Tutorial 10 (Discourse)

Mary Macken – Horarik’s text ‘A telling symbiosis in the discourse of hatred: multimodal news texts about the ‘Children Overboard’ affair’ explains media particularly in the case of asylum seekers and the ‘children overboard’ incident use discourse to covertly align the responder to a particular view. Discourse is created by both written and visual texts (known as multimodal discourse) therefore it is necessary to analyse both to understand the way the author has created the message of the text.


In order to further explain how discourse is created three key concepts surrounding identification:


Genericisation – Specification –The journalist may identify specific people thereby creating a connection between them and the responder; this is accomplished in a written text by the use of their name and in a visual text by clearly depicting their face. The people may also be grouped into general categories, removing them from the audience; this is created by the use of collective nouns in text and blurring images in pictures. For example the current headline ‘Britain backs down on Gurkha rights’ which generalises both the British the Gurkhas through the use of collective pronouns.


Categorisation – The method of identifying people in texts by either what they currently do i.e. mother or mountaineer (functionalisation) or by identifying people by physical or relational means i.e. race, gender or sexual orientation. In visual texts this is accomplished through commonly understood symbols i.e. a white veil and dress identify a bride.   


Role Allocation – This focuses on the relationship between the people in the text created by the author. In a written text one party is represented as passive the other active. Similarly, in visual texts one party is known as a Goal (which are largely passive) and an Actor (which are largely active).


The concept of Multimodal discourse is particularly relevant in today’s society where both advertising and news use a combination of written and visual texts to convey meaning. The most common examples of media stories which are created or further enhanced by visual aids are tabloid articles which base their text on scandalous photographs. A memorable incident is the publication of supposed naked photos of Pauline Hanson; which identified her visually by her hair colour and facial features (physical attributes) and in the text specifically by her name. The press was able to use these photos to portray Pauline in a negative light.  



Macken – Horarik, M, ‘A telling symbiosis in the discourse of hatred: multimodal news texts about the ‘Children Overboard’ affair’ From ‘Australian review of applied linguistics’, 2003


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