Tutorial Posting 9 (Semiotics)

Lukin argues that journalists use grammar to inconspicuously shape the meaning of texts. Further arguing that it is necessary for audiences to understand these processes and their effects in order to interpret how the facts of the story have been presented. She believes the importance of this knowledge to the general public is heightened with increased war reporting in order for them to understand how the facts have been angled by journalists and therefore what is actually happening.  


The article explores different grammatical voices and grammatical processes revealing how each alters the audience’s perception of the facts.


Grammatical Voice – There are two types of grammatical voice: middle voice and effective voice. The former, Lukin explains, eliminates the catalyst which produced the event. For example ‘Emergency line advice ‘ignored’’ (Sydney Morning Herald headline). The latter includes both active and passive voice. Active explicitly states the ‘external agent’ which triggered the event. For example if the headline had read Victorian government ‘ignores’ emergency line advice.  Whereas passive voice provides the option of explicitly stating or merely implying that there is an ‘external agent’. For example if the headline had read emergency line advice was ‘ignored’ by the Victorian government or emergency line advice was ‘ignored’. These minor grammatical adjustments alter how the audience is positioned toward the event and its catalyst.


Grammatical Processes – Lukin focuses on the process of Nominalisation. This is the process of converting a part of speech usually a verb into a noun which enables the author to create an ‘agent’ which is intangible removing a human cause.  An example of this process is the Courier Mail headline ‘Mother mourns for twin girls killed in Woombye car crash’ this statement eliminates a human cause for the event, who crashed the car, instead naming the ‘car crash’ as the catalyst. This uses the facts to alter the position of the audience, who feel sympathy for the mother but do not lay blame at the person who instigated the crash rather at the event itself.


This article is particularly relevant in today’s media driven society. The grammatical forms which not only newspaper journalists but also television and radio presenters implement in order to express the facts are key to how the public understands major events. The reporting of numerous current events such as the financial crisis, the Queensland floods, the Victoria bushfires or even the recent rugby league scandal involving Mathew Johns exemplify this issue.



Lukin, A ‘Reporting War: Grammar as Covert Operation’ From ‘Dissent’, p 14 – 20, 2003

Fraser, Kelmeny and Martin, Hannah ‘Mother mourns for twin girls killed in Woombye car crash’ From ‘Courier Mail’, May 10, 2009

Collins, Sarah-Jane and Cooke, Dewi and Rood, David ‘Emergency line advice ‘ignored’’ From ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, May 15, 2009



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