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Attitude System Realization of News Texts in Light of Appraisal Theory


Mitra Mirzaaghabeyk

School of Foreign Languages, Central China Normal University(CCNU), Wuhan, China

Corresponding author: Mitra Mirzaaghabeyk, School of Foreign Languages, Central China Normal University (CCNU), Wuhan, China. Email: mitra.m20@gmail.com



Introduction: Journalistic texts, as a common source of knowledge, are meant to be realistic and emotionless. However, the ideologies and emotions of journalists can be traced while representing the same event in various ways using different media.
Accordingly, the present study aimed to clarify the evaluative realizations of the news texts using the Appraisal Model. The present study also scrutinized the occurrence of the appraisal sub-categories throughout the text using the sentence as a unit of
Methodology: Having employed Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and drawing on Appraisal Theory proposed by Martin and White (2005), this article examined three semantic regions of meaning, namely affect, judgment, and appreciation.
Results: By analyzing aspects of clause grammar relevant to the three dimensions of meanings, the article marked “judgment” as the highest frequent sub-system in the delivered speech, followed by the other two sub-systems of “affect” and “appreciation”. Moreover, results obtained from the analysis of the mentioned aspects corroborated the ideological orientations acting upon the speakers.
Conclusion: The interpretations of the delivered speech in this article construed the appraisal system as the path to achieving the interpersonal function of language in light of SFL.

Keywords: Affect, Appraisal model, Appreciation, Judgement, Systemic functional linguistics


Considering the journalistic language of news, there are many scholars who are of the opinion that the language of news is emotionless and objective (Bhatia, 1994; Miller, 2005; Ward, 2009). However, in the context of journalistic discourse, a large proportion of what a journalist report is not action but what he calls ‘talk about talk’ (Bell, 1991, p. 60), such as announcements, opinions, reactions, appeals, promises, and criticisms. In other words, embeddedness an important characteristic of newspaper language (Bednarek, 2006). Implementing the technical properties of the grammar and semantics of text, the reported speech conveys the political orientations and the intended ideologies (Fairclough, 1995). Therefore, it is the ideology of the speakers (in this sense, the news agency and the journalists) which determines the choice of words and grammatical structures to provide a detailed description of an event. Grammar, in particular, has a major role in interpreting the language phenomenon (Triyanto, 2018).
Recently, there has been a shifting trend from traditional linguistic views, such as syntax, to more ideological ones concentrating on how reality is constructed in social, cultural, and political settings (Koussouhon & Dossoumou, 2015). Moreover, research in the field of language and politics has expanded enormously in recent years, and the field seems relatively young (Wodak, 2015).
Derewianka and Jones (2010) juxtapose two perspectives of grammar types, namely traditional vs. functional choices. While the former emphasizes form and structure, the latter focuses on the language user’s meaning or intent. In this vein, Thompson (2014) states that language is not only perceived as a system of choices which provides its users with various forms and modes of meaning to adopt a stance but may be considered as a “potential for meaning” from the Systemic Functional Linguistics (hereinafter referred to as SFL) perspective. The SFL which was initially devised by Halliday (1994), interprets the grammar functionally and foregrounds its role as a meaning-making resource through interactions in social set-ups (Halliday, 1994). Based on their view, the SFL has endeavored to merge structural information withsocial factors. Despite the range of approaches to SFL, one commonality is the goal to realize how evaluative assessments underlying surface text are intertwined with language and discourse. As an extension to SFL, AT aims to investigate the interpersonal meaning in discourse analysis, typically in news discourse. Therefore, appraisal theory is considered the combined application of critical discourse analysis and SFL by implementing three major sub-systems of Attitude, Engagement, and Graduation. The theory provides a comprehensive research paradigm for identifying and describing the writer’s attitude toward the content of the discourse under analysis (Martin & White,2005).
Having concentrated on the idea of judgment or in a wider scope as evaluation, it was clarified by many scholars that humanistic feelings and emotions have a pivotal role in assessing the value of “things”. Of the three different areas that together constitute Appraisal Theory, the most useful tool for the analysis is the ‘Attitude’ framework as this is specifically intended to help assess how a speaker is emotionally disposed to the subject of the communication, how the subject of the communication is compared to the accepted norms and values, and finally how the subject creates an impact on the speaker in terms of form, appearance, and aesthetics.
As to establish a framework for mapping feelings, it is necessary to initiate the discussion with the central meaning system of Attitude which includes three semantic regions of meaning (Martin & White, 2005), namely the emotional, ethical, and aesthetic regions. The emotional region can be defined as the affective sentences accompanied by the appraiser’s emotion, whether positive or negative. Mostly, these affective sentences are classified into two mental and behavioral processes involved in conveying feelings, including love, hate, jealousy, anger, hostility, and fear. In this concern, Asher, Benamara, and Mathieu (2009) used the term sentiment expression to express feelings. As the second area of meaning, judgment includes normative assessment of human behavior, which we admire, praise, or condemn (Martin & White, 2008, p. 42). In other words, the judgment contains the evaluation of objects in relation to social and personal norms (Asher, Benamara, & Mathieu, 2009). Judgments can be categorized into those concerning ‘social esteem’ and those signaling ‘social sanction’. The former has to do with normality (how unusual a person is), capacity (capability of a person), and tenacity (how resolute a person is), whereas the latter orients to rules and regulations, which is often codified in writing such as veracity (evaluating someone’s honesty), and propriety (evaluating someone’s moral behavior). The last sub-system belongs to appreciative sentences that evaluate objects, processes, and states of the affair rather than human behavior. Prevalent use of this kind can be observed in political news since both events and policies are the main objects of the evaluation process.

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