Linguistics and Literature Studies Vol. 2(3), pp. 79 - 85
DOI: 10.13189/lls.2014.020302
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The Ambiguous Discourse Participant: Building a Sense of Reader ‘Community’ in The Sun

Thomas Peter Hawes *
Sprachenzentrum, Augsburg University, Universitaetsstrasse 2, 86135 Augsburg, Germany


This paper is based on ten consecutive 1991 issues of two Murdoch newspapers in Britain, The Sun and The Times, plus a further ten each from 2008, focusing mainly on editorial articles. All four subcorpora derive from periods in which a UK government, having enjoyed power for an extended period, was visibly weakening and the ideology expressed was, therefore, of some significance. It is claimed that The Sun, the nation’s biggest-selling daily, fabricates a sense of reader ‘community’ by progressively profiling an in-group to be emulated and an out-group to be stigmatised, along with their respective ‘values’. What is interesting is that this process in the print media provides opportunities for ideological dissemination without having to overtly adopt a position, yet appears to be aimed at achieving a solidarity analogous to that created orally by ‘the word’, an official version of reality imposed by a group of indigenous Australian ‘fringe dwellers’ in Darwin, documented by Sansom (1980). One of The Sun’s principal techniques employs discourse participants on a sliding scale of ambiguity to create an impression of solidarity with readers. Discourse participants (eg we, The Sun) are central to this community building as they allow narrators and/or readers to be portrayed as participants in a narrative. They also make it possible to vary writer visibility thanks to a phenomenon we could call referent slippage, or variation in the degree of inclusiveness. Although we can be used to refer unambiguously to the newspaper itself, the referent is often blurred among a) The Sun, b) a specific group of people and c) the entire nation. Disguised participants represent one step further, where they appears to refer to third parties but is, in fact, a dummy referent surreptitiously expressing The Sun’s own view. In the past this technique has scarcely been employed in The Times, which tends to thematise abstract concepts and institutions rather than individuals. Nevertheless, The Times is also hesitatingly beginning to employ this device.

Discourse Participant, Writer Visibility, Critical Discourse Analysis, Newspaper Ideology

Cite This Paper in IEEE or APA Citation Styles
(a). IEEE Format:
[1] Thomas Peter Hawes , "The Ambiguous Discourse Participant: Building a Sense of Reader ‘Community’ in The Sun," Linguistics and Literature Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 79 - 85, 2014. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2014.020302.

(b). APA Format:
Thomas Peter Hawes (2014). The Ambiguous Discourse Participant: Building a Sense of Reader ‘Community’ in The Sun. Linguistics and Literature Studies, 2(3), 79 - 85. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2014.020302.