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The reinforcement of the nature of selected South African newspapers through the application of language as a sign system
Smith, Aletta Elizabeth
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Language is the most common and crucial element newspapers apply to express meaning. Language is a system of linguistic signs combined by rules to create meaning. Newspapers use language, among other or sign systems (e.g. photographs, graphics, content and layout) to communicate. These systems support each other and perform as a unit to reflect a newspaper's character and function. South Africa has a diversity in language, culture, background and literacy levels and the media's target audiences differ significantly. The ways in which these systems are thus applied, diverge to satisfy the various needs of audiences. These needs include being informed, entertained, aesthetically pleased, emotionally involved and mobilized (persuaded). Audiences also seek a reflection of their values, views and cultures in the media. Due to the different nature and functions of newspapers and the various audience needs, there is an apparent disparity in content, photographs, graphics, and layout in populist, middle-of-the-road and serious newspapers. All these elements, except language, are currently used to classify newspapers. This study aims to establish whether there are differences in the language application, and if so, whether language can also function as a classification criterium to determine the nature of a newspaper. This entails an analysis of the types of signs, the sign functions, and the stylistic elements on the front pages of the populist Son and Sunday Sun, the middle-of-the-road Rapport and Sunday Times as well as the serious Mail&Guardian and the Sunday Independent. It was found that language can aid one in categorizing a newspaper. The serious and middle-of the-road newspapers do, however, apply traditional populist elements (as set out in the literature), and vice versa. The researcher suggests that the category middle-of-the-road newspapers should be refined into two sections, i.e. populist middle-of-the-road and serious middle-of-the-road categories.
- Humanities