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Le titre de presse: Analyses syntaxique, pragmatique et rhétorique
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
1998 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

What are the linguistic characteristics of French newspapers headlines? Employing three aspects of linguistic analysis (syntax, pragmatics and stylistics), the present thesis describes and analyses the textual "genre" of the headline. The author regards a newspaper headline as an autonomous text which carries various functions within the newspaper's discourse and therefore has specific features as regards language use. The thesis has twin goals: to characterise the genre of the French daily newspaper headline and to specify the individual features of each paper chosen.

To carry out this research, the author has selected three national daily newspapers representative of the current French press: Le Figaro, Le Monde and Libération. Each analysis is based on headline corpora collected at three different periods (one week each) : 1992 / 1994 / 1997. The first study (chapter 3) shows that the macrosyntactic configuration of a press headline can be represented in four types of phrasal constructions, one of which (Type (a)) is considered relatively "unmarked". The three other types are considered more specific of headlines: parataxis, noun phrase + prepositional phrase and single non-verbal phrase. Compared with similar kinds of utterances such as book titles or titles of paintings, the complete sentence is much more frequent in newspaper headlines, although the study reveals sharp differences between the three papers in question. From these four syntactic categories, the thematic structure (structure thème-rhème) is examined.

The second study (chapter 4) is part of a larger intertextual analysis based on the initial assumption that media discourse has a "polyphonic" nature. The author indicates the various modes of reported speech and studies the effects they produce in headlines. The study reveals that the three selected papers have very different ways of embedding others' voices in headlines. Le Monde systematically reports more than the two others. The quantitative study shows that even if quotes and indirect speech ("discours narrativisé") are part of headlines, especially in political columns when current news requires it, reported speech is not a major component. The headline concentrates on events and facts rather than speeches.

The final two chapters contain stylistic and rhetorical studies. Hypothesising that the use of figurative language is relevant for analysing the singularity and subjectivity of a discourse, the author investigates the kinds of rhetorical figures displayed in headlines. The most creative figures are found in the cultural columns, whereas the political columns displays many conventional metaphors. The study shows that Libération uses more figurative or metaphorical headlines than Le Figaro and Le Monde. The last chapter looks into word-play headlines based on two different kinds of expressions: idiomatic expressions (figements linguistiques) and cultural references (figements culturels). In Le Figaro and Le Monde most word-play headlines are based on cultural references, whereas Libération often deconstructs language itself, which makes headlines an area conducive to the creation of new expressions.

The thesis shows that a headline can be characterised by regular linguistic/textual features, even though each newspaper has diverse ways of constructing and staging the news in its headlines, depending on the communicative functions assigned to them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska , 1998.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 8
Keyword [en]
newspapers headlines, syntax and discourse, thematic structure, intertextual analysis, reported speech, polyphony, rhetorical figures, word-play, communicative functions
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-10030ISBN: 91-973423-1-9OAI: diva2:176549
Public defence
1998-12-19, Hörsal 7, hus D, Södra huset, 13:00 (French)
Available from: 2009-02-27 Created: 2007-11-21 Last updated: 2009-12-16Bibliographically approved

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