3.3 Linguistic analysis Tools
3.3.1 Syntactic Features
Syntax is basically the structure of sentences. It is the grammar, structure, or order of the elements in a language statement. It is the is the set of rules that language uses to combine words and morphemes to create sentences. Sentences have to follow certain structural rules in order to make sense.
Sentences are made up of smaller phrases. There are several difference types of phrase that can be used in a sentence, but the two phrases which must be used in a sentence for it to make sense are a noun phrase and a verb phrase. A phrase is a group of words that does not a subject doing a verb. In a phrase, we must have a word which is called the head. This is the core of the phrase, what the phrase can’t exist without. So in a phrase like ‘the man’ or ‘ran far away’, in the first phrase ‘man’ is the head because it is the main part of the phrase, and in the second phrase ‘ran’ is the head because it is essential for the phrase to exist.
A noun phrase is usually the person or thing that is performing the verb in the sentence. The person doing the verb in a sentence is known as the subject. A noun phrase has to be made up of a noun, such as a name or a tangible object. Sometimes, a determiner is needed in a noun phrase. A noun phrase consists of a noun and all its modifiers – i.e. determinants, adjectives, and any clauses or prepositional phrases that modify the noun. A verb phrase consists of a verb and all its modifiers – i.e. adverbs, auxiliary verbs, prepositional phrases, and adverbial clauses.
As for clauses, they are sets of words that include at least a verb and probably a subject noun. In some cases and languages, the subject may be implied. A sentence is actually a clause. But a sentence can have more than one clause: There may be a main clause (or independent clause) and one or more subordinate clauses. This kind of sentence is called a complex sentence. A sentence may be one of four kinds, depending upon the number and type(s) of clauses it contains. An independent clause contains a subject, a verb, and a complete thought. A dependent clause contains a subject and a verb, but no complete thought.
A simple sentence has one independent clause. A compound sentence has two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. A complex sentence has one dependent clause (headed by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun) joined to an independent clause. Finally, a compound – complex sentence has two independent clauses joined to one or more dependent clauses.
Sentences have functions in language. Most sentences are simple statements about the world or one’s thoughts or feelings. These are called declarative sentences or just declarations. Questions are of three kinds: The first is the yes/no question, There are also choice questions, which require a simple answer selected from the options given in the question and the final kind is the wh- question, which involves the use of interrogative words. Another function of sentence is the command. The usual kind involves the speaker telling someone else to do something. The last function of sentence is the exclamation. This kind of sentence expresses an emotional reaction to the situation.
To describe the syntactic features of a headline, the researcher investigates three categories: the structure, the function and the complexity in the headlines of the top news websites.
As far as the structure of the headlines is concerned, following Mardh’s (1980) model, the corpus is divided into verbal and nominal headlines. Verbal headlines are dominated by a verb phrase or part of it. They may have finite verb phrases (showing tense), non-finite verb phrases (gerunds, infinitives, and participles), headlines with omitted auxiliaries and subject complement headlines. Nominal headlines are headed by a noun. The syntactic variation in nominal headlines is analyzed in terms of modification: unmodification, premodification, postmodification, and pre and postmodification.
According to the second category (i.e. the function), following Mardh’s description (1980), the corpus is divided into four types: statement, question, command and exclamation. As to the third category (i.e., the complexity), the headlines are classified into three groups according to the number of (in) dependent clauses: simple, compound, and complex. A complex headline, for instance, would have an independent clause with at least a dependent clause.
3.3.2. Lexical Features
The adjective refers to things concerning words or the vocabulary of language as distinguished from its grammar and construction.
To describe the lexical features of the headline, the researcher investigates words of different categories as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, articles and conjunctions.
Under the category of nouns, proper and common nouns are explored. As for verbs, tense (past, present, and future), voice (active and passive) and type (stative and dynamic) are examined. Verbs in English can be classified into two categories: stative verbs and dynamic verbs. stative verbs usually refer to a state or condition which is not changing or likely to change. Richards and Schmid (2002, 511) describe stative verbs as the ones which would express emotions, knowledge and beliefs and show relationships. Dynamic verbs (sometimes referred to as “action verbs”) usually describe actions we can take, or things that happen. Dynamic verbs, according to Richards and Schmid (2002, 511), are the ones which would express activity and process.
Articles are used to modify nouns. Technically, an article is an adjective, which is any word that modifies a noun. Usually adjectives modify nouns through description, but articles are used instead to point out or refer to nouns. There are two different types of articles that we use in writing and conversation to point out or refer to a noun or group of nouns: definite and indefinite articles. Definite article, the, is used when the reader is thought to know what is talked about. It refers directly to a specific noun or groups of nouns. Using the definite article means that the writer assumes that the reader knows the identity of the noun’s referent (because it is obvious, because it is common knowledge, or because it was mentioned in the same sentence or an earlier sentence. Indefinite articles are the words a and an. Each of these articles is used to refer to a noun, but the noun being referred to is not a specific person, place, object or idea. It can be any noun from a group of nouns. Use of an indefinite article implies that the writer assumes that the reader does not have to be told the identity of the referent.
Adjectives modify nouns. Adverbs are a very broad collection of words that may describe how, where, or when an action took place. A conjunction joins parts of the sentence and a preposition is a word that links a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to some other part of the sentence.
4. Methodology
To analyze the headlines of top news websites concerning the coverage of the New Suez Canal, such headlines are collected from the internet for a two-day period from 6 to 7 August, 2015. The corpora include a large number of headlines from diverse news websites.
This research uses content analysis to explore the syntactic and the lexical features of the headlines in the corpus from the top news websites. This paper incorporates critical discourse analysis as a method which builds on the social constructionist idea that society is created by language; social actors create a “common sense” reality through language usage and social interactions (Van Gorp, 2007:62). This implies that reality is constantly subject to change through different uses of language. In terms of journalistic texts, this means that newspapers, through their language use and structures, present a limited option of interpretations of the issue at hand to be made by the audience.
Fowler (1991) presents a number of tools that can be used to open up a text and reveal its underlying structures and values – these are tools such as transitivity, transformation, modality, and lexical analysis. Lexical analysis will be utilized in this paper along with a structural analysis.