Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Translation

Pragmatic Analysis of English News Headlines

Author LiXiaoLan
Tutor HuiMin
School Shandong Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords English news headlines Relevance theory Presupposition Communicative function
CLC H315.9
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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Having penetrated through various aspects of modern human society, news performs a dominant way for the public to gain a large amount of information, which informs readers what is happening inland and abroad, providing assorted viewpoints of all kinds, and also coming out with comments. Generally speaking, a news report is usually made up of three parts: the news headline, the lead and the news body. While the news headline and the body are the indispensable components of a news report, the lead in some cases can be omitted.As the fundamental part of any piece of news, the news headlines, namely the news titles, acquaint readers with the central information of the news report. Using headlines as guidance, readers can look through the newspaper, searching for clues in news reports that interest them, so that they could determine whether a report is worth reading on or not. Hence, the news headlines, the most significant communicative device, are often described as the“eyes”of news reports, which plays an essential role in delivering the message of news reports. Naturally, they are treated as the most focused part by news editors.Each newspaper has its own basic standpoint for reporting. To present the news content effectively, it is necessary to choose the news headlines with great care. By doing so, certain newspaper can show its unique characteristic and stability. Although the writing approaches or styles of news headlines vary from one newspaper to another, the requirements and purposes are universal for all of them. The news headlines are usually designed to convey the essence of a complicated set of facts precisely. The common features of language that the news headlines employed should be laconic, noticeable, recapitulative, and attractive. Therefore, this type of language is a typical kind of persuasive language with a direct aim to catch the potential readers on the wing and further influence the readers’attitude towards the news facts.This thesis is an attempt to analyze the English news headlines systematically and comprehensively on the basis of two pragmatic theories—the relevance theory and the theory of presupposition.The thesis starts with historical review of news headlines and the theoretical background of the study on the two pragmatic theories. First, the relevance theory focuses on the degree of relevance and two governing principles—cognitive principle and communicative principle, and proposes the conception of optimal relevance. It puts forwards that any ostensive- inferential communication is supposed to be of seeking optimal relevance. Writing and reading the news headlines is also an ostensive- inferential communication process, therefore, the relevance theory can offer effective explanations for the communicative function of news headlines.Meanwhile, presupposition plays a key role in the information structure of news headlines. Presuppositions are embedded in news headlines as part of assumed information transmitted to the readers. It is regarded as the shared background knowledge, the set of predetermined conditions and it is realized by means of linguistic expressions, and it is also closely tied to the given newspaper’s attitude and intention. As the underlying working mechanism of the news headlines, presupposition also provides a reasonable explanation for the communicative function of news headlines.A descriptive method is employed in the thesis to analyze the samples of English news headlines collected from English newspapers. The major concern is to describe and examine how the relevance theory and the theory of presupposition are linguistically realized into concrete expressions and the working environment of news headlines. This study is meaningful, which can lead to some implications both practical and theoretical. It can not only help news editors design more attractive and creative news headlines, but also shed light on the significance of the pragmatic theories and enrich the study of English news headlines.

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