further developed by Gavins (Gavins, 2007), Lahey (Gavins & Lahey, 2016), Tincheva (Tincheva, 2013), Trimarco (Trimarco, 2015).
The typology of mental representations, textualized in discourse, is not limited to discourse world and text world. Discourse world is a
We stipulate that discourse world of the political event serves as background, against which representational concept LEADER is foregrounded. We further analyze world-modelling potential of the summit in terms of relationship between leaders-participants, and draw on relevant fragments of the context that specify frames, organized around the named concept in the American, British and Australian media communication.
Systemic and discourse-acquired characteristics of concept LEADER
Concepts as mental structures are represented in discourse by language units. Concept has got both static and dynamic characteristics that are, in fact,
Conceptual content of mental structures is subject to alterations in discourse. Since concept LEADER functions in the discourse world of a political event, it conceptually develops, modifies, and acquires dynamic features. We call these characteristics
The key nominations, characterizing the ‘semiotic embodiment’ of concept LEADER, is lexeme
Combinability of lexeme
Basic frames of concept LEADER in the discourse world of the summit
We’ve singled out three basic frames that constitute the structure of concept LEADER in American, British and Australian media. We argue that within conceptual space of the discourse world of the summit, frames have
From the point of view of exerting ideological influence, it contributes to a rather negative evaluation of the situation by Australian journalists. The effect is enhanced through the reference to Pope's words about the danger of alliances between powers with “distorted worldview”, such as America and Russia, China and North Korea, as well as by some leaders – Putin and Assad. The relationship of leaders is presented to readers as a serious reason for concern.
The unique focus of the frame is established in the following context of a metaphorical representation of Russian and American leaders in the Australian news. Cf.:
In the foreground, there are two leaders, designated by proper names (
In the structure of concept LEADER we have revealed one more important discourse-acquired feature –
Neutral representation of the American leader, who is in opposition to a group of 19 leaders of other world powers, dominates in the US media. Cf.: “
The division of the leaders on a number of key issues of the summit is described similarly in the media of three countries by the symbolic formula G20 = G19 +1. Most of the contexts are found in British media communication. Cf.:
The background of the perception of the American leader in the discourse world of British press involves criticism of his pre-election agenda. A string of epithets with negative connotation is employed to describe it. Cf.:
Actualization of concept LEADER in the American media features
Much more negative representation of this fragment of the summit is typical of Australian media. Cf.:
Details about the leisure of the leaders, that are not directly related to the goals of the summit, are intended to contribute to the overall ambiguous evaluation of interaction between the United States and Russia. Cf.:
The discourse world of the political event is a mental and linguistic representational structure that is objectified in media discourse. It is a context-dependent informational model of a politically and economically significant event, embodied by semiotic resources of the English language in the totality of media texts, united by the theme of G20 summit. Within the conceptual space of the discourse world, concept LEADER is foregrounded. Three frames are organized around the concept in American, British, and Australian media. They are LEADER – POLITICIAN, LEADER – PARENT, and LEADER – SPOUSE. The world-modeling potential of the political event is realized as representation of relationship between the leaders of the summit, with unique focus on those details of reality that are predetermined by the most ambiguous political factors, and best serve the purpose of ideological influence. As a result of functioning in discourse, concept LEADER enriches with discourse-acquired characteristics.
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30 April 2018
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
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Kushneruk, S. (2018). Two Days In The Life Of Leaders: World-Modelling Potential Of Political Event. In & I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 466-475). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2018.04.02.66