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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

Political constellations: mapping media representations of political parties

Date Released: Thu, 2 October 2014 10:55 +0200

Rhodes linguist Ian Siebörger spoke about his plans for a large-scale PhD study tracking the ways in which the media use language to position different political parties in a Departmental Research Seminar on Tuesday 16 September.

Mr Siebörger's proposed PhD project research has two main objectives.  One objective is to examine how two South African newspapers, the Daily Sun and Business Day, position the country’s various political parties ideologically.  He also wants to examine to what extent newspapers position the various political parties based on policy or on appeals to personalities, social identities and moral values.  The ways in which political parties are represented in these newspapers has an impact on the extent to which they serve as an open forum in which a variety of political perspectives are represented fairly and equitably.  Ian's project will also give suggestions as to how a greater diversity of views can be reflected in the media, thus aiding in the development of South Africa’s public discourse.  

Mr Siebörger's other objective, which is more theoretical in nature, is to investigate the ways in which language is used to condense knowledge about the political parties into groupings known as constellations in Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), a sociological theory describing knowledge practices.  According to LCT, two ways in which knowledge can be presented in denser forms are called epistemological condensation and axiological condensation.  Epistemological condensation is a process of condensing descriptions of experiences or empirical data into progressively more abstract statements. Meanwhile, axiological condensation is a process of condensing things such as feelings, moral judgements and evaluations of people and things together.  Both axiological and epistemological condensation tend to group concepts, positions, values or ideas together into constellations.  This project aims to use Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) to develop a way of showing how the processes of epistemological and axiological condensation can take place in the language of texts.

Source:Ian Siebörger